APPLETON - A celebration in this area of a baseball hall-of-famer whose unorthodox pitch delivery earned him fame from the Negro leagues to the major leagues. And just in time for what would be his 106th birthday, Satchel Paige is being honored in song by local musicians.
"He knew joy, heartache and celebration, a legend in defiance of his age," the song "Don't Look Back" croons about the late, great Satchel Paige.
Using the timeless medium of music, the director of jazz studies at Lawrence University tells the ageless tale of baseball legend.
"He was a man of such elegance and charm and grace," said Fred Sturm, a fan of Paige since childhood. "He always seemed like more of a jazz musician than he did a baseball player."
Fred Sturm's one of the driving forces behind the Baseball Music Project. It's a collection of songs that immortalizes the history of America's favorite past time. This time, he used his love of jazz and passion for Paige to inspire a new piece.
"I thought it was a really fun idea to take all his quotes," said Sturm. "He had names for all the pitches he threw. We put all of those into the lyrics."
His friend, singer Woody Mankowski, put some finishing touches on the lyrics and melody.
"I did more of a (sings) 'don't look back.' It's almost a Count Basie lick. That was going on in my head," said Mankowski.
And while many may scratch their heads at first wondering how a baseball legend and jazz could intertwine, these fans of both say it's a perfect match.
"He was of that era. The golden age of jazz, the golden age of baseball were concurrent," said Sturm.
"You gotta improvise...So it's sort of like jazz," Mankowski describes baseball. "Life is like jazz, but baseball is like life."
The musicians behind this toe-tapping ditty about one of the greatest the game has ever known say they don't expect their song to improve upon the legend of the great Satchel Paige.
But they do hope it helps people remember a man they say is a true American icon.
"I said to somebody the other day that Satchel Paige fits somewhere in between Mark Twain and Yogi Berra," said Sturm.
And as the song he penned declares: "There's a story of wisdom and inspiration in the words of Old Satchel Paige."
The composers hope this will soon be added into the song list for the baseball music project. They envision the song to one day be arranged for a full symphony orchestra.
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