It's been more than 30 years since Satchel Paige died. When he did, he left a legacy that was more about what he wasn't able to do on the field than what he did as a result of bigotry. He is considered one of the best fastball pitchers ever, and possibly one of the best pitchers overall, to ever play the game. Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated, had this to say of why he regarded Paige as the best fastball pitcher ever:
"For most of his career Satchel Paige threw nothing but fastballs. Nothing.
And he was still unhittable for the better part of 15 years.
One pitch. It's a lot like Mariano Rivera, except he wasn't doing it for one inning at a time. He was pitching complete games day after day. That had to be some kind of incredible fastball...
In the late 1920s, when he was still trying to get his control under control -- he would become perhaps the most precise pitcher in baseball history -- he threw ludicrously hard. And he also threw hundreds and hundreds of innings. He was a great pitcher until he hurt his arm in the late 1930s, then recovered and was a great pitcher again in the 1940s, then had enough left to go 7-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 21 games as a rookie in the big leagues in 1948. Later, he made the All-Star Game. By then, and really for the decade or so before, he was relying more on his command and his guile and various other tricks to get hitters out than on any kind of speed. Nobody who would see Paige at that point could imagine how hard he threw as a young man.
Joe DiMaggio would say that Paige was the best he ever faced. Bob Feller would say that Paige was the best he ever saw. Hack Wilson would say that the ball looked like a marble when it crossed the plate. Dizzy Dean would say that Paige's fastball made his own look like a changeup."
How good was he really? We'll never know, and it's debated to this day because segregation prevented him from playing in an integrated league until he was well past his prime. The fact that we don't know, and why we don't, is a stain on our national pastime that will never come out.
Paige was born in 1906, but didn't pitch in Major League Baseball until 1948, a year after Jackie Robinson became the first black player in the majors. He remains the oldest rookie in the history of MLB. Like modern great fastball pitchers such as Nolan Ryan or Randy Johnson, he pitched until his late '40s.
Paige's professional appearance was in 1966 at the age of 59.
How respected was he? Because Paige pitched in Greensboro in 1966, he would not have been eligible for enshrinement until 1971, as players have to be out of professional baseball for at least five years before they can be elected. As a result, Major League baseball deliberately delayed inducting other Negro League players into the Baseball Hall of Fame until 1971, just so that Paige would be the first.
Fast forward to today. Fallon Fox is one of the most successful independent female MMA fighters in the U.S., compiling a 5-1 record. Four of those five wins came in the first or second round. Yet, neither major MMA organization (Invicta FC or UFC) has signed her.
Fox meets the International Olympic Committee, NCAA and Association of Boxing Commissions medical requirements to compete as a transgender athlete, yet UFC President Dana White has made it clear he does not believe what medical experts have said. Fallon Fox will not compete while he is in charge because she is transgender. UFC women's bantam weight champion Ronda Rousey insists she would beat Fox, but refuses to fight her because she is transgender.
Along the way, Fox has endured abuse that is intensely personal. UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione called her an "embarrassment" and a "lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak." UFC color commentator Joe Rogan called Fox a "trigger," an apparent portmanteau of "tranny" and "n*****".
According to Fox, "I've received death threats, and threats of physical violence. I've had to endure the most despicable language and slurs against me as a transgender woman."
Time is running out for Fallon Fox, however. She is 39 years old in a sport where most competitors don't push a career past 30. In Fox's lone loss, loss of endurance as a result of being much older than her opponent seemed to be catching up with her. Despite still being an active fighter, though, she has already been inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.
The odds are low that Invicta FC or UFC will change their positions, however. The medical evidence is already in. History also suggests the medicine is correct as well: transgender individuals have been allowed to compete in the Olympics for more than a decade and have never medaled.
So, just how good is Fallon Fox? We will probably never know. Just like Satchel Paige the odds are we will still be arguing this 30 after she has passed away.
Just like Paige, we will be ashamed why there is still a need for debate.
Note: Invicta FC and UFC were contacted for comment. Neither replied before this published.
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