“Damndest Hitter I Ever saw, a Born Natural”

10 Sep

After Satchel Paige arrived three hours late for a 1953 interview with Wendell Smith of The Pittsburgh Courier, and talked about his family and his expectations for the upcoming season,  Smith asked Paige who were the toughest batters he faced in the American League:

Wendell Smith

“I can’t name ‘em all, but I can tell you some of ‘em. Among the modern players there’s Mickey Mantle, Dale Mitchell, Phil Rizzuto, Larry Doby, and Minnie Minoso.

DiMaggio was tough, too, before he retired. He was sure some hitter. But of all the hitters I ever faced, I think Josh Gibson, who is dead now, was the toughest. You could fool him and before the ball got to te plate, he could get that bat around and hit the ball out of the park. Damndest hitter I ever saw, a born natural.”

Paige wanted to talk to Smith about his own hitting prowess:

“Satchel considers himself a hitter, too. He rates himself right along with the Gibson’s and DiMaggio’s, Doby’s, and Mitchell’s.

“’Only difference,’ he said. ‘I’m not a long ball hitter. Me and Rizzuto hit liners.’”

Paige

Smith asked:

“If a pitcher were smart, what could he throw to a ‘dangerous’ hitter like Satch in a tight ballgame with the winning run on second base?

“’Well, if he was smart,’ Satchel said, thoughtfully ‘he’d curve me. He’s throw all the curves he could think of. That’s my weakness, curves. But he better make ‘em bad. Off the plate. If he throws them in there, over the plate, I’ll jump on ‘em. I jump on curves over the plate. Bing…I hit ‘em on a line over second base, me and Rizzuto.”

Smith pointed out to Paige that:

“(He) hit a ‘mighty’ .205 last season [sic, .128]

”’Shucks,’ he said, “I know a lot of regulars who didn’t hit that good.’”

 Paige was 3-9 with a 3.53 ERA and 11 saves in 57 appearances for the last place, 54-100 St. Louis Browns.  He hit .069.

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