Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige was both a victim of and a contributor to his own myth. Larry Tye’s Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend (Random House, $26) describes a man with an elastic, duplicitous, and mesmerizing right arm—and a mind to match it. According to Paige, his nickname came from his carrying multiple bags for white travelers at the train station, but according to an acquaintance it originated in Paige’s trying to steal those same bags. His date of birth, career records, marital status, and personal recollections were all subject to debate and dispute. What is not disputable is Paige’s sheer athletic ability and ingenuity, proved on every mound he stood upon. He was a dominant pitcher and an unsurpassed showman, and his legend grew through the Negro Leagues, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, barn-storming tours against white Major Leaguers, and finally the Major Leagues themselves as its first black pitcher and the oldest rookie in their history. Satchel seemed to enjoy fooling the media and the historians as much as he did the batters he faced.
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