Episode 72 — Chapter 81

| Aug 12, 2020 | Baseball Immortal | 0 comments

Episode 72— Chapter 81

by Roland Colton | Baseball Immortal

Chapter   81

 

Savannah’s Sport Report article on the World Master Games hit the newsstands, but not as the cover story. Nevertheless, it still received critical acclaim. The fact that she had been able to maintain reader attention in an annual event largely ignored by the sporting masses was no small feat. However, sales of the edition were disappointing, causing the executives to conclude, as they had countless times before, that circulation suffered when the major sports were not prominently featured.

Ramsey came into Savannah’s office the following day. “Well, I hope you haven’t unpacked your bags.”

“Seriously! Where am I going now?”

“To Paris.”

“Gay Par-eee!” she sang with delight. “Are you telling me I’m covering the French Open?”

“It was supposed to be a secret,” Ramsey said in a voice not much louder than a whisper.

Savannah jumped up from behind her desk. “I can’t believe it! When do I leave?”

“Beginning of June. After the first few rounds are in the books. Then you’ll be following the action through the finals.”

“Japan was fun, but it was a blur of events and people–left my head spinning at times. But the French Open! That’s utterly fantastic!”

“Well, in the meantime, make sure you get all your other projects wrapped up,” Ramsey spoke as he exited the office.

Savannah was in ecstasy. There had been a bit of a  letdown when her second featured article had not generated near the same buzz as the anniversary edition had. But Paris! She had been there as a teenager and had fallen in love with the city. She couldn’t wait to return.
 

***

 
In the hospital, Cobb was x-rayed and treated for cuts and bruises. Miraculously, he had suffered no broken bones. The treating physician advised Cobb to spend 24 to 48 hours under observation, concerned he may have suffered a concussion. Cobb rejected the advice and insisted on being discharged, leaving the hospital shortly after 5 a.m. A cab dispatched him to the hotel where the team was staying. With difficulty, Cobb limped into the lobby, took the elevator up to his floor and reached his room, before slumping into bed. He lay asleep for nearly ten hours.

The late morning edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer carried the headline:

COBB INVOLVED IN BARROOM BRAWL.

Eyewitness accounts from anonymous bystanders recited how a drunken Cobb had been slandered in the bar and then instigated a ruckus with his accusers. The article stated that Cobb had been hospitalized and was listed in fair condition.

Waking in mid-afternoon, Cobb left his bed and shuffled over to the bathroom. Flipping on the light switch, in a room still darkened by heavy shades, he looked into the mirror. The reflection caused him to gasp. His right eye was black and swollen. A bandage dressed a wound over the other eye. There was gauze and a large patch over his forehead which had been sutured shut. The right side of his face was red, tender and swollen. He looked as though he had just gone fifteen rounds with a heavyweight contender. Painful as his face was, it didn’t compare to the searing pain in his left side and ribs where he’d received repeated blows from his attackers.

To his great relief, Cobb discovered that his vision hadn’t been affected by the beating. With the many aches and bruises, he longed for more rest. However, the desire for revenge was more powerful than the urge to rest. Although it took him longer to dress than normal, Cobb managed to reach Citizens Bank Park an hour before the game’s starting time. The other players had already left the locker room and were warming up on the field.

While the trainer iced the arm of the Braves’ starting pitcher, Cobb dressed alone in the locker room. Cobb entered the dugout just twenty minutes before game time. Rather than warm up, he took a seat at the far end of the dugout, content to remain unnoticed. As the players filtered into the dugout, there was a look of surprise at seeing Cobb perched at the end; the players had been alerted to the incident by other members of the team and media.
 

***

 
Carpenter was startled to see Cobb exit the dressing room—and irritated. He had half expected never to see him again, believing his injuries would keep him hospitalized for a while, and that Bolt would see the barroom brawl as the last straw. The newspapers had not implicated any other players, but Carpenter knew otherwise. He had heard enough remarks to put the pieces together. He was far more concerned about his own future than Cobb’s, knowing that his team needed to keep winning or he might soon find himself in the unemployment lines, standing next to his tormentor.

Having won the first two games of the series, Carpenter desperately wanted the sweep. In the top of the eight inning, the Braves were down 6 to 4. Thud elected to pinch-hit for the third Braves’ pitcher of the game, with Searling standing on third and one out. Carpenter originally motioned for rookie James Blocker, who had seen little playing time, but as he glanced over at Blocker, his line of vision intersected with Cobb, who has still sitting at the far end of the bench. The desire to win the game, combined with an instinctive hunch, caused Carpenter to yell at Cobb to grab a bat and hit in place of Blocker.

Hearing his name, Cobb looked up surprised. He stood up and with great difficulty walked toward the bat rack, straining to move without a limp. His whole body ached. Carpenter nearly shuddered at the sight of Cobb’s bruised and bandaged face.

Deliberately, Cobb followed his usual ritual, grabbing three bats from the rack and began warming up. Philadelphia fans immediately evidenced their displeasure the moment they heard Cobb’s name announced.

No one in the stadium was more shocked to hear Cobb’s name than the Phillies catcher, Gambling. His anger still boiling, he greeted Cobb, “Have a rough night, asshole? You hurt Aussie real good. He’ll be out six weeks, but that’s nothin’ compared with how long you’ll be laid up…” The Philadelphia Inquirer had reported that Crandall, the Phillies’ good-field, no-hit second baseman, had slipped in the shower and broken his wrist. There was no mention of a brawl between Cobb and Crandall.

Cobb ignored Gambling’s threats. He had already plotted his revenge. Cobb had an unorthodox tendency to jump around in the batter’s box; frequently he would start at the back of the box and shuffle toward the front by the time the pitch arrived. For the first pitch, Cobb elected to stand as far back in the box as possible. After taking a ball and a strike, Cobb prepared for the next pitch. He connected on the pitch and, completing the motion with his bat, he let his left hand slip completely off the bat. Lurching backward, his right hand whipped the bat all the way around to where it crashed forcibly into the back of Gambling’s unprotected right leg, buckling him to the ground.

The ball soared high into right field, where the Philly fielder began camping under it, waiting for it to drop. It appeared shallow enough to prevent Searling from racing home. However, Searling had witnessed Gambling’s collapse in the corner of his eye as he backpedaled to third to tag up. Just as the ball touched leather, Searling sprinted homeward. The Philly pitcher ran toward the plate to catch the throw from the right fielder as Gambling lay writhing in pain. 

The throw beat Searling, but the pitcher caught the ball awkwardly and made a swipe at Searling, who slid away from the plate. The umpire’s vantage confirmed the space between the tag and hurtling runner. Cobb was credited with a sacrifice fly and retreated to the safety of the dugout.

In extreme pain, Gambling was helped off the field before play resumed. The Braves were denied another tally and ended up on the short end of the score by one run. The Braves’ record stood at 19 and 25, four games up on the cellar-dwelling Phillies.

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