Episode 53 — Chapter 59
Atlanta at New York
Since the Mets had begun the season on the road, the April 11th contest marked their home opener and the stadium began filling rapidly. New York press corps descended onto the field to interview Cobb. The New York Times had been filled with Cobb-mania. One article contained a reference to a local psychic who swore she had predicted Cobb’s advent to the very day, seven years before. There was also an interview with members of the Galactic Time Travelers group, who claimed routinely to travel back and forth in time.
The visiting Braves line-up was announced over the loud-speaker: “Leading off for the visiting Braves, Anthony Adams in right field. Batting second, playing centerfield, Graydon Rhodes. Batting third is shortstop DeMarcus Gates. The clean-up hitter is Ham Permak. Batting fifth, at first base, is Max Karras. In left-field, batting sixth, is Stan Burnham. Todd Searling is batting seventh, at third base. The number eight hitter is Rodrigo Martinez, at second base. Batting ninth and pitching for the Atlanta Braves is Armando Jakes.”
The sell-out crowd began booing loudly when it became evident that Ty Cobb was not in the starting lineup. Sitting on the bench, Cobb was sullen at having been benched. He had expected to start every remaining game of the season. Rhodes snickered at him as he walked by. “Let’s just see you try to take my spot, rookie!”
Facing the Mets, Jakes was making his first start of the young campaign. He began in good form, beguiling the New York hitters on cunning and control for seven innings, although he began to tire during the latter two frames. The Braves were on top 4 to 1 on the strength of Todd Searling’s bases loaded double in the fifth inning and Permak’s solo shot in the sixth. As Jakes’ time to bat approached in the top of the eight inning, it was apparent that there would be a pinch-hitter, and many of the spectators were hopeful to see Cobb in action. However, disappointment registered in the arena when it was announced that Winston was batting for Jakes. The Brave’s ace reliever, Michael Semton, gained his second save of the young season, but not after loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth with the tying and winning runs in scoring position.
Entering the locker room following the 4 to 3 victory, Carpenter felt vindicated; his team had won without the new upstart. Shortly after arriving in the clubhouse, Carpenter’s mobile phone began ringing and when he saw Bolt’s name on the screen, he immediately second-guessed his decision to sit Cobb.
“Hey boss, a great victory…”
“Damn you, Thud! I ought to nail your greasy scalp to the wall,” Bolt thundered.
“Hey, boss… we won the…”
“Shut the hell up! Didn’t I give you orders to play Cobb?”
“Boss, we’re on the road. I assumed you meant play him in front of the home crowd.”
“I never said such a thing! He’s the biggest story in baseball now and we want to keep it that way. Do you understand?”
“Boss, I nearly got a mutiny on my hands. Gates is refusing to play with the racist, not to mention half the starting lineup…”
“I don’t give a damn about Gates! Tell him if he doesn’t play, he’ll be suspended without pay. That ought to give that overpriced superstud second thoughts. We’re sticking with Cobb as long as he’s a hot. And he’s on fire now, understand?”
Carpenter grunted his grudging consent before the line went dead. He took a deep breath, realizing he was only two words away from being unemployed himself.