On this Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I was looking at The New York Times Book of the Dead, a cherished gift from last Christmas given me by my most cherished niece. It is a collection of 320 obituaries that ran in The New York Times.
As I paged through, I came across the obituary of Satchel Paige (July 7, 1906-June 8, 1982), one of the greats of baseball’s old Negro leagues, and indeed one of baseball’s greats of any league. In those days, because of the ban on blacks in the major leagues, blacks had their own league. Many of the best of these players played baseball year-round, in the U.S. in the spring, summer and fall and in the Caribbean and Central America in the winter.
The NY Times obituary tells us that Paige pitched in his lifetime some 2,500 games, had 55 no-hitters and “he once started 29 games in one month in Bismarck, N.D., and he said later that he won 104 of the 105 games he pitched in 1934.”
When Jackie Robinson finally broke the color barrier in 1947, Paige was already in his 40’s. This didn’t prevent him from pitching most of five seasons in the major leagues. He pitched for the last time September 25, 1965, at the age of 59, the oldest ever to appear in a major league game. “Joe DiMaggio called him ‘the best I’ve ever faced, and the fastest.’”
The NY Times obituary ends with what they called Satchel’s “master’s maxims” as a reason for his longevity. When I read them, it occurred to me how wise they still are. Let me share them with you.
- Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood.
- If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
- Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
- Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social rumble ain’t restful.
- Avoid running at all times.
- Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.
Pretty decent points of wisdom, I’d say. Dieticians, spiritual directors, psychologists all can find something to their liking in that list. Maybe, even, it’s a good list, still early in this year of 2018, to adopt as a guide for healthy living, especially that thing about ‘jangling around gently as you move.’
(Find the obituary in The New York Times Book of the Dead, ed. William McDonald, 2016, p. 616-617).