The Master and the Jester
As inventive as journalists were, they could not match Satchel’s own poetry. His philosophy of pitching, he explained, was that “it ain’t so much how hard you throw, it’s why and where.” At times he was a Zen master, at other times, a court jester. “Bases on balls,” he intoned, “is the curse of the nation.” So “throw strikes at all times. Unless you don’t want to.”
~Satchel, Larry Tye
Baseball is a wonderful game. If you don’t agree, well… it’s okay to be wrong from time to time. I love baseball. I love watching games. I love playing. I even enjoyed coaching tee ball last year (don’t tell anybody, I don’t really want to do it again!).
But one of the reasons I love baseball so much is because it’s poetry in motion. It’s philosophy on the field. It’s a thinking person’s game when you boil it down. I’ve seen good athletes look silly trying to swing at even a decent pitch. And I’ve experienced the joy an unexpected hit can have for a player that hasn’t been doing all that well.
You learn to overcome adversity. You learn how important the concept of team really is — one player can make a difference, but even if you’re the best player in the game, you only get 1 out of every 9 at bats through the lineup. The best outfielder in the game can’t prevent the shortstop from throwing it into the stands.
Satchel Paige was one of the great wordsmiths who came out of the game. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Satchel pitch in MLB games until he was into his 40s. But the stories survive. And, sometimes, that’s all that is left of our lives.
I love reading Satch’s thoughts on baseball because he played in a very different time, but so much of what he had to say still applies. It’s timeless. Not to mention the fact that he spent so much time on the road playing countless games for countless teams. He probably pitched more than anybody else in history. He started as a teenager, and his last official MLB performance came at the age of 59 in 1965 (he pitched 3 innings, and only gave up 1 hit — a double to future HOFer Carl Yastrzemski). His last professional game was a year later, just a couple weeks shy of his 60th birthday, when he pitched for the Peninsula Grays in the Carolina League.
He was a master of the game. But he also knew that it was a game. He knew that he needed to market himself, so to speak. He was a showman and a professional. He did things that would really tick some people off in today’s games, like having his outfielders sit down for an inning, or jawing at runners who did manage to get a hit from time to time. But one thing is for certain, Satchel could play ball like few we have seen in our lifetime. That’s why he is a legend.