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Advice to seniors: Don't look back

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How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were? That is a question asked by an ageless baseball player, the late Satchel Paige.

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Satchel Paige has come and gone, but his legacy is still with us. As a kid, Paige struggled to make a few dimes carrying bags for passengers at the Mobile, Ala., train station. He could only carry one or two at a time. At 10 cents a bag, he wasn't making many dimes. So he invented a pole and rope device that enabled him to carry four at a time. He was told he looked like a walking satchel tree and became known forever as Satchel. I'll tell you in another article about names and nicknames and what his real name was.

He spent his teen years, 13-18, in a reform school where he learned his lifetime trade -- baseball pitching. By the time he got out, he was so good the professionals wanted him. But he had one major handicap that kept him out of organized baseball at that time: he was black. So he played with black barnstorming teams in Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Alabama, a winter league in California, in Kansas City and in the Professional Negro League. He played on a professional team in Bismarck, N.D., in 1933 and 1935. In 1935 he won 29 games as a pitcher and lost two. He got 440 strikeouts that year, which would be an average of 14 each game. In some exhibition games he was able to play against white major league stars. Joe DiMaggio was one of those stars. Joe said Paige was the greatest pitcher he ever faced. This was before Jackie Robinson became the first player of color in 1947. Year after year, Paige pitched wherever he could find a job pitching. Some said he had the fastest fastball ever. His fastball was so fast he gave it nicknames, including "bat dodger" and "midnight rider."

In 1948, at the age of 42, he signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians, becoming the oldest rookie ever to play in the major leagues. He was named to the All Star roster in 1952 and 1953. When his major league career was over, he returned to exhibition baseball, though he did appear in one more major league game at the age of 59. He just played on and on.

Paige was sort of the Louie Armstrong of baseball -- ageless and colorful. His exact age was always a mystery. In one exhibition game, while he was in his 50s, he sat in a rocking chair in the bullpen, attended by a "nurse."

Satchel Paige died in 1982 but he left some sage advice for seniors, some of it serious, some of it tongue-in-cheek. He said, "Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it don't matter." His advice on being able to play forever was not to over-train. For example, he said, "Avoid running at all times... I believe in training by rising up and down gently from the bench." He also had dietary advice: "Avoid fried foods which angry up the blood." He was an expert on relaxation: "If your stomach disputes you, just lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts." His advice to pitchers was simple and direct: "Just take the ball and throw it where you want it to go. Throw strikes. Home plate don't move." He was also a philosopher: "Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines."

Finally, Satchel Paige's life demonstrated the need for seniors to keep moving and not surrender to their advancing years. His most famous statement was, "Don't look back. Something may be gaining on you."

The moral of the story is this -- carry satchels four at a time, think cool thoughts, keep throwing strikes, keep moving and don't look back -- rocking chairs are a joke.

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