Episode 42 — Chapter 48
After the game, the Cains and Cobb remained in Atlanta, staying at the Hyatt. Cobb had difficulty sleeping, unable to keep his mind off the following day’s meeting with Ben Bolt. The restlessness that had taken root within him on the Cain farm intensified after witnessing the Braves in action at SunTrust Park and Cobb was now consumed with getting back on the major league field as soon as possible.
At Calvin’s invitation, Savannah agreed to escort them to their mid-afternoon appointment. In a private conversation with Savannah, Calvin also stressed the importance of convincing Bolt that their friend truly was the legendary great, despite any misgivings of their own as to his true identity. Calvin believed that Savannah’s testimonial vouching for Cobb’s identity combined with her not insignificant powers of persuasion and beauty might improve their odds at winning Bolt over.
Unlike fellow owner Drummond, they were not kept waiting in the reception area; Bolt’s secretary personally accompanied them into his lavish office. There were extensive bookshelves on the interior walls, although the decor was much more contemporary than Drummond’s. Unlike the rotund Drummond, Bolt was tall and slender—a fine physical specimen in his mid-fifties with Hollywood looks; he was nicely tanned with a full set of hair, the only gray showing in his sideburns. Like Drummond, his office contained one of the finest views of any sky-rise in the continental States.
Cain stepped forward and Bolt gave him a vigorous handshake.
“Good to see you, Calvin. It’s been a while. How have you been? How’s the family?”
“Never better, Ben. I’d like to introduce my sister, Savannah.”
Bolt softened his grasp in taking her hand, “I read your article in Sport Report with great interest. Everyone’s been talking about it. I must say you’ve written the quintessential commentary on the modern game of baseball contrasting it with its ancient counterpart. Fascinating read. And this Ty Cobb guy—is he for real?”
Savannah smiled, “Thank you for your kind words, Mr. Bolt. And it just so happens that he is standing right next to me. Mr. Bolt, meet Ty Cobb.”
Almost inaudibly, Bolt found himself mouthing the word: “Cobb?”
“In the flesh,” Savannah responded with a brilliant smile.
“My God,” Bolt gasped. “I can’t believe I didn’t recognize you in street clothes.” Bolt studied his face. “So who are you really, Mr. Cobb, a direct descendant of the legendary Georgia Peach?”
“No, sir. I am Ty Cobb.”
Looking back at the Cains, Bolt’s face contorted into an expression which asked: What’s the catch?
“It’s the truth, Ben. This is Mr. Cobb straight out of 1911 America,” Calvin spoke with conviction. “Through some fantastic and inexplicable trick of nature, Mr. Cobb has been propelled more than a hundred years into the future… to the present.”
“Okay, you got my attention. So what’s really going on here?” Bolt asked with a raised eyebrow.
“We’re dead serious, Mr. Bolt,” Savannah said emphatically.
“Look, I’ll have to admit it was some creative genius on your part, Miss Cain. I mean that was a great angle and I saw the pictures. But you can’t expect me to believe…”
“No, I don’t expect you to be persuaded after just a few minutes,” Calvin interrupted. “It took us a coupl’a weeks before we became believers. It’s him, Ben…”
“Damn it, you are serious!” Bolt said, though he still half-expected one of his guests to burst out laughing and end the charade.
Calvin and Savannah both nodded their heads.
“Hold on a second here.” Bolt walked over to the bookshelves on the interior wall to his left, as the guests remained standing; there were several shelves devoted exclusively to baseball books. Focusing on one shelf, Bolt placed his palm on the bookends and began sifting past titles and authors, in search of a specific edition. He stopped on a particularly large book and pulled it out while clearing his throat. Turning to a center section of photographs, he leafed through several pages before stopping. His eyes examined a team photograph of the 1907 American League Champion Detroit Tigers, where Ty Cobb was seated third from the left, pictured in his playing gear. He held up the book, studying the photograph and compared it to the Cains’ guest. He returned the book and located another one entitled Pennant Champions. There, he located Cobb dressed in a business suit at the far right margin along with the other 1908 Champion Tigers. He stared at the picture for a moment and then glanced back at Cobb. Intent in thought, Bolt returned to his desk and grabbed the magnifying glass that lay next to the telephone. Under magnification, he began examining the photograph in earnest. First staring at the photograph and then again at Cobb, his only comment was “Extraordinary!”
Bolt turned back to the bookshelves in search of another book, finally locating Baseball Heroes from the Past. Finding the photograph section, he scrutinized a picture of Cobb sitting at the wheel of a Chalmers 30 automobile, the printed insert indicating that the vehicle had been awarded for being named the Most Valuable Player in 1911.
“What car do you drive, Mr. Cobb,” Bolt interjected whimsically, while keeping a straight face.
“A Chalmers, sir.”
“Of course you do.”
In the same volume, Bolt found two other photographs of Cobb—one allegedly taken during Cobb’s first full season and another picturing Cobb chatting with Hall of Famer Honus Wagner during the 1909 Detroit-Pittsburgh World Series. None of the pictures were particularly large, clear or distinct. Nonetheless, their collective effect made a distinct impression on the astonished Bolt.
Bolt motioned for the three to sit. “Where are my manners?” Bolt took a seat behind his desk. “But, you’ll have to admit, you hit me straight between the eyes. You know, there can’t be more than five or six photographs of Cobb in circulation during his early years. And… I must confess, the similarity is striking.”
It was evident that wheels were turning inside Bolt’s head. Bolt looked over at the young man, speaking more to himself than his guests, “You just might pass for Ty Cobb…”
Cobb had remained silent following the introductions, but could no longer hold his peace. “Mr. Bolt, I am Ty Cobb of the… formerly of the… Detroit Tigers. No one is more shocked than me to be sitting here in this crazy mixed-up world, but I swear to you that’s who I am…”
Bolt interrupted, “Mr. Cobb, how old are you?”
“What kind of shape… conditioning are you in?”
“I have been working out a bit…”
“Playing baseball, I hope?”
“Yes sir. A great deal.”
Calvin cut in, “I’ve been pitching to him on a regular basis, as have others, too. Nearly thrown my arm off.”
Looking at Calvin, Bolt stared him down. “Can he hit?”
“Ben,” Calvin paused for effect. “This man has as lively a bat as I’ve ever seen. His reflexes are razor-quick. He handles a bat unlike anyone in the game today. And you should see him run… there’s no one faster in the league.
“I played here six years. You know I’m not one to exaggerate. But, if I were sitting where you are, I’d sign him in a heartbeat. He’d be my starting center fielder inside a week.”
Talking more to himself than anyone else in the room, Bolt muttered, “My God, do you realize what this could mean?” Then staring over at Cobb, he spoke to his guests. “Now, I’m not fool enough to swallow this time travel hokum-pokum. But, at the same time, I’m not foolish enough to pass it by. Mr. Cobb, could you participate in a private screening at SunTrust Park first thing tomorrow morning?”
Savannah spoke before Cobb could respond, “He sure will, Mr. Bolt. Just name the time.”