Episode 39 — Chapter 45
“Mr. Drummond is extremely busy today,” the private secretary whispered as she opened the door to his office. “He only has ten minutes before his next meeting.”
The two men stepped into the massive corner suite. The room was multi-leveled with inlaid-mahogany walls and ceiling, plentifully adorned with colorful plants and ferns. Drummond was seated behind a massive marble desk, a phone to his ear as he peered out to the window, his back to his visitors.
In a few minutes, he concluded his call and turned around. Drummond glanced briefly at his guests and motioned for them to take a seat. In his early seventies, Drummond had the good fortune of being born with a silver spoon, although he had done wonders with the family fortune when he came of age. His wealth had also given way to excess. Nearly a hundred pounds overweight, he was a bulbous man of sizeable frame and circumference.
Studying his firm’s 10-Q report, he glanced up and growled. “Haven’t seen you before in civilian clothes, Cannon. You know, I’ll never forgive you and the Sox for knocking us out of contention a few years back. Beating us twice down the stretch, dammit.” With his eyes still fixed on the report in front of him, he continued, “We should have won the division that year.”
Calvin got up from his seat and extended his hand. “No hard feelings, chief. Just doin’ my job.”
Drummond motioned his hand away. “But you didn’t have to let the Twins dominate you that season. They beat up on you something like three or four times that year. One game back, can you believe it! That should’ve been us in the Series.”
“Well, I’ve come to make it up to you,” Calvin seized the opening, causing the magnate to drop the financial report on his desk. “Your team could use a superstar in center field, now with JRod still recuperating from a broken ankle. The man seated next to me is faster than JRod and a far better hitter too.”
Intrigued, Drummond looked at Calvin’s friend. He looked eerily familiar. “What’s your name, young man?”
“Ty Cobb, sir.”
“Ty Cobb? I knew it! My God, you do look just like him. You must be his great grandson. Am I right?”
“Not exactly,” Calvin responded before Cobb could say a word. “What I’m about to tell will sound utterly fantastic and impossible… it’s good you’re sitting down, Mr. Drummond, this man really is the great Ty Cobb.”
Drummond coughed and wheezed, as he caught his breath. Staring across the table at Cobb, peering above his wire-rim glasses, he started to smile. His smile gave way to a chuckle and finally boisterous, uncontrollable laughter.
“Yeah, I guess we’re even. I’ll admit he’s a dead ringer for Detroit’s greatest ever. Who put you up to this?”
Cannon’s face remained serious, “This is no joke.”
“Come on, Cannon.”
“Look, I know it sounds utterly insane, but he is the real deal. I’ve become well acquainted with him down on my farm in South Carolina during the past couple of months.”
Drummond shook his head. “You’re a day late, April Fool’s was yesterday.”
“I know, I know. It took me a while to be convinced myself, but I’m a believer now. Let me tell you, he can hit everything I throw at him…”
“So can my grandmother,” Drummond snorted. “Cobb would be at tad older if he surfaced today, wouldn’t he,” he spoke dripping with sarcasm. “Remarkable he hasn’t aged a bit…”
“I didn’t believe either, not at first…”
“Calvin, enough of the charade. Why the hell are you here? You lookin’ for a job?”
Calvin shook his head. “Give him a tryout. See for yourself.”
Drummond’s attention returned to the stranger, and he eyed him up and down, “So, where you been playin’ ball, young man?”
“Mr. Drummond, sir, I’ve played for the Tigers’ for the last seven years, since ‘05. Won the batting title each of the past five. As far as I know, I’m still under contract with your team. I’m itchin’ to get back on the field…”
Drummond looked back at Calvin. “Cannon, where did you find this guy?! God, he’s intense! And, still in character! Sorry I don’t have any more time for the two of you, but thanks for the diversion,” Drummond chuckled. “I’m late for a Board Meeting. Oh, and Mister Ty Cobb, don’t worry about your contract—I figure a hundred-year layoff entitles you to free-agent status.” Drummond motioned with his hand for both of them to leave.
Cain and Cobb weren’t ready to leave. “Mr. Drummond, just let me show you what he can do on the field. I promise you’ll be impressed with his ability. Give us twenty minutes of your time at Comerica Park… you’ll see.”
“I’d love to indulge your fantasies, gentlemen, but I don’t have any time for this, especially today. Good day!” Drummond stood up and spoke with such finality that Cain knew it would be useless to persist.
Calvin looked at Cobb and shrugged; they both stood up. Calvin shook Drummond’s hand, but Cobb turned his back and walked toward the door.
Before departing the room, Cobb turned around and glowered at the industrialist. “You will live to regret this day!”
The intensity of Cobb’s gaze and ferocity of his words caused Drummond an involuntary shudder and left him at a rare loss of words as his guests walked out the door.
It was on the return flight that Calvin suggested approaching Ben Bolt, maverick owner of the Atlanta Braves. Bolt was renowned for his daring business maneuvers and meteoric success. His empire was diversified in optics, discount merchandising and horse racing. At the age of 55, Bolt’s net worth was well into the billions, making him the third wealthiest owner in the major leagues. With top-notch managers at most levels, Bolt’s smooth-running business empire enabled him to devote an abundance of his time to his favorite hobby—the Atlanta Braves.
Calvin had played for the Braves for six seasons until his celebrated free-agency signing with the Chicago White Sox. Though there had been some bitterness at parting, Calvin had long since patched things up with Bolt and the two were on friendly terms.
“…Bolt’s from the South. That’ll help,” Calvin volunteered. “Hell, if Atlanta had fielded a major league team back in 1911, you’d probably have jumped ship and played for them. You’re free to sign with whomever you want.”
Cobb reflected on the suggestion with increasing interest and shortly after their return to South Carolina, Calvin contacted Ben Bolt’s office. Bolt’s first available opening was on April 5th, the morning after the Braves’ season opener.