PARTING SHOTS: Rules for Staying Forever Young

As graduation looms, my youth, so assured when I first entered college, suddenly seems an endangered entity.

It has been constantly assailed of late by the unconquerable reality of having to hang up the old spikes—in a literal sense with regards to my baseball playing days, which ended with one final tour through the junior varsity circuit this spring, and figuratively with regards to The Crimson, for which I began writing over three years ago.

Faced with this age-old crisis of maturation, I have been desperately casting about for some assurance that my pending exit through the gates of fair Harvard will not signal the corresponding escape of youth, that most elusive and fleeting of qualities.

Naturally, I turned to baseball for comfort.

I discovered—not surprisingly—that like the national pastime, the process of staying young has clear-cut, definable rules.

Inside the lines of a baseball diamond, the passing of time has no effect—the rules of the game alone hold sway. And as long as certain conditions are met, a game of baseball could last forever, its combatants never aging.

Likewise, as long as one follows the letter of these six “Rules for Staying Young,” as laid down by the immortal pitcher Satchel Paige in the June 13, 1953, issue of Collier’s magazine, youth can be maintained in perpetuity.

1. Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.

2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.

3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.

4. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society—the social ramble ain’t restful.

5. Avoid running at all times.

6. And don’t look back—something might be gaining on you.

Before you discount the effectiveness of the Rules, consider what they did for Paige himself.

On account of baseball’s color barrier, Satch, perhaps the greatest player in the history of the Negro Leagues, didn’t make his major league debut until 1948, when he was already 41 years old.

(Or older. The Hall of Fame pitcher never did keep very good track of his age.)

He posted a 2.48 ERA and won six of his seven decisions that season, then went on to pitch four more years.

Paige even came back in September of 1965, at the age of 59, to throw three scoreless innings for the Kansas City Athletics, becoming the oldest player to ever appear in a major league game before disappearing from the professional baseball scene once more.

Truly, Paige never lost his youth, even when he grew old.

At a time when this potential loss seems closer than it ever has been for me, such a model of indefinite youth—and the beautifully simple guide to achieving it—is of the utmost comfort.

I’ve thought long and hard about Paige’s rules, and have determined that they are the greatest parting shot I can leave behind.

They represent the best advice I could ever hope to give, to myself or to anyone else.

Running is without question the worst activity imaginable.

And something will indeed always be gaining on you—in particular, that disturbing sense of having youth slip away, which will only grow stronger as the years progress.

But if I don’t look back, maybe I can put off that loss.

And, like Paige, maybe I can use the most potent of antidotes—baseball—to ease the feeling that my best days, my time spent working on The Crimson, which has given me so many amazing memories and the opportunity to meet the greatest people (and person) I could ever hope to meet, are behind me.

Maybe, like Paige, I can use baseball and my love for the game to stay young far after I’ve left Harvard and its paper behind.

—Staff writer Caleb W. Peiffer can be reached at cpeiffer@gmail.com.

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