‘How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?’


Although he was first denied entry into major league baseball, Satchel Paige began his professional career in the Negro Leagues in 1926.

It wasn’t until he was 42 in 1948 that the Cleveland Indians signed him to a contract. Years later he became a two-time all-star with the St. Louis Browns, in 1952 and ‘53.

After a stint in minor league baseball, Paige re-emerged in the majors in 1965 at age 59 and pitched three shutout innings for the Kansas City Athletics.

When questioned about playing at his advancing age, Paige quipped, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?”

It’s a great question. I’m closing in on 70 but if I didn’t know, I’d tell you I was half that. Nevertheless, according to the medical experts, I fall into the high-risk category when it comes to exposure to COVID-19. And, I get bonus points for a pre-existing condition.

Yet, I’m reading that I’m expendable in the eyes of some younger folks.

For example, in a March 2020 interview, the ex-health minister of Ukraine said that people over 65 were already “corpses” and the focus should be on people who are “still alive.” Adding insult to injury, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that people around my age should make the ultimate sacrifice for the good of the country.

Let’s see, I get up before 5:00 a.m. every day, walk three or four miles and work fulltime-plus. Does it seem like it is time for me to be put out to pasture? Is everyone my age and older helpless, useless cannon fodder for the coronavirus?

It is true that 80 percent of the people who die from COVID-related illness are 65 years and older. But, I thought destiny was character, not age.

I’ve been wondering, are those who so aggressively forgo the use of masks simply exercising their independent spirit and freedom of speech, so to speak, or are they so virulently bigoted against older people that they see our right to live as inconsequential and our deaths as a simple matter of collateral damage?

Someone with the handle ‘Karen Green’ on Twitter expressed the sentiments of many so-called non-maskers.

She tweeted: “Lockdowns, social distancing and masks are deliberate overt means to control and take over a nation, to force people to submit to tyranny.” Really, Karen Green?

In closing, I’m not ready to die just yet. I need about another seven years in order to make it past my mom and dad’s ages when they died.

I like to breathe fresh air and so I keep my distance. When I can’t keep my distance, I wear a mask. Won’t you kindly do the same? Or, are you banking on seeing this old guy loaded up onto one of those refrigerated tractor-trailers?

And, my age? Lighten up Karen. It’s just a number. As Satchel Paige observed, age, “is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind it doesn’t matter.”

Andrew Malekoff is the executive director of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, the leading children’s mental health agency on Long Island. The Guidance Center is seeing new and existing clients via telephone and video during the COVID-19 crisis. To make an appointment, call (516) 626-1971. Visit www.northshorechildguidance.org for more information.


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