The Daily Worker, September 16, 1937
Paige Asks Chance for Negro Stars
By Lester Rodney
"Let the winners of the World's Series play us just one game at the Yankee Stadium-and if we don't beat them before a packed house they don't have to pay us!"
That was the challenge thrown by Satchell Paige, brilliant Negro pitcher. He was talking about the unwritten Jim-Crow restriction that keeps him and other Negro ball players from their rightful place in America's pastime.
Paige didn't make that statement boastfully. It was made with a quiet confidence backed by records.
"No all-star team of major leaguers has ever beaten a Negro team on the Pacific Coast in after-the-season games," he told me at his room in the Olga Hotel in Harlem.
"How many times have you beaten them out there, Satchell?" I asked.
He smiled. "I don't remember exactly-but they never beat me in four years trying. And they had some ball players trying. Joe DiMaggio, Charley Gehringer, Dizzy Dean, Pepper Martin, Babe Herman and others." Seriously he added, "There must be something wrong somewhere. Must be just a few men who don't want us to play big league ball. The players are O.K. and the crowds are with us."
"Say," he went on, "just let them take a vote of the baseball fans as to whether they want us in the game or not. I've been all over the country, and I know it would be 100-1 for us.
"And I don't think I'm saying too much when I say that the Yankee Stadium wouldn't come close to holding the fans who would come out the first day Negro ball players went into action."
Lying on his bed next to the banjo he strums expertly was a copy of Monday's Daily Worker with DiMaggio's statement that he was the greatest pitcher of them all.
That tribute from the Yankees' great outfielder didn't surprise him, and he returned the compliment.
"Joe's a swell guy, and I rate him and Charley Gehringer the best batters I faced out there on the coast.
"Here's something for you. Two years ago when the Pittsburgh Pirates were in spring training at the San Bernadino, California, we were playing games out there with our all-star Negro team. There was talk of an exhibition game between us and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Well, the Pittsburgh manager turned the game down. And was frank about the reason. Said he was afraid the Pirates would lose the game and lose prestige. Said "I don't think they could hit Paige."
"Did you bump into any warnings against playing or outright prejudice in your travels around the country?" I asked.
"Well," he said reminiscently, "some politician warned us not to tour the state of Texas once. Said Negro and white ball players on the same field down there would never be tolerated. We toured the state from one end to the other and you should have heard the crowd cheer us.
"They said we couldn't go into Texas and we did. Now the same people are telling us that the people don't want us in the big leagues."
I asked Paige if he had been aware of the drive launched last spring by the Daily and Sunday Worker to have the Brooklyn Dodgers give him a trial.
"Yes," he answered. "I was out in Puerto Rico then, and heard about it. That was really starting something. When you keep talking about the issue and pressing it, it just is a question of time before the fans will want to see the Negro stars and will demand them."
But Satchell is 29 years old and a little afraid that the break might come too late. I reminded him that Dazzy Vance, one of the greatest of all times, first got his regular big league chance at the age of 29, and hit his peak around 34.
"Hope I hit my peak at 34," he grinned, leaning back on his bed and stretching. "I don't think they can keep us out that long."