The great Satchel Paige. The ageless stalworth of the Negro Leagues. We’re all familiar with Satchel Paige and his greatness, and many of us can even quote a classic Satchel quote or two. But, what you might not have known, is that Satchel Paige was an Atlanta Braves pitching coach once. Well, sort of.
In 1968, Satchel Paige was just 158 days shy of the five years’ playing time needed to qualify for Major League pension. Satchel reached out to 29 teams to give him just one more chance and 29 teams turned the ageless wonder down.
It’s also important to note that Satchel was shy of the major league pension because of the bogus color barrier. He didn’t get called up to the majors, from the Negro Leagues where he played 17 years, until 1949. And in 1949, the man was already 42 years old.
So, when 1968 came around and 62 year old Satchel Paige realizes that he’s just shy of a nice major league pension, he just figured he’d make some calls and pick up a baseball again.
But, when every other team was quick to turn down Satchel Paige, Atlanta Braves president Bill Bartholomay saw an opportunity. In 1968, the Braves had been in Atlanta for just three years, and Bartholomay knew that he could kill two birds with one stone. Bill could do the right thing for the legendary Satchel Paige, and he could sell a few tickets along the way in the newest baseball city.
In order to make Satchel Paige eligible to receive his pension, Bartholomay signed Paige to a contract running through the 1969 season as the Atlanta Braves pitching coach. Satchel would actually suit up and pitch a couple of innings during two exhibition games early in the spring 1969, but he’d spend the rest of the season “coaching” from his living room in Kansas City, Missouri.
After reaching his 158 required days, Paige left the Atlanta Braves organization and less than three years later, began drawing that Major League pension. He received $250 a month.