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Satchel Paige and Civil Rights

Riccio Memorial Lecture to discuss Satchel Paige and black baseball

A lecture about Satchel Paige is sure to be a lecture about baseball.

“That’s pretty much a given,” said Ed Wehrle, professor of history at Eastern Illinois University. “But I think you’ll find that this one addresses race, politics and culture, as well."

“Satchel Paige and Black Baseball in the Rethinking of the Civil Rights Movement” will be presented at 7 p.m. Monday, April 1, in the Doudna Fine Arts Center’s Lecture Hall. Admission is free and open to the public.

Donald Spivey

Guest lecturer Donald Spivey, a professor of history at the University of Miami, wrote the recently published “If You Were Only White: The Life of Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige,” after more than a decade of research into Paige’s career.

“Dr. Spivey offers a richly detailed portrait of the hurler, setting Paige in historical context,” Wehrle said. “Paige and his unique relationship to the American Civil Rights Movement will be the subject of (Spivey’s) talk here at Eastern.”

Noting that he recently became interested in the history of sports, Wehrle recalled his first encounter with Spivey’s book and how impressed Wehrle had been with Spivey’s ability to bring the “historical craft” to the story of the former athlete.

“Arguably the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball, the legendary Satchel Paige played in his first major league ball game at the age of 42. Improbably, he pitched his final game at age 59,” Wehrle said.

“Before becoming the third African-American to enter MLB, Paige barnstormed across the nation and the world with semi-pro and Negro league teams. Often he pitched everyday, and often that meant nine innings of work. Everywhere he drew enormous crowds, but -- due to the color of his skin -- Paige remained banned from playing in the major leagues until after Jackie Robinson desegregated the game in 1947.”

Spivey, born and reared in Chicago, attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received both his bachelor’s (1971) and master’s (1972) degrees in history. He was an athlete in his own right, having served as tailback for the Fighting Illini football team.

Spivey later earned his Ph.D. in history from the University of California at Davis, and has since specialized in the fields of African-American history, sport, labor, music and education. He has lectured throughout the country and been a frequent commentator on radio, television and in print.

After teaching at the University of California at Davis, Wright State University, the University of Michigan and the University of Connecticut, he joined the faculty at the University of Miami in 1993.

EIU’s Department of History is sponsoring Spivey’s lecture, an event made possible through the Barry D. Riccio History Fund. Riccio joined Eastern's history faculty in 1995. The author of "Walter Lippmann: Odyssey of a Liberal (1994)" and numerous articles, he was a devoted student of American ideas, politics and culture. At Eastern, he proved himself an outstanding teacher and wonderful colleague.

Following Riccio's death from cancer in 2001 at the age of 46, his friends, family and colleagues established the Barry D. Riccio History Fund in his honor. The fund sponsors a lecture series with an emphasis on the history of ideas. Beginning with the inaugural lecture in 2003, the generosity of fund donors has allowed the department to bring "many of the leading lights of American intellectual history" to Eastern's campus.

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