Satchel Paige Memorial Stadium
Originally known as the Catholic Youth Council Athletic Field, Satchel Paige Memorial Stadium is situated on East 51st Street near Swope Parkway. At the age of 75 Satchel Paige made his last public appearance on 5 June 1982. Only three days before his death and speaking from a wheelchair with the aid of a respirator, the future Hall of Famer thanked the crowd who had gathered at the rededication of the $250,000 renovated Satchel Paige Memorial Stadium. On that day, Paige greeted numerous well-wishers. The baseball diamond is surrounded by concrete bleachers with an awning overhead and a small press box at the back. The stadium is part of the Kansas City Parks Department's Cultural Mall, along with the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Center, the Spirit of Freedom Fountain, and a nearby public garden. Initial development of the site began in the early 1900s, with the construction of athletic fields maintained by a group known as the Kansas City Field Club. The stadium was renamed in honor of the famed Monarchs pitcher after the city purchased it from the Catholic Youth Council. The stadium has played host to numerous leagues and smaller games. In 2012, the field was renovated as part of Major League Baseball's All Star Legacy Project. Efforts to touch up or improve the structures surrounding the field, including the bleachers and awnings, have been ongoing since 2019.
Picture of Satchel Paige Memorial Stadium, Photographed by Bruce Matthews, 1984
Satchel Paige Memorial Stadium
Backstory and Context
Exact dates for the original development of the site are unknown, though articles from the Kansas City Star (published as the Kansas City Times) make reference to a complex of sporting and recreation facilities at the corner of 51st and Swope Parkway maintained by a group known as the Kansas City Field Club. The initial site included the baseball field, a pool, tennis courts, and a clubhouse, though the specific details of the facilities are not clear. Five years later, the Field Club was taken over by the Georgian Gardens Company, who began plans to add garden spaces to the complex, expand the clubhouse to include a restaurant and dance pavilion, and construct a larger pool. This ownership continued through at least the 1930s before changing hands to the Catholic Youth Council. An article dated June 10, 1945 refers to the space as CYC athletic field, and shows an architect's visualization drawing of a combination baseball and football field. At some point between this and the 1980s, use of the facilities declined enough that most of the buildings were removed, leaving only the baseball diamond and stands.
In 1982, the government of Kansas City purchased the baseball field from the Catholic Youth Council. In a ceremony on June 5th of that year, the city renamed the facility to Satchel Paige Memorial Stadium, in honor of the former Kansas City Monarchs pitcher. The ceremony was attended by many Kansas City notables, including city councilman Rev. Emanuel[sic] Cleaver, park commissioner Ollie Gates, and three other Monarchs players, including John "Buck" O'Neil and Hilton Smith. According to a June article published by the Kansas City Call, Paige offered comments to the crowd, as well as throwing a ceremonial pitch to christen the stadium. Unfortunately, Paige passed away three days later, after suffering a heart attack at his Kansas City home. Since then, the stadium has played host to numerous amateur leagues and smaller games. However, a lack of maintenance has led to an overall decay of the facility in recent years, despite improvements made to the field by the MLB All Star Legacy Project. As of 2019, there are several ongoing projects that seek to raise money to repair crumbling concrete and faded paint, hoping to bring new life to this monument to a baseball legend.
,On 9 August 1971, Satchel Paige became the first player from the Negro Leagues to be selected to the Baseball hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Armed with Hall of Fame credentials, Paige’s fame and popularity surged in the early 1970s following an appearance on the then popular Ralph Edwards show, “This Is Your Life” on 26 January 1972. Special guest appearances were made by his former catcher, Frank Duncan, friends and family
Funeral services for Satchel Paige were held at the Watkins Brothers Memorial Chapel with the Rev. Emanuel Cleaver (later Mayor of Kansas City) giving the eulogy. A 1938 Packard hearse carried Paige’s body to Forest Hill Memorial Park Cemetery. He was survived by his wife and eight children. Later in 1989, the original headstone was removed and replaced by a 6’ 8” tall, 7000-pound granite monument on a remote island along Racine Avenue.
The ballfield and final resting place of Paige are among several landmarks that honor the Hall of Famer. For example, there is the Satchel Paige room at the Southmoreland Hotel on the Plaza, a life-size statue at the Field of Legends inside the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the Satchel Paige Field at the T-Mobile campus at 5750 Sprint Pkwy (at W 117th St) Overland Park, Kansas, artwork by Radcliffe Bailey at the Nelson-Atkins Museum entitled “Mound Magician” and the Economy Parking Lot A, Kiosk A4 marker at MCI airport. The Two Light Luxury Apartments at 1444 Grand Avenue features numerous quotes by Satchel Paige, along with mural of Paige, Buck O’Neil, Wilt Chamberlain and Goose Tatum on the northside of the building. And finally, as an inductee in the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center’s Hall of Fame.
Plake, Sarah. “'As American as Apple Pie and Baseball:' Community Starts Effort to Renovate Satchel Paige Stadium.” KSHB 41 Kansas City News. KSHB 41 Kansas City News, May 7, 2019. https://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/as-american-as-apple-pie-and-baseball-community-starts-effort-to-renovate-satchel-paige-stadium.
“Satchel Paige Stadium - KC Parks and Rec.” Kansas City Parks. Accessed January 3, 2023. https://kcparks.org/places/paige-satchel-stadium/.
Unknown. “Field Club Is No More - Its Holdings Taken Over by Georgian Garden Company.” Kansas City Star, October 23, 1920, Volume 83, Edition 255, Page 15.
Unknown. “Start Drive to Raise $250,000 to Renovate Satchel Paige Stadium.” Kansas City Call, June 11, 1982, Vol. 63, No. 5
Larry Lester and Wayne Stivers. The Negro Leagues Book, Volume #2: The Players. Kansas City MO: NoirTech Research, Inc., 2000.
Unknown. “To Be An Athletic Center.” The Kansas City Star, June 10, 1945, Unknown edition.
Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri
Photo courtesy of Larry Lester