Thursday, May 27, 2010

Don't Look Back, Something Might Be Gainin'

In America, it's often said, the past is prologue. What could be more American, then, than the forward thrust of Satchell Paige's life?

The former Negro Leagues baseball star who made his debut in the (for-too-long-all-white) major leagues at age 42, offered a signature saying: Don't Look Back, Something Might Be Gainin'.

When one delves into the details of Paige's life, the multivalent meanings of that slogan become evident.

It's not just that he sought to shroud his birthdate in mystery - a completely understandable strategy for an aging athlete competing against kids half his age. Brett Favre, for better or worse, does not have that option.

It's also the fact that, as his Negro Leagues Baseball Museum profile relates, he had considerable - well (pun intended) - baggage to overcome from his early life. His given name was LeRoy, with "Satchell" becoming his moniker after an early job carrying suitcases (satchells) at the train station for tips. He eventually tried to steal one of those, and later spent time in reform school.

This backstory does not diminish Satchell Paige's accomplishments; it only enhances them. Born in poverty, one of 12 children, he had to fend for himself. But he kept on keeping on - all the way to the Hall of Fame.

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