On February 7, 1965
Some two months before the Astrodome’s grand opening in 1965 (then known as the Harris County Domed Stadium), Satchel Paige was in town to coach a basketball team in a game versus the Harlem Globetrotters. Aware of his visit, Houston management contacted Paige on the morning of February 7 and asked the spry 58-year-old if he would come down and throw a few pitches off the mound. Eager to see the newfangled ballpark, Satch agreed and arrived sometime before noon.
Paige once boasted: “I use my single windup, my double windup, my triple windup, my hesitation windup, my no windup. I also use my step-n-pitch-it, my submariner, my sidearmer, and my bat dodger.” However, it wasn’t his swagger, humorous aphorisms, or creativity—which rivaled that of jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, if one considers pitching an improvisational art—that earned Satch the invite. With the stadium set to open that April, there was one question on the minds of his hosts: Will a baseball curve indoors? Having spent parts of four decades in pro baseball (1926-53), Paige had seen and done it all—but never anything like this.
Though publicity photos were taken (thus the Astros jersey), only a few people were on hand to see baseball’s ageless wonder take the mound. (Can you imagine what if must’ve been like to watch as perhaps the greatest pitcher of all-time strode onto the field?) After a few soft tosses, Paige—still loosening up—threw a decent looking curveball that did indeed break. Not satisfied, the soon-to-be senior citizen snapped off a sharp breaking pitch that a moundsman half his age would envy. After unleashing several more impressive benders, Satch called it a day. He had proven two things: a baseball can curve indoors and that his famous maxim—”Age is a question of mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”—wasn’t just talk.
So what did Paige think of indoor baseball? He loved the idea, calling the windless conditions “a perfect pitcher’s dream.” In April 1965, he discussed the experience with Frank Godsoe of the Amarillo Daily News: “I’ve pitched baseball in all kinds of weather,” Paige explained. “I’ve pitched in the tropics where the air’s kind of thick and heavy and there ain’t much breeze to worry about. I also pitched in high up places, such as Mexico City and Denver, where the ball’s supposed to carry better. . . . I’ve pitched in more places than any other man, living or dead. . . . But there’s no place to pitch like the Astrodome stadium in Houston. . . . Man, that place is something else!”
This wasn’t the last time Paige took the mound in 1965. On September 25, two months after celebrating his 59th birthday, he was coaxed out of retirement by Kansas City Athletics owner Charlie Finley, who offered the legendary hurler a one-day contract worth $3,500. Asked if he could go three innings, Satch quipped: “That depends. How many times a day?”
Despite his braggadocio, most dismissed the event as a cheesy gimmick and expected to see a broken-down old man trying to relive his youth. Paige, however, had other ideas. Amazingly, Satch hurled three scoreless frames versus the Boston Red Sox—he allowed one hit, a double by Carl Yastrzemski, and even struck out a batter. “I never expected to see what I saw that day,” declared Diego Segui, who relived Paige in the fourth inning. “You don’t think a guy that age, he’s got all this gray hair, and he’s getting everybody out? You don’t expect that.” — Bobby King II
◾Sources: https://bill37mccurdy.com + https://newspaperarchive.com + https://www.pinterest.com + https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/september-25-1965-satchel-paige-pitches-three-scoreless-innings-age-59#sdendnote13sym