Monday, October 7, 2013

Attention Baseball History Buffs!

Donald Spivey brings you "If You Were Only White": The Life of Leroy “Satchel” Paige

Some people like to believe that laughter is the best medicine. During the height of the Jim Crow days, the thoughts of many were consumed with color barriers and the racism that overcame the South. It’s safe to say that laughter wasn’t the key to solving all the problems that arose in this difficult time, but it couldn’t hurt, right? The first African American superstar athlete outside of boxing, baseball player Leroy “Satchel” Paige, liked to entertain his audience with silly antics on the mound and provide comic relief during these difficult times. Paige’s humor on and off the field gathered many fans to come and watch.  He contributed to the cause of civil rights by showing off his moves on the mound and proving that he was just as talented as any player in the major leagues, deserving of  an equal opportunity to play with the pros. Paige was the first black pitcher in the major leagues, and there are many myths and questions as to how he got to be so great. Who really did teach him how to pitch? What happened to Paige when he was in reform school, and why were those years so critical to who he became? The answers to all of these questions can be found in Donald Spivey’s new book!  --Kimberly Ring, Intern, University of Missouri Press

If You Were Only White explores the legacy of one of the most exceptional athletes ever—an entertainer extraordinaire, a daring showman and crowd-pleaser, a wizard with a baseball whose artistry and antics on the mound brought fans out in the thousands to ballparks across the country. Leroy “Satchel” Paige was arguably one of the world’s greatest pitchers and a premier star of Negro Leagues Baseball. But in this biography Donald Spivey reveals Paige to have been much more than just a blazing fastball pitcher. Spivey follows Paige from his birth in Alabama in 1906 to his death in Kansas City in 1982, detailing the challenges Paige faced battling the color line in America and recounting his tests and triumphs in baseball.

“Spivey (history, Univ. of Miami) offers an engrossing, exhaustively researched biography of Paige (1906-82), one of baseball’s most memorable personalities. Spivey’s work spans Paige’s lifetime, and he culls information from a variety of sources. . . . As Spivey shows, Paige’s life traced the arc of American race relations not only in baseball but in all of American society.” –Choice

Donald Spivey with John Buck O'Neil (left)
Meet the Author
Donald Spivey is Professor of History at the University of Miami and the author or editor of five books, including Fire from the Soul: A History of the African-American Struggle. He lives in Palmetto Bay, Florida.

 Q&A with Donald Spivey:

Q. Satchel Paige is a name we’re perhaps less familiar with than we should be, in spite of his monumental achievements both on and off the field. What compelled you to tell his story?
I knew of Satchel Paige as a sports fan and historian of sports and the African American Experience. I had been saying since the early 1980s how much we needed a biography of him written by a professional historian. There had been a number of journalistic treatments of the pitching sensation, but nothing applying rigorous scholarship to bring to life the full story of the one and only Mr. Paige. It was at one of the historical conferences that the venerable historian John Hope Franklin heard and noted my remarks. Sometime later, when he was approached by the University of Missouri Press for the name of a scholar to do a biography of Satchel Paige, he gave them my name. Be careful what you wish for, it may come true! I accepted the offer and signed a contract with the press to produce the biography. My thinking was that the project would not take that long, a maximum of three years. How wrong I was. Twelve years later, the biography was finally finished. I am proud to have produced the first scholarly biography of Leroy “Satchel” Paige, and one that from the outset was dedicated to being readable and accessible to the public.

Q. People tend to think of Jackie Robinson as the person who integrated baseball. Why is Satchel Paige less known than Robinson?
Jackie Robinson, of course, received the glare of media attention when he became the first African American in the modern era to play Major League Baseball. Satchel Paige is critical because he paved the way for Robinson and the integration of the Majors. You would have been hard-pressed in the 1930s and 40s and well into the 1950s if not later to find anyone who claimed a love of baseball who was not familiar with the name of Satchel Paige, black or white. In his era, he was the most beloved African American in baseball and the greatest star of all in the Negro Leagues. All of us today should know his name and celebrate his arrival in the Majors when he signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1948 at the ripe young age of forty-two.

Read More:  Full DonaldSpivey Q&A

View A Book Signing!
Watch the broadcast of the book signing for Donald Spivey’s If You Were Only White: The Life of Leroy “Satchel” Paige at Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida, on September 6.  
(Fast-forward to 5:26 where the actual broadcast begins)

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