Monday, February 18, 2013

Ed Charles looks back at Satchel Paige in the Pacific Coast League

Satchel Paige was an arm for hire. Pitching well into his 50’s, Paige was widely coveted not only for his pitching, but his ability to put fans in the seats. Wherever Paige appeared, there was a crowd. Owners knew this and Paige capitalized. If the price was right, ol’ Satchel would put on the uniform.

In 1961, fresh off of his appearance in the Negro League East-West All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, the Portland Beavers of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League signed Paige in late August with the hopes that the legendary hurler could fill their stadium. Paige felt he could still deliver the goods. “I’m sure I could still help some major league team as a relief pitcher,” he said in an August 30, 1961 Associated Press report.

Ed  Charles / Baseball-Almanac.com
Witnessing that delivery was Ed Charles, a 28-year-old third baseman for the Vancouver Mounties. (Ironically Charles ended up as Paige’s teammate on the Kansas City Athletics in 1965, when Paige made his final major league appearance against the Boston Red Sox.) During their final home stand in Vancouver, Charles recalled a humorous incident when one of his teammates tried to show up Paige on the mound.

“The last series of the '61 season, Satchel was with Portland and we were finishing up with Portland at home. ... Satchel [was] scheduled to pitch, which he did, the final game on a Sunday,” Charles said during a 2012 interview. “He really stuck that ball up our ‘you know what,’ until I think I got a hit off him in the 7th [sic]. ... The big thing about that, we had a second baseman Billy Consolo. ... He took it upon himself to try to bunt on Satchel Paige.”

Paige quickly let Consolo know that his attempt wasn’t appreciated.

“He laid down the bunt and Satch didn't attempt to go to the ball to field the ball. Satch just stood on the mound and stared at Billy as he was running to first base,” he said.

Consolo’s home fans gave him an earful as well.

“Our fans. they took offense to Billy trying to drag [bunt] on Satch. They start booing him and saying, ‘You should be sent to the minor leagues having the guts to lay a bunt down on that old man, you bush league so and so!’”

Consolo was no stranger to the unspoken rules of baseball. He played 10 seasons in the major leagues, and later spent 13 years as a coach on Sparky Anderson’s staff with the Detroit Tigers. When Consolo returned to the dugout, Charles pressed Consolo about his motives.

“[I asked him], ‘Why would you try to bunt on that man like that?’ Billy said, ‘I'm trying to win a ballgame, I don't care who's out on the mound.’”

Over 50 years later, it was not Paige’s mastery on the mound, but his looming glare across the diamond that is etched in Charles’ memory.

“It was funny the reaction of our fans towards Billy for trying to lay down a drag bunt on Satchel Paige. ... Just to see Satch stand there and stare down Billy, that was funny.”

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