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Author Larry Tye on Satchel Paige

Larry Saxton | 9/2/2009, 10:58 a.m.

The Smithsonian€s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will host €Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend€"A Conversation with author Larry Tye.€ The author will be joined by Lonnie Bunch, director of NMAAHC and Washington Post Style writer and author Wil Haygood.

Baseball fans worldwide recognize Satchel Paige as the legendary African American pitcher who spent the majority of his career in the Negro Leagues. Born Leroy Robert Paige on July 7, 1906, in Mobile, Ala., Paige grew up in the era of Jim Crow. Tye said that he wanted his book to reflect the significant role that the baseball great played in toppling the Jim Crow system of segregation.

€This is the first book to really come out and say that it was on his shoulders that Jackie Robinson stood, and if Jackie was the father of the integration of baseball, then Satchel was most certainly the grandfather,€ Tye said.

€There is no better institution to better understand Jim Crow America than through the Negro Leagues, and no better sparkling individual to understand it through than the great Satchel Paige,€ Tye said.

Tye€s vivid memories of Paige date back to the 1960€s. He remembers going to baseball games at Fenway Park in Boston with his father. He said that anytime a good pitcher was on the mound for the Boston Red Sox or for the opposing team, the benchmark was always Paige -- they weren€t as good as Paige nor could they throw as hard as Paige,€ Tye said.

Yet, whenever he questioned his father or other adults about the pitcher, their knowledge €was only an inch deep.€

€It was so much a question of legend that had built up, but in terms of the real story, that was elusive,€ Tye said.

€Satchel Paige was the perfect person to write a book about, someone that everybody seemed to know a little bit about, but nobody seemed to know the real story,€ Tye said.

For his meticulously researched book €Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend,€ Tye said that he interviewed more than 200 former Negro League baseball players. A recent New York Times review called the book €engaging and insightful,€ while the Washington Post wrote, €Tye adores his subject. His Paige is €skyscraping€ with a €blinding€ fastball that defied gravity and rose on its way to the plate.€

The conversation between Tye, Bunch and Haygood will include how Paige started playing baseball on the streets of Mobile and how he developed his trademark hesitation pitch while throwing bricks at rival gang members. The conversation will also cover Paige as he barnstormed across the country as a superstar pitcher with several Negro League teams.

The lecture will be held on Wed., Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m., in the Smithsonian€s Carmichael Auditorium, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue in Northwest. The event is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow the lecture.

For more information, visit nmaahc.si.edu.