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Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow

James Sturm’s new opus is a graphic biography of legendary baseball pitcher Paige that presents poignant and historically resonant drawings along with a smoothly flowing anecdotal narrative.

Book Digest A few months ago I was pleased to note James Sturm’s America: God, Gold, and Golems. Now comes a new opus and collaboration. Arguably, baseball is best consumed as a game for boys and girls of all ages and frequently attempts to make more much of it ring false (the difference between the bloated verbiage of George Will and the elegant insights of Roger Angell). As my son Cuba has just finished his fifth Little League season in a year and change, taking a month hiatus before Fallball, I acquired a copy of James Sturm and Rich Tommaso’s graphic biography, Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow.

Leroy Paige, you may know, was a legendary pitcher from the glory days of the Negro Baseball Leagues (and much belatedly into the Caucasian Majors) who played more than a few steps into his sixties and whose singular talents and personality formed the basis of a colorful and entertaining legend. No doubt search-engining will produce ample material on Paige but this iteration of his life stands alone. Of course there is the point where baseball no longer becomes the main focus of my interest (though some of Paige’s tactics on the mound are instructive for fledgling hurlers, like my son) and social cultural history begs for scrupulous attention. I thought I knew something about Paige, but Sturm and Tommaso’s poignant and historically resonant drawings along with a smoothly flowing anecdotal narrative gave both the important features of Leroy Paige’s life. The social context in which he performed is lucidly and splendidly realized (referencing Thomas Hart Benton paintings and Depression era Farm Securities Administration photographs). Fortunately this product of the Center for Cartoon Studies, with which you would do well to acquaint yourself, is not overburdened by the weight of the dramatic story that it tells. A claim I can confirm by the pointing out that both Cuba and I enjoyed this singular piece of work.
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