Year – 2012
Size – 27″x38″
Medium – Black & white acrylic paint and colored pencil on gessoed board
This painting elevates Satchel Paige’s larger-than-life persona to even greater heights in this monumental work measuring more than 2 feet across and 3 feet tall. There is no mistaking Satch’s rangy build; sculpted, thinly mustachioed countenance; and classic K.C. Monarchs threads. Port has successfully recreated every last fine detail of the original photo, beginning with the crystal-clear focus of the foreground and the soft blur of the distant grandstand. Paige’s painstakingly depicted flannel jersey appears as if it might be soft to the touch, while his leather glove gives the impression of a suppleness that would make vintage mitt collectors swoon. Port’s methodical accuracy even remains true to Paige’s scrawled block-print inscription of his own name on the fastening strap, which Adam then thoughtfully paired with a name caption, “PAIGE, Kansas City,” on the baseball-card-like border.
Amazingly, Paige’s career spanned five different decades, beginning with the Chattanooga Black Lookouts in 1926 and ending with three shutout innings for the Kansas City A’s in 1965. He played year-round in 2,000-plus games for countless teams from the minors to majors, from semi-pro to pro, from all-star exhibitions to impromptu barnstorms, from the U.S. to Latin America to Canada. However, Satch is of course most closely associated with his years on the Kansas City Monarchs from 1939 through 1948. That’s where he earned his reputation for mowing down opponents not solely with incredible speed and control, but also with his baffling high-leg-kick windup, his enigmatic personality, his cryptic quotations and his mysterious age. And that’s also where his most iconic, most recognizable likeness originates. Captured by an unknown photographer, the stirring shot has Paige posed in a serene pre-delivery moment against an empty stadium backdrop, with his pitching hand at rest inside his glove, and with his head posed in profile to feign taking the catcher’s signs and staring down the batter. It’s the picture selected for the U.S. Post Office’s 33-cent Satchel Paige commemorative stamp as well as for Larry Tye’s 2009 best-selling biography Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend. It’s also the signature Paige image on websites like Wikipedia, BlackBaseball.com, and the Center for Negro League Baseball Research.