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The Pitcher and the Dictator: Satchel Paige's Unlikely Season in the Dominican Republic

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Soon after Satchel Paige arrived at spring training in 1937 to pitch for the Pittsburgh Crawfords, he and five of his teammates, including Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell, were lured to the Dominican Republic with the promise of easy money to play a short baseball tournament in support of the country’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo. As it turned out, the money wasn’t so easy. A Soon after Satchel Paige arrived at spring training in 1937 to pitch for the Pittsburgh Crawfords, he and five of his teammates, including Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell, were lured to the Dominican Republic with the promise of easy money to play a short baseball tournament in support of the country’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo. As it turned out, the money wasn’t so easy. After Paige and his friends arrived on the island, they found themselves under the thumb of Trujillo, known by Dominicans for murdering those who disappointed him. In the initial games, the Ciudad Trujillo All-Star team floundered. Living outside the shadow of segregation, Satchel and his recruits spent their nights carousing and their days dropping close games to their rivals, who were also stocked with great players. Desperate to restore discipline, Trujillo tapped the leader of his death squads to become part of the team management. When Paige’s team ultimately rallied to win, it barely registered with Trujillo, who a few months later ordered the killings of fifteen thousand Haitians at the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Paige and his teammates returned to the states to face banishment from the Negro Leagues, but they barnstormed across America wearing their Trujillo All-Stars uniforms. The Pitcher and the Dictator is an extraordinary story of race, politics, and some of the greatest baseball players ever assembled, playing high-stakes games in support of one of the Caribbean’s cruelest dictators. For more information about The Pitcher and the Dictator, visit thepitcherandthedictator.com.


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Soon after Satchel Paige arrived at spring training in 1937 to pitch for the Pittsburgh Crawfords, he and five of his teammates, including Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell, were lured to the Dominican Republic with the promise of easy money to play a short baseball tournament in support of the country’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo. As it turned out, the money wasn’t so easy. A Soon after Satchel Paige arrived at spring training in 1937 to pitch for the Pittsburgh Crawfords, he and five of his teammates, including Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell, were lured to the Dominican Republic with the promise of easy money to play a short baseball tournament in support of the country’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo. As it turned out, the money wasn’t so easy. After Paige and his friends arrived on the island, they found themselves under the thumb of Trujillo, known by Dominicans for murdering those who disappointed him. In the initial games, the Ciudad Trujillo All-Star team floundered. Living outside the shadow of segregation, Satchel and his recruits spent their nights carousing and their days dropping close games to their rivals, who were also stocked with great players. Desperate to restore discipline, Trujillo tapped the leader of his death squads to become part of the team management. When Paige’s team ultimately rallied to win, it barely registered with Trujillo, who a few months later ordered the killings of fifteen thousand Haitians at the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Paige and his teammates returned to the states to face banishment from the Negro Leagues, but they barnstormed across America wearing their Trujillo All-Stars uniforms. The Pitcher and the Dictator is an extraordinary story of race, politics, and some of the greatest baseball players ever assembled, playing high-stakes games in support of one of the Caribbean’s cruelest dictators. For more information about The Pitcher and the Dictator, visit thepitcherandthedictator.com.

52 review for The Pitcher and the Dictator: Satchel Paige's Unlikely Season in the Dominican Republic

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lance

    Satchel Paige is one of the most talented and entertaining players to have participated in the Negro Leagues before Major League Baseball became integrated. However, in 1937, he and several other Negro League players, including Josh Gibson and James “Cool Papa” Bell, left the Pittsburgh Crawfords to play in the Dominican Republic. However, this was no ordinary league in which they participated – it was a baseball tournament in support of the country’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo. The account of Pa Satchel Paige is one of the most talented and entertaining players to have participated in the Negro Leagues before Major League Baseball became integrated. However, in 1937, he and several other Negro League players, including Josh Gibson and James “Cool Papa” Bell, left the Pittsburgh Crawfords to play in the Dominican Republic. However, this was no ordinary league in which they participated – it was a baseball tournament in support of the country’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo. The account of Paige and his teammates, as well as the brutal regime of Trujillo, is told in this excellent book by Averell Smith. The players, starting with Paige, were lured to the island with the promise of easy money. Paige was offered $30,000 to play in the tournament and immediately broke his contract with the Crawfords and went to the Dominican Republic. His salary was much better than he could make in the United States, without the racism he was experiencing. He found he could stay in any hotel he wished, go to any restaurant or club, and walk the streets being accepted for who he was. He was able to convince his personal catcher, William Perkins, and the aforementioned Gibson and Bell to join him. However, this isn’t to say that all was happy for the players in the Dominican Republic. The manager of the dictator’s baseball team, Dr. Jose Aybar, recruited Paige in New Orleans and let him and the other players know that they were being watched closely and that they had to perform well for the dictator. Armed soldiers with guns and machetes were always in sight. This atmosphere and the background behind Trujillo’s rise to power is also described in the book, so when Paige arrives on the island, the reader has an inkling of what he is feeling. This also affected Paige’s performance in the first few games he pitched as he was nervous and knew that anything short of winning the tournament would result in dire consequences. However, once Gibson and Bell arrived for reinforcements, Trujillo’s team got hot and won the tourney. Gibson’s bat provided the spark for the championship game against a team that featured the best Cuban player in the game at that point, Martin Dihigo. The baseball passages were written well, with the reader feeling the drama of the games. The talents of Paige, Gibson and Dihigo were certainly on display throughout the book, with short chapters written after the tourney on each player’s career and life after the end of the tourney. The book is not just about the baseball as it will tell the reader about the brutal regime of Trujillo, including the slaughter of Haitians who were attempting to return to their home country after the dictator took power. While the brutality is well illustrated, as well as the romantic interests and military might of Trujillo, this part of the book, like the chapters on the three ballplayers noted above, left me wanting to know more as it felt like more could be written about his dictatorship. If a reader wishes to learn more about this season in the Dominican Republic for three of the greatest stars of the Negro Leagues as well as the first Cuban player inducted into the American Baseball Hall of Fame, this is a good book to start that journey. While it doesn’t get into great detail about any of the topics, it is nonetheless a very informative book to introduce the reader to the baseball played in or the politics of the Dominican Republic at that time. I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. http://sportsbookguy.blogspot.com/201...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    In 1948 Satchel Paige became the first African-American to pitch in the modern Major Leagues. This central story in this book however is the 1937 season when Satchel Paige left the Negro Leagues in America for a $30,000 paycheck to play in the Dominican Republic for the dictator Trujillo. He sponsored a team so that he could win his re-election campaign. After arriving in the Dominican Republic Satchel soon intuited that he and his teammates might end up dead if they failed to win the championsh In 1948 Satchel Paige became the first African-American to pitch in the modern Major Leagues. This central story in this book however is the 1937 season when Satchel Paige left the Negro Leagues in America for a $30,000 paycheck to play in the Dominican Republic for the dictator Trujillo. He sponsored a team so that he could win his re-election campaign. After arriving in the Dominican Republic Satchel soon intuited that he and his teammates might end up dead if they failed to win the championship. And since Trujillo was hand picked by an American administration, he probably would get away with it. An interesting and intriguing twin tale. The story of Trujillo and his regime was probably more suspenseful than that of Satchel Paige. A little incongruity in the writing there. So a good job of research by the author amidst a hopelessly jumbled timeline. The story jumped from one decade to the next and back as the chapters progressed. The writing itself was solid enough and the author has the nose for a good story. 3.5 stars

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tamera

    An inspiring read With pretty much no interest in any sport, I read “con gusto” this book with the promise from my friend, Ace Smith, the author, that his book’s focus is not on baseball but more about the unique confluence of a brutal dictator who made it possible for Page to escape racism’s cruelty back then and to build a spectacular career. But of course Page never eluded the cruel effects of racism when back in the US, our nation where that mean bias remains.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    Was disappointed in what was more a regurgitated Paige biography than new story. Felt at times baseball stories were repeated and book jumped all over the place from a timeline perspective. Some really interesting Dominican history mixed around Paige stories from previous books.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Erocchio

    Incredible history of an incredible ball player!! A little too technical for me but a history well worth knowing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Larry Lester

    Outstanding research on a tough topic by the author.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Roncibio

    An entertaining, fast paced work that is written in an engaging style but sadly tends to be superficial an adds little to what is already in the literature.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sherry Mabry

    Maybe 2 1/2 stars. I so wanted to like this book. Trujillo and Satchel Paige? How could a book about these two characters end up being a slog? I know enough about these two men to know they are both fascinating subjects. The idea that these Negro League players had to travel to a dictatorship to find freedom is beyond ironic. But somehow the author wasn’t able to make these characters come to life.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dustin

  10. 4 out of 5

    Denise

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nick

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kiya A. Stokes

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  14. 5 out of 5

    Terry Gladman

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dave

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dan Hirsch

  17. 4 out of 5

    Erick Levitre

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

  19. 4 out of 5

    Hunter Shea

  20. 4 out of 5

    Colin Finan

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brian Cechnicki

  22. 4 out of 5

    Scott

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marc Robinson

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Bunker

  25. 4 out of 5

    PatG Lawson

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Alan Nedeau

  27. 4 out of 5

    Erik Madrid

  28. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  30. 4 out of 5

    Holly

  31. 5 out of 5

    John Rymer

  32. 5 out of 5

    Alex Rambo

  33. 4 out of 5

    Margie

  34. 4 out of 5

    Howard Turner

  35. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  36. 4 out of 5

    Max

  37. 5 out of 5

    Mike M

  38. 5 out of 5

    Eric Tyler

  39. 5 out of 5

    Pcampau

  40. 5 out of 5

    Ken

  41. 4 out of 5

    Noah

  42. 4 out of 5

    Steven

  43. 5 out of 5

    Matt Stieglitz

  44. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Rogers

  45. 4 out of 5

    Nick Demorest

  46. 5 out of 5

    Alissa

  47. 5 out of 5

    Keith Podob

  48. 5 out of 5

    Peter Lemon

  49. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Oiseth

  50. 5 out of 5

    Sue

  51. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

  52. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

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