Loren and Jim Keller alongside a statue of Satchel Paige in Cooperstown.

Play Written by Father-Son Alumni Duo Onstage at Paul Robeson Theatre


The play Jim Keller co-wrote with his father, A Pitch from Satchel Paige, will complete a nearly monthlong run at Paul Robeson Theatre this weekend. It has been years in the making.

Keller, ’79, and his father, Loren Keller, ’55, came up with the idea to write the play together around 1995. The writing process with his father, who passed away four years ago, continued through 2010. The younger Keller was living in the New York City area for most of that time, so he would often mail and email drafts of scripts back and forth with his father, a retired English teacher in Kenmore.

The one-man play about Paige, the first Black pitcher in the American League, was an award-winner at the 2018 New York New Works Theatre Festival. The version Loren Keller saw onstage at that Manhattan festival was an abridged one; this month was the first time a full production was held.

“I promised my dad I would get it on stage in full,” Jim Keller said. “It was important to me. It was great that this happened in Buffalo.”

A Pitch from Satchel Paige has performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 26, and Saturday, April 27, at Paul Robeston Theatre, 350 Masten Avenue, before its concluding performance at 4:00 p.m. Sunday. The production is directed by Verneice Turner, alternately starring Roosevelt Tidwell III and Russell Holt as Paige.

Jim Keller worked at the Post-Journal in Jamestown shortly after graduating, before moving downstate and eventually to Connecticut with his wife, the former Denise Gargiulo, ’81, who recently passed away. Keller played rugby at Buffalo State and stays in touch with his former teammates.

“My wife and I had such a good time while we were at Buffalo State,” Keller said. “It was a great experience.”

In the ’90s, busy working and raising kids with his wife, Keller began discussing the idea of writing a play with his father. Both were history buffs and baseball fans, so they decided to write about Paige, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame who starred first in the Negro leagues and then Major League Baseball.

“My dad would send chapters in the mail,” Keller said. “My wife would tell me, ‘You’ve got to start writing.’”

When the play was nearly complete after a number of years, Keller and his father met halfway in Cooperstown, New York, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, to put the finishing touches on it.

Following this run in Buffalo, Keller is trying to get A Pitch from Satchel Paige onstage in Chicago, Cleveland, and closer to his home in Connecticut. He is recently retired, and in addition to being a grandfather, he is focused on writing plays. His current work includes adaptations of films the That Thing You Do and A Royal Night Out.

Loren Keller (left) and Jim Keller with the Satchel Paige statue in Cooperstown. Photo provided by Jim Keller.