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.