Episode 36 — Chapters 41 & 42
It was Savannah’s first day back in her office. She had spent the morning working on her article, assimilating random notes and research, including an occasional anecdote or remark from Cobb, to liven up the narrative. There seemed to be an unlimited supply of information about him on the web. What disturbed her was the portrait of Cobb that emerged from her research. He was labeled a racist, a cheat and referred to as an angry, vile and despicable man, even a murderer, who just happened to be the best damned player of his time. The man she had come to know seemed vastly different. Her new friend was thoughtful, reserved, generous and disarmingly modest.
In the late afternoon, Savannah came across a grainy old video of Ty Cobb, on the web, striking the baseball. It lasted only a couple of seconds and it was difficult to tell at what point in Cobb’s career it had been taken, although he was clearly a member of the Tigers—however, that wasn’t much help, since Cobb had played nearly his entire career with that team. As she watched Cobb standing at the plate, she was astonished at how eerily similar the batting stance was to the one she had become familiar with when watching her new friend. But it was more than that, the fluidity of the swing on the video was nearly identical. As a baseball fan, Savannah was well aware that every major league batter had his own unique batting stance and swing, as unique as a person’s handprint. How was it possible that this poor unfortunate man, whose severe head injury had somehow caused him to assume a dead man’s identity, could mimic so accurately a batter’s signature from a century before?
On her second viewing of the video, Savannah felt her heart skip a beat as she noticed the unusual hands-apart grip from the Hall of Fame hitter. She felt her spine shiver. The batting grip in the video was identical to the one that she had observed a few days before at the Cain farm. Never, in her many years of observing major league play, had she ever seen a player use such a grip.
Can it really be him? she thought. What are the implications if it is?
“When I was young boy, I was obsessed with the game,” Cobb told Calvin, as the weather continued to warm. “Even in my teen years, I couldn’t wait each day to get onto the field to play. Two games, even three games some days—I couldn’t get enough of it. But, as I got to the big leagues, it became more business. I still love competing and winning, though lately baseball has become more work than play. But here on your farm, I’ve found that magic again.”
“It is a beautiful game,” Calvin responded. “We should never lose sight of that.”
With Savannah gone, Cobb continued his adaptation to a new lifestyle and environment. His headaches and dizziness eventually disappeared, and he felt himself nearing full strength. He spent evenings in earnest discussion with Calvin, discussing contemporary ballplayers and the modern game. Staying busy working on the farm and talking and playing baseball was the best therapy that Cobb could have hoped for. It was an unspoken, but implicit understanding, by both Cobb and Calvin, that Cobb’s future would somehow involve baseball.
As March arrived, Savannah sat in her office in the St. Louis high rise as the sun began its morning ascent into the heavens. She had nearly completed the final draft of her feature story. Although Ty Cobb was featured prominently in the article—after all, there was no doubt he was the greatest player of the deadball era—she had also referenced many other Hall of Famers from the past.
The remainder of the morning was spent on final edits and proof-reading. When Savannah was done, she stood up and stretched, as the story’s pages emerged from the printer. It’s my best work ever, she thought to herself. She hoped her editor would agree.
Savannah confidently stood up from her desk with the finished version in hand and walked down the hallway. A few minutes before noon, she knocked on Scott Shields’ door.
“Miss Cain. Ramsey’s been updating me about your progress. I’m anxious to read your story.”
“I hope you like it,” Savannah handed over the type-written draft.
“Even a day ahead of schedule,” Shields smiled. “I’ll take a look at it right away.”
Savannah couldn’t wait to see his reaction.
“I’ll be in touch,” Shields responded.
“Thank you, Mr. Shields,” Savannah quietly left the room.
Savannah took the elevator down to the ground floor and walked to a nearby deli, impatient to receive her editor’s critique. She took several bites of the pasta salad, but her appetite was gone. As each second ticked by, Savannah’s confidence began to wane. All she could think about, was that the story would either make or break her career as a sports journalist.
Savannah took her time returning to Sport Report’s edifice, fearing her editor’s reaction one moment and relishing it the next. At length, she took the elevator up to the thirty-eighth floor and walked down the hallway leading to her office.
I’m certain I shut the door, Savannah thought to herself, since it was her custom to do so before leaving.
Entering her office, Savannah was surprised to see editor Shields sitting behind her desk, her typewritten article in hand, and Ramsey installed in another chair on the opposite side. Oh my God! He doesn’t like it, Savannah thought to herself as she assessed the solemn expression on Shield’s face.
“Miss Cain. We’ve been waiting for you.”
“Hello sir. Hi Ramsey,” Savannah tried to maintain a confident demeanor.
“Miss Cain. We’ve both read your article.” Shields glanced over at Ramsey. Suddenly a smile and a nod of the head from her editor gave Savannah hope.
“This is a fantastic piece! It can use a little tweaking, but you have written a fascinating story. Using the Ty Cobb angle, with that crazy guy from Georgia, was brilliant. I couldn’t put it down.”
“Proud of you, Savannah,” Ramsey chimed in. “Best sports story I’ve read in years. You’ve captured the essence of baseball the way the framers intended it to be played…”
Shields interrupted, “But this Cobb-guy, is he for real?”
“Sure is, boss. You really must meet him. Ten minutes in your office and he’ll have you believing…”
Shields continued, “I particularly like the way you contrast the primitive game with today’s game. Masterfully done! I’d like to send our camera crew down to your brother’s farm and get some more pictures of your Mr. Cobb. I presume he’s still there?”
“Yes, he is, Mr. Shields.”
“Do you think he’d be willing to sit for some pictures?”
“I’m pretty sure I can talk him into it.”
“Excellent. Let’s get you back down there with a photographer.”