Health Education, Baseball and Satchel Paige: What's the Link?

Health Education, Baseball and Satchel Paige: What's the Link?

By Lance Sprague | June 11, 2019
Former Associate Publisher, ETR

Quick answer: Bill Kane.

Editor’s note: It’s been over ten years since Bill Kane died, and we still miss his vision, dedication and brilliance all the time. He served on ETR’s board, then as ETR’s board president, and then as ETR’s Director of School Health. He helped write our HealthSmart curriculum and a lot of other books. He was executive director of the American College of Preventive Medicine and the Association for the Advancement of Health Education. He was a professor of health education at the University of New Mexico. He ran a diving resort in Fiji. He made award-winning wines, and he did about a hundred other things, too.

If you’re doing something successful in health education today, there’s a good chance Bill Kane played some kind of role getting you there, whether you knew him or not. You can find out more from this article about him in the American Journal of Public Health.

Bill was a man who collected a lot of great experiences in his life. The Satchel Paige story is one of his best—and since it’s springtime and baseball is in the air, it seemed like a good moment to remember Bill and tell it again. Author Lance Sprague originally wrote this piece for a memorial document created by ETR after Bill’s death. We appreciate Lance's permission to reprint here.

The Satchel Paige Story

It didn’t take long for Bill to figure out I was a baseball fan. One day he walked up to me and said, “Did I ever tell you about the time I hit a double off Satchel Paige?”

“What?!” I said.

Now, Satchel Paige was one of the greatest pitchers of all time—certainly the most legendary. While pitching in the Negro Leagues, the American League and barnstorming through the U.S. and Latin America, Satchel estimated that he pitched in 2,600 games and threw 300 shutouts and 55 no-hitters.

He was also a great baseball showman. Many times he would have his outfielders sit on the infield while he struck out the side. Exhibition games would advertise that Satchel would strike out the first nine batters. He almost always made good on that promise.

An Exhibition Game in Iowa

I don’t know exactly, but I think this must have happened in 1964. Bill was in high school at the time, and playing baseball on one of the regional All-Star teams. He was a really good athlete. But I don’t think he ever thought he was good enough to get a hit off of Satchel Paige. He had no illusions about being that good.

Satchel was retired at this point and probably 58 years old. I say “probably” because Satchel was always very cagey about his birth date. But he could still pitch, and I’d imagine he could get his fastball close to 90 miles an hour. He’d been barnstorming throughout the country since the late 1920s. He’d pull together a team of players and they’d tour around playing local teams in exhibition games. It was a way to make a living.

So Satchel brought his team to Iowa. The locals provided an umpire and a team, and Bill was on that team. Now, this local umpire apparently took his job very seriously. In fact, he actually had the audacity to start calling some of Satchel’s pitches balls. Well, Satchel did not like it. Here he was in northern Iowa being shown up by a local umpire with a bad eye.

Some Bad Calls

There’d been several balls called by the time Bill came up to the plate. Satchel motioned his catcher out to the mound for a brief conversation. The catcher came back to the plate and whispered to Bill, “If you take the next pitch, Satchel will give you one you can hit.”

Bill said, “Sure.” He hung back a little, knowing he wasn’t going to swing at the next pitch.

Satchel sent off a high fastball. The catcher moved his glove at the last instant, and that pitch went right into the umpire’s face mask. The umpire wasn’t injured, but the pitch probably stung a bit, and his pride was definitely stung. The umpire got so mad, he wanted to throw Satchel out of the game.

Except Satchel was the only reason people were there.

So Satchel stayed in and, as Bill said, “His next pitch was a lollipop and I hit it for a double.”

In 1965, Satchel pitched in his last big league game for the Kansas City A’s. At least 59 years of age, he pitched three shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox. He faced ten batters and retired nine.

I always told Bill this should be the first thing on his resume! Nobody else in health education ever hit a double off Satchel Paige!

Editor’s Postscript

In March, 2007, Bill Kane died. He was also 59. He had been given two months to live when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2005. He felt lucky to beat that prediction by almost two years. Like Satchel Paige, he was a standout in absolutely everything he did. He never stopped contributing to the field of health education and the profession he loved.

 

 

Lance Sprague is the former Associate Publisher at ETR. He is a baseball fan and an artist. He can be reached at lancespr@comcast.net.

 

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