5 Satchel Paige Baseball Cards To Celebrate His Legacy
Unfortunately for collectors, there aren't too many Satchel Paige baseball cards to go around...
You see, Paige spent most of his career as a superstar in the Negro Leagues, making his debut in 1926 with the Chattanooga Black Lookouts.
And since he didn't make his Major League debut until 1948 when he was 42 years old, few Satchel Paige cards would be printed before he would retire.
His charisma made for stories as legendary as Babe Ruth's called shot. Like those of him making his teammates sit down in the grass behind him as he struck out the opposing side. Or taunting the legendary Josh Gibson by intentionally walking the bases loaded just so he could strike him out.
Satchel Paige baseball cards remain rare and coveted by many vintage baseball card collectors to this day.
Here is a list of 5 of Paige's most important baseball cards in the hobby.
1947-1966 Exhibits Satchel Paige
Exhibit cards are much larger than typical vintage baseball cards measuring in at 3-3/8" by 5-3/8" but are not nearly as popular or demanded. He was shown on two cards, an individual card and a team card, in this set which you can get for far less than his cards of the mainstream companies. His individual card boasts a very nice image of him at the top of his windup ready to fire one over the plate. It would be interesting to know which of his famously named pitches he was about to deliver. Was it the “Thoughtful Stuff” or the "Bee-Ball"? Or maybe it was the "Midnight Creeper" or the "Whipsy-Dipsy-Do.” It could have been one of his favorites, the “Hesitation Pitch,” which was later outlawed in the Majors after several opposing managers complained.
1947-1966 Exhibits 1948 Cleveland Indians Team Baseball Card
Paige's other card in the Exhibits set, the 1948 Cleveland Indians team card, offers a nice group shot of the World Series winners that year. Paige can be seen just right of center in the middle row.
1948 Leaf #8 Satchel Paige Rookie Card
The Cleveland Indians were in a pennant race in 1948 so owner Bill Veeck signed Paige to a $40,000 contract to help. Paige started 7 games in 1948 finishing with a 6-1 record while turning in a 2.48 ERA. That same year, he also became the first African American to pitch in the World Series, pitching two-thirds of an inning in Game Five. The Indians ended up winning the series in six games.
The 1948 Leaf #8 is one of two Satchel Paige rookie cards in the hobby, featuring a head shot of Paige smiling with his eyes closed atop a bright yellow background. You'll also notice that Leaf chose to use Paige's actual first name, Leroy. Being a single print, this Paige rookie card is rare enough already but can be incredibly difficult to find in higher grades due to poor print quality and focus. It's arguably the toughest post-War card to collect.
There are currently only five copies on PSA's population report that grade NM-MT 8 with none grading higher. The scarcity and importance of the card easily make it one of the most coveted and most valuable baseball cards of all time.
1949 Bowman #224 Satchel Paige Rookie Card
Paige did not see as much success in 1949 as he had in 1948, finishing the season with a 4–7 record and a 3.04 ERA. The Indians released him after the season when Veeck had to sell the team to pay for his divorce. So Paige went back to barnstorming for a while.
Nevertheless, the 1949 Bowman #224 is considered the other Paige rookie card in the hobby and features a head shot of the superstar atop a light green background. But this time he's got his eyes open. And if you look at the bottom of the card, you'll also see that Bowman used Paige's nickname but spelled it with two "L's". Far less scarce than their 1948 Leaf #8 counterparts, this Paige rookie can be had far less expensively.
While there are only 8 copies of the 1948 Leaf rookie grading at PSA NM-MT8 there are 65 copies of the 1949 Bowman rookies that have graded PSA NM-MT 8. And as many as 9 copies have graded at PSA MINT 9 condition.
1953 Topps #220
Bill Veeck returned to baseball when he bought an 80% ownership interest in the St. Louis Browns. He quickly signed Paige, who would pitch for the team from 1951 to 1953, earning two All-Star game appearances along the way. Unfortunately, he would only appear on one more card during that span. Satchel Paige's 1953 Topps baseball card is arguably his most visually appealing as it displays a beautiful illustration of the legendary pitcher in the famous design of that set. Easily noticed, though, is the misspelling of his name again as Topps, too, spelled it with two "L's". A favorite among collectors, it would also be the last mainstream baseball card to feature Satchel Paige.
Satchel Paige Baseball Cards Wrap-up
Amazingly, 1953 was not Paige's last stint in Major League Baseball. After returning to barnstorming for many years thereafter, he found himself financially strapped. So, to help complete five years of big league service to qualify for a player’s pension, he returned to baseball in 1965 when Kansas City Athletics owner Charlie Finley signed him to pitch in one game. The A’s were 40 games back anyway, so Finley came up with “Satchel Paige Appreciation Night” to help draw a crowd.
At 59 years old, Paige would become the oldest player to play in a Major League baseball game when he took the mound against Carl Yastrzemski and the Red Sox. To help give the crowd a show, he sat in a rocking chair between innings while a nurse tended to his aging right shoulder and an errand boy would grab him fresh glasses of water. Shockingly (or, maybe not so shockingly), Paige tossed three innings of scoreless ball while giving up only one hit--to none other than Yastrzemski. It was yet another unbelievable achievement for Paige to add to his legacy.
By the time he made his last appearance in 1965, Paige had pitched across five different decades.
And his dominance was just as unquestionable as his longevity.
After facing him during an exhibition game, New York Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio once stated that Paige was "the best and fastest pitcher I've ever faced." That's a lot coming from a guy who once hit safely in 56 straight Major League games.
It was no secret that Paige had wanted to be the first African American to play in Major League Baseball. He said in his autobiography that, "Signing Jackie like they did still hurt me deep down. I'd been the guy who'd started all that big talk about letting us in the big time. I’d been the one who'd opened up the major league parks to colored teams. I'd been the one who the white boys wanted to go barnstorming against." While he may not have achieved that dream, he was the first African American elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.
A true showman and dominant pitcher, Paige's legacy will live on forever as one of the game's best players of all-time.