Baseball fans were deprived of seeing some of the most talented players on earth before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. Negro League legends like Oscar Charleston and Josh Gibson never had the chance to showcase their skills at the MLB level. There were some, however, who did get that opportunity, even though they were past their prime. Satchel Paige, at the age of 42, was one of those players. Not only did Paige pitch for five consecutive years (1948–1953), he came back for a three-inning stint in 1965 at the age of 59, when he didn’t surrender a run. During his playing career, only a handful of cards were issued, but all of them carry meaningful weight.
Only one Topps card (1953) and one Bowman card (1949) were produced. The Bowman card has gained more attention in recent years and is worth considerably more than his lone Topps issue. While true, the card that is the unquestioned king of all Paige cards is his 1948/1949 Leaf. The card (#8) resides in one of the more popular but tough sets in the post-WWII era. There are other Hall of Famer rookie cards in the set, such as those of Stan Musial and Robinson. There are also some terribly difficult cards to find in high grade like the #1 card of Joe DiMaggio and the Bob Feller condition rarity. That all being said, none hold a candle to the Paige card in terms of desirability or market value. One of several scarce short prints, the Paige card suffers from poor print quality and registration to complicate matters. At the time of this writing, less than half a dozen Paige cards have reached the PSA NM-MT 8 grade, with none grading higher.
Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige (July 7, 1906 - June 8, 1982) began his big league career with the Cleveland Indians in 1948 at the age of 42, making him the oldest player to debut in Major League Baseball. Satchel helped Cleveland win the American League pennant and World Series in his first year. Satchel Paige is widely considered the greatest pitcher to emerge from the Negro Leagues posting an unofficial record of 103-61 (a .638 winning percentage), with 1,231 strikeouts and a 2.02 ERA. Paige was a hard-throwing right-hander playing with the Cleveland Indians (1948-1949), the St. Louis Browns (1951-1953) and the Kansas City A’s (1965) compiling an unimpressive record of 28-31 with 288 strikeouts and a 3.29 ERA. Satchel’s career spanned five decades including a 1965 appearance pitching three shutout innings allowing only one hit. Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio referred to Paige as “the best and fastest pitcher I’ve ever faced.” Paige got his nickname as a boy, lugging bags and satchels for railroad passengers. The Negro Leagues Committee elected Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.