“The Pitcher and the Dictator: Satchell Paige’s Unlikely Season in the Dominican Republic” By Averell “Ace” Smith

This is a baseball book but it is so much more. It deals with history, politics, and power. The United States back a low-level soldier, Rafael Trujillo, in the Dominican Republic and then trained him with the best of everything. In fact, they did such a good job that he clawed his way to the top which included finding ways to get rid of his opposition.

Trujillo was a proud man and didn’t allow anyone to get in his way without using his army to pillage, rape and kill those that bucked his ways. He got himself elected and took those loyal to him and made them part of his administration.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, Satchell Paige was barnstorming across the country pitching in every town they could schedule a game. All of these games were packed and he was paid a pittance for his abilities to throw a ball and entertain the fans.

Then the baseball and the dictator are destined to be together. In Trujillo’s re-election campaign his generals believe he should put together the best baseball team they can buy. This trail leads to the black pitcher from the Negro League and Satchell Paige. Others follow like Cool Papa Bell as they smell the money.

Paige is in haven with $30,000 to play baseball only 3 days a week in a country (Dominican Republic) that has blacks and whites together and no racism is apparent. The country is surreal and all is good. Until the dream team doesn’t win as many games as the dictator and his generals believe they should. About mid-season they hear the words, “You better win.

Now that money and the surroundings are suddenly not as good as thought and concerns creep into Paige and all the other players from the United States that are in the league.

The book is intriguing and a true story for the most part. I encourage baseball fans and history aficionados to get this book for a good read.

I would like to thank the University of Nebraska Press for the copy to review.

About the Author: 

Averell “Ace” Smith is a political consultant and lifelong baseball fan. He is a thirty-year veteran of state and national politics and has directed winning campaigns from district attorney to president of the United States. He has been profiled in the Los Angeles Times, the New Republic, and the San Francisco Chronicle.