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When J.G. Taylor Spink called the Indians signing of Satchel Paige a publicity stunt

Sep 13, 2013, 4:28 PM EDT


This is pretty darn interesting. Blogger Bob Lemke looks back at the hubbub when Bill Veeck’s Cleveland Indians signed Satchel Paige in 1948. Specifically when The Sporting News — through the editorials of its publisher, J.G. Taylor Spink — decried the signing as a rank publicity stunt:

“In criticizing the acquisition of Satchel Paige  by Cleveland, THE SPORTING NEWS believes that Veeck has gone too far in his quest of publicity, and that he has done his league’s position absolutely no good insofar as public reaction is concerned … Paige said he was 39 years of ago (sic). There are reports that he is somewhere in the neighborhood of 50  It would have done Cleveland and the American League no good in the court of public opinion if, at 50, Paige were as Caucasian as, let us say, Bob Feller.  To bring in a pitching ‘rookie’ of Paige’s age casts a reflection on the entire scheme of operation in the major leagues. To sign a hurler at Paige’s age is to demean the standards of baseball in the big circuits. Further complicating the situation is that suspicion that if Satchel were white, he would not have drawn a second thought from Veeck.”

Of course, all Paige did for the Indians in 1948 was go 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA as a swingman as the Indians marched toward the pennant and then on to the World Series title. Even after Paige had won five games for the Indians, however, Spink stuck to his guns, writing another editorial criticizing Veeck for the Paige signing.

As Lemke notes, Spink’s racial views were hard to figure — he was pro-integration in baseball but later critical of Jackie Robinson — so it’s hard to see how much of this was about Paige, how much was about Veeck, how much was about Spink and how much of it was simply about bad baseball analysis and an underestimation of what was left of Paige’s skills.  But either way, I had never heard this before and think it’s pretty fascinating.

  1. The Common Man - Sep 13, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    If I remember correctly from Larry Tye’s biography of him, Satch very much carried a grudge about this for a long time. That biography, which is amazingly good by the way, is available for less than $15 on Amazon:

  2. paperlions - Sep 13, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    I guess baseball writers have always been attention seeking d-bags, even the old timey guys that awards are named after.

  3. Kevin Gillman - Sep 13, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    Indians do not get as much credit for bringing in Al Rosen and Satch, shortly after Mr. Robinson played for the Dodgers. It’s also amazing to me that a journalist, even in the 40’s cannot admit when they are wrong.

    • chad10 - Sep 14, 2013 at 9:21 AM

      Guessing you meant Larry Doby and Satch?

      • Kevin Gillman - Sep 14, 2013 at 11:32 AM

        Haha yes I did, thank you. Although Al Rosen had a very big part in the Indians success too.

  4. pa9erfan - Sep 13, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    all that matters to me in this article is 6-1, with a .248 era and a w.s.ring… way to go satch!!!

  5. bigharold - Sep 14, 2013 at 1:23 AM

    “THE SPORTING NEWS believes that Veeck has gone too far in his quest of publicity,…”

    If Paige was a “rank publicity stunt” , I wonder what the Sporting New’ take was in 1951 when Veech used a midget for a plate appearance? They must of went berserk.

  6. whiteyandharry - Sep 14, 2013 at 7:42 AM

    What “demean(ed) the standards of baseball in the big circuits” was that baseball did not sign Paige when he was 20 or 25! Spink was truly the Anti-Rickey!

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