Last week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded a $150,000 grant to help stabilize the former home of Leroy "Satchel" Paige in Kansas City. According to the grant announcement, Paige bought the home in 1967 and lived there until he passed away in 1982. Damaged by fire last year, it was surely the house that Paige invited writer William Price Fox to visit when Fox tagged along with the baseball legend in the early 1970s. Their conversations are described in Satchel Paige's America, an engaging portrait of Paige, his times, and Kansas City.
“Come on, drink up, I'm going to take you out to the house,” Fox quotes Paige as they sit in the Twilight Zone Lounge. “Maybe one of these days we'll get around to talking some baseball.”
For nearly a week, they'd been talking about aspects of Paige's life and career—his youth in Mobile, Alabama, medicine shows, barbeque, jazz, segregation, and, of course, all things baseball. When they finally arrived at the house, Fox observed, “A small dining room on the ground floor is all baseball, filled with shelves of trophies, red-, white-, and blue-ribboned medals and awards, and gold-bordered testimonials of Satch's records.”
The items locked in a steamer trunk in an upstairs bedroom further suggested the depth and breadth of Paige's experience. Fox wrote, “I went through a foot-high stack of photos showing him with movie stars, governors, prizefighters, club owners, and at least 200 ballplayers…. There were photographs of him in his hunting clothes with his shotgun and his dog in his lap. Another of him in Durango, Mexico, shooting The Wonderful Country, where he played a cavalry sergeant.”
There is also series of photographs of Paige pitching, with the last shot, after a strike has been called, featuring Paige “leaning in with both hands on his knees with nothing less than pure and seismic satisfaction and pleasure shining in his face.” After all, among everything else, Paige was one of the greatest pitchers in the history of America’s pastime.
Satchel Paige's America will be the topic of conversation at the next meeting of the World of Stories book group, The Story Center's quarterly book group, which meets at the Woodneath Library Center on Wednesday, July 17, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. A limited number of copies of the book are available for checkout from the Woodneath Library Center.
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