|A Favorite Paige of Mine|
By Bill Haber
It was in early 1973 that I first began searching for the whereabouts of George Paige, a righthanded pitcher appearing in two games with the Cleveland Americans in 1911. He was among the missing-there was neither a current home address nor a date and place of death for him on file. But the reason for my particular interest was because of a certain baseball card, identified as Paige-Charleston, in my collection. The card was of 1910 vintage, one of the 523 different issued with cigarettes immortalized by the super-scarce Honus Wagner card. Long-time collector Buck Barker had compiled a listing identifying the minor Leaguers in this card series, and Paige-Charleston was George L. Paige when he was with the Charleston club. He was listed only as having been born in Paw Paw, Michigan in 1885.
Baseball historian and collector Jack Smalling had listed Mr. Paige's last known home address as: 416 Oak Street, Jackson, Michigan. This address was as of 1915 and since that time there had been no trace of him whatsoever. In the spring of 1973 I wrote to the Chief of Police in Jackson, asking for any possible information that would lead to the current whereabouts of Paige. His response indicated he had checked the city records, placed a note in the local newspaper, and checked with a few local oldtimers all to no avail. There was nothing in the way of information on this former player.
Unfortunately, I had to give up the search for about two years as we moved from Staten Island, New York to the pleasant haven known as Plover, Wisconsin, located in the center of the state. In July 1975 I drove to the Detroit collectors convention, the annual affair I look upon as the highlight of the collector's year. I drove south, then east, through Chicago, then up north into Michigan. Picking up Highway #94 I continued east towards Detroit. This being the first time I had used this route, you can imagine my surprise when I saw the road sign indicating that Jackson, Michigan was just ahead.
I was a day early as the convention didn't begin until 3 PM the following afternoon. With Detroit being under 100 miles away, I had plenty of time to go to Jackson personally and continue my search for the evasive Mr. Paige. As soon as I was settled in my room at the Holiday Inn, I went directly for the telephone book. I called every individual whose last name was Paige. No one knew George!
I called the Jackson newspaper, asked for the sports department, and related my problem to the voice at the other end of the line. The gentleman asked me the former address of Mr Paige and I amazed myself by remembering after better than two years, "416 Oak Street". It seems as though the newspaper has a city directory listing the residents according to the address. Thus, I was given the name and phone number of the current resident at that domain. A phone call there was very discouraging indeed. The woman was in her 80's and her family had resided there for some 95 years. There had never been anyone named George Paige at that address, certainly not in 1915, I could take her word for it-and I did.
By November of 1975 we had moved back to New York, in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn where it all begun 33 years earlier. In analyzing the Paige turn of events, it seemed as though my best bet was to go back to his supposed birthplace of Paw Paw, Michigan. I wrote to the city hall in Paw Paw and in mid-December I received a response from a local historian. This gentleman had been given my letter and upon receipt, he had spoken with a Mr. Russell Hindenaugh, a man in his early 70's and a lifelong resident of Paw Paw. As related to me, Mr. Hindenaugh was a former neighbor of the Paige family. Mr. and Mrs. Paige had three children and had left Paw Paw about 1916 when Mr. Paige accepted a position as a guard at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana. The family took residence in nearby Mishawaka, Indiana. It was also related that Paige could throw both right-handed and lefthanded and owned both types of gloves.
Upon receiving this letter you can imagine my delight. I had finally located someone who remembered Paige. I had a start, a lead, something tangible with which to pursue my search! I wrote three letters the next day. One was to the Indiana State Prison for a search to be made through their personnel records, the second was to city hail in Mishawaka for any possible record of the Paige family, and the third was to the gentleman in Paw Paw thanking him for his efforts in locating Mr. Hindenaugh. One week later I received a reply from Indiana State Prison stating that their personnel records don't go back prior to 1920 and thus they regret not being able to be of assistance in my search. Three months passed by and my letter to Mishawaka had gone unanswered. I wrote to the Mishawaka Chief of Police in April of 1976 but that letter also went unanswered.
By August I became quite frustrated. Something's got to be, someone's got to be able to provide information on the Paige family. I decided that my best bet would be to speak with the one individual I had found who remembered the family. I called Mr. Hindenaugh and told him my problem. He related to me that to the best of his knowledge, no member of the Paige family had ever returned to Paw Paw after 1916. He was able to provide me with the names of the two Paige sons-Reginald and Donald. The third child was a daughter whose name he didn't recall. I also learned that Mrs. Paige's name had been Bernice Robb. With this information I wrote again to city hall in Mishawaka and this time I received a reply. Upon receipt of my original letter a check had been made through the city records, in the sports department of the newspaper and with a few oldtimers in town. Nothing whatsoever was learned.
But I couldn't accept this. A family of five couldn't disappear off the face of the earth, there had to be some record of them somewhere! I decided to call Mr. Hindenaugh once again. I asked him this time if he had any knowledge of anyone in town who might also have known the Paige family. (In the course of this conversation I had learned that the address of the Paige family in Paw Paw prior to 1916 had been 416 Oak Street, thus answering the mystery of why there was no such record in Jackson.) Mr. Hindenaugh gave the names of three lifelong Paw Paw residents who'd recall Mr. Paige. The first was a Miss Ola Killefer who curiously turned out to be an older and surviving sister of baseball's two Killefer brothers-Bill and Wade. Now 94 years of age, her memory was sharp but she simply could offer no clues about the Paige family. The second person was a Mr. Smith who attended Paw Paw High School with George Paige but he hadn't heard from him in years either.
It was the third such Paw Paw resident who turned out to be the key to my search. Miss Caroline Johnson, now in her 80's, still works at the Paw Paw newspaper. She remembered reading Mr. Paige's obituary in her newspaper "about 20 years ago". I asked her if she could obtain a copy of the obituary but she said she'd have to have the exact date as there wasn't any way of looking it up alphabetically. Could she indicate the approximate date and place of death? She could only offer that it occurred "about 20 years ago". Where? "In one of those western states, Wyoming or Montana." I asked if it could've been Arizona or California, she said "Oh I suppose so", indicating that I didn't have enough to send for a death certificate. Miss Johnson said the death of Paige would've been recorded in the Paw Paw Alumni records had he been a high school graduate, but this was not the case. She offered to put a note in the Paw Paw newspaper asking for anyone with knowledge of the family to contact her. Sure enough, there was one response.
An elderly Paw Paw woman told Miss Johnson that she corresponds with Paige's widow, now long since remarried, and that as of January of 1976 she had been spry and healthy at the age of 94. The Paige widow, Mrs. Bernice McKibbin, now lives in Elkhart, Indiana and has lived in that town for about 60 years. I called her on the telephone, stated my purpose, and she referred me to her son, Donald Paige, also living in Elkhart.
I had a long and interesting conversation with both Mr. and Mrs. Donald Paige with all the bits of information I had gathered fitting into place. The Paige family had lived in Mishawaka for only a brief period of time. From there they went to Jackson and stayed there shortly before settling in Elkhart. George Paige became a brakeman and conductor for the New York Central Railroad working out of Elkhart. In the spring of 1938 he took ill and was no longer able to work. The following September he went to the home of his son and daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Reginald Paige, who had been living in Wautoma, Wisconsin. In May of 1939, the former player was brought to Berlin Hospital, Berlin, Wisconsin, where his death occurred on June 8, 1939.
Within two weeks of learning the above, I had obtained copies of the obituaries from both Paw Paw and Elkhart, the death certificate and a completed Baseball Questionnaire from the son, Donald Paige. The Questionnaire indicates that George Lynn Paige was born in Paw Paw, May 5, 1883, he batted left, threw right, stood 5'll" tall and weighed 170 lbs.
The record of George Lynn Paige is now complete and thus I can reflect on one of the most enjoyable searches I've experienced since I began researching. Once again I dealt with people only too willing to be of assistance. And in thinking back, I find it sort of ironic that Mr. Paige passed away perhaps 30 miles from my former Wisconsin residence. Had I only known that when I lived there!
Now to the numerous others who've drifted into obscurity through the years. While we're on the subject of righthanded pitchers, does anyone know whatever became of Louis "Bull" Durham?