TUESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 1969, SPORTS
Copyright 1969/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY
Ravages of Time
I woke up Monday morning and looked in the mirror — and an imposter winked back at me.
That fellow in the mirror was 50 years old that day. Not me. I’m somewhere between 26 and 39.
“Good morning, Mr. Hyde. How does it feel to be 50?” I asked him. I’ve been needling him for years.
You see, this fella has been playing tricks on me for a long while. For instance, being young, I have a cast-iron stomach. HE gets gas on the stomach. Lately. When HE gets gas on the stomach, I belch.
I never should have taken the old fool on. You know, I can hear perfectly well. The trouble is the sounds come through HIS ears. Therefore because of HIM, I find myself saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”
He’s insidious, implacable. My enemy was in that mirror. It’s like fighting China. He’s got all the time in the world. One of these days, I’m going to be lying on my back in bed with a sawbones looking grave above me and people crying in the corner, and I’m gonna say, “Do me a favor. Go in and take a look at that old creep in the mirror and tell him to get a new boy. That I’m going over the wall. I’ve had enough of carrying his load.”
You see, I know what he’s going to do to me. He’s already begun. You know that nice turn I used to take off a teed-up golf ball? Well, now it sounds like twigs snapping under an elephant. My backbone was as supple and gristly as a baby shark’s. Shucks, it was only three years ago, I was the best twister at the office party.
Now, he’s got me taking a three-wood off the tee.
You remember how I used to fire those long, arching passes to the boy out in the lot? Well, he’s taken all the lube out of the bow joint. I throw underhanded like a girl now.
My eyes are just as good as they ever were — 20/200. He has clouded them over for reading fine print. My belly used to be as flat as Texas. HE has put on weight. I would try to outwit him by jogging 10 miles or so every day, but the doctor tells me dead men sell no scales.
The worst he’s done is corrupted my mind. I mean, I still have 31 of my 32 teeth (they got more gold in them than the city of Florence) and two million separate strands of hair on my head, but I’ve got HIS neck. It’s beginning to wattle.
But the worst disease he carried is nostalgia. I mean, I’ve always been a guy who wanted news, the latest thing, the newest gimmick. But, you see, this old creep I took in out of the cold 49 years 11 months and 30 days ago is now using me like a ventriloquist. Someone says an electric toothbrush is a great invention and — in my voice — my enemy says, “Anybody who doesn’t have the strength to push a brush up and down his teeth should put them in a glass, anyway.”
But, worst of all, youngsters say, “Boy, that Rod Carew is a great hitter!” and you find yourself screaming, “Rod Carew! I thought he was a coxswain! Why, with the ’27 Yankees, he’d have to take batting practice with the bullpen crew. The regulars would be afraid to pick up bad habits just watching him. Now, Babe Ruth, THERE was a hitter. Used to warm up against machine gun bullets. He could bat .360 against the Gatling gun.”
“Paul Warfield is a great end,” they say. “Paul Warfield! I thought he was a baritone! He’d be in a taxi on the 1950 Rams. Now, Hirsch and Fears, THERE were ends. They were, you might say, THE ends.”
Or, they may bring up some hot-shot young golfer. “Couldn’t shag for Hogan,” you sniff.
Well, my enemy’s gums hurt. His hands shake, his blood is tired, and he wants to go put on something by Lawrence Welk, and he’s worried about sitting in a draft and wants to go sit in a blanket with Musterole and do crossword puzzles. Me, I want to go surfing.
I suppose now I’ll go out and get hit on the head by some young punk that a young athlete like me would kick under the car if I didn’t have that coward at the control. He’s jealous is what he is. He’s been trying to turn my hair gray for 10 years, but my hair is younger than both of us. I think he’s got one week to give me rheumatism or they make him turn in his scythe. He keeps telling them I’m only Shangri-la on the outside, but inside, I look like Ptolemy. He ought to know. He’s in there. Not me.
Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times
Jim Murray Memorial Foundation P.O. Box 661532, Arcadia, CA 91066