Satchel Paige vs. Babe Ruth
Integrating Major League Baseball retroactively with Strat-o-Matic cards.
Simkus's picks make the Yankees' Murderers' Row lineup even more murderous. Now it consists of Tony Lazzeri, Charleston, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, John Beckwith, Biz Mackey, Bob Meusel, and Mark Koenig. But they have to bat against Satchel Paige.
It's a close game. In the fourth inning, the Dodgers tag Negro Leaguer Smokey Joe Williams for five runs. But the Yankees battle back on an unearned run, a homer by Ruth (off the great Paige), and doubles by Gehrig and Beckwith. Paige leaves the game after the seventh inning, having struck out nine Yankees. He's pinch hit for, then relieved by, Dihigo, a star batter and pitcher—not an uncommon feat on 15-man Negro League rosters.
In the bottom of the ninth the Dodgers still lead, 5-4, but Dihigo walks Koenig and Lazzeri. Then Charleston singles to tie the game, bringing up Ruth with the winning run on third.
"You couldn't have written this any better," Simkus says. "We've seen Oscar Charleston, the best all-around Negro League player; Martin Dihigo, the best Cuban; and Babe Ruth, the best Caucasian player, all have an impact."
Simkus rolls his dice.
"Single!" he shouts. "Game over! Ruth beats Dihigo!"
What a game. And what a demonstration of how baseball would have been different without a color line. The Yankees were still the best team, and Babe Ruth was still the best player, but the Dodgers (who went 65-88 in 1927 with an all-white roster) were a lot better. The Negro Leaguers raised the level of play. Cool Papa Bell even stole a base—which was common in the Negro Leagues, but rare in the majors between the introduction of the live ball and the ascendance of black players in the 1960s.
"It doesn't take anything away from the legends we grew up with," Simkus says. "But it gives you a new appreciation for Satchel Paige, striking out nine guys in seven innings. You did see the overall quality of the major leagues improve, but it didn't take anything away from Ruth."
The greats would still have been great, no matter who they played against. But now, we finally get to find out what might have happened if Satchel Paige had faced down Babe Ruth in Yankee Stadium. Would there have been a greater sight in baseball than that?