KC Tributes to Baseball Great Satchel Paige are Crumbling. Can His House be Saved?Breaking News
tags: historic preservation, baseball, African American history, Kansas City, Negro Leagues, Satchel Paige
Near the center of Forest Hill Cemetery is a patch of grass called Paige Island. Baseball fans from around the world pay tribute there at the grave of one of the greatest pitchers to have ever climbed the mound.
Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige played for the Kansas City Monarchs and other Negro Leagues teams for decades before entering the majors late in a long career. He died a legend in 1982.
But no one even slows down midway between those two baseball shrines at the sprawling house near 28th Street and Prospect Avenue where Satchel Paige parked his cleats the final 15 years of his playing career and lived out the last 32 years of his life.
There’s no sign out front to say that Paige and his wife Lahoma raised their eight kids there. Or that traveling sports writers would gather on the front porch to hear him tell tall tales and spell out his rules for staying young. A few samples: “avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood,” and “if your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts,” and “keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.”
At that house, the Paiges would offer their hospitality to royalty of the Black entertainment world in the waning days of Jim Crow. Stars like Duke Ellington, Count Basie and the Harlem Globetrotters could for an evening escape the segregated world and hang loose as the Paiges served them brisket, gumbo or some other fine meal before they left town for the next gig.
But the Paige house, all 3,700 square feet of it, has been empty since the last family member moved out three decades ago and another owner took over. It’s been downhill ever since. Even before a 2018 fire exposed its interior to the elements for two winters, the code violations were piling up.
It got so bad that, back in the 1990s, a judge sentenced the owner at the time to a year and a half in jail for housing code violations at that house and other properties, calling her offenses “a cancer on Kansas City.” The woman, now deceased, ended up serving 90 days home confinement after promising to do better. But she didn’t and the citations continued.
The Santa Fe Place neighborhood association has for years advocated for the house’s revival. A couple of years ago it helped secure a $150,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to replace the burned-out roof and keep the weather out.
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