Episode 25 — Chapter 29
For most of the evening Savannah sat squatted against the headboard of her bed, the laptop on her thighs, as she continued work on her story. It had been forty-five minutes since she had called room service, and she was ravenous. She was grateful to finally hear a knock on her door and the hotel waiter delivered a chicken salad, glass of red wine and pecan pie. Savannah moved the tray over the bed and resumed her squatting position. As she poured Italian vinaigrette onto her salad and began poking at it, her mind remained preoccupied with the patient from the hospital. She had an uneasy feeling that Mr. Cobb was never going to be permitted to leave. While his delusions were pure fantasy, he seemed in every other way in full control of his faculties.
Savannah did her best to allay her concerns, reasoning that the patient was clearly in need of help After all, he had a pretty staggering psychosis that needed addressing, and would undoubtedly have difficulty adapting to a world where everyone considered him to be a lunatic. Yet, Dr. Cantril’s demeanor had disturbed her. Her intuition told her that the doctor wanted to keep this patient to himself for his own nefarious purposes.
So I’ve already hatched a conspiracy plot, Savannah laughed inwardly. I spend forty minutes with the man and I know what’s best? She shook her head. Certainly, even the unpleasant Dr. Cantril must have the patient’s best interests at heart.
Yet, Savannah continued to be plagued by the sense that something wasn’t right. Even if I wanted to get involved, who would possibly bother to listen to me? After all, I have no family connection or legal standing.
Trying to calm her active mind, Savanna looked at her pad, where she had scratched notes about her interview with Mr. Cobb. There had been several things he had said that seemed just a tad outlandish. One had been that seventeen-inning tie game; something about that game didn’t quite add up, but researching it might take some time. Then there was the game where Mr. Cobb claimed to have stolen second, third and home on consecutive pitches… Really? Even the great Ty Cobb would surely never have attempted such a feat.
Well, that should be easy to look up. After all, Mr. Cobb had identified the year and team: 1911, Athletics.
In a Google search, Savannah typed in: “steals second, third, home consecutively.” In an instant, several choices appeared on the screen. Accessing the first one, she saw that Baseball Almanac displayed a list of twenty-plus times the feat had been accomplished since 1900; Savannah was surprised it had happened that often! Cobb was prominently featured on the list and had, in fact, done it in 1911 against the Athletics—just as the patient had said! On July 12th.
How could some delusional person come up with such detail? she wondered. Sure, this was information that had taken her less than ten seconds to find on the web, but it still startled her that the patient would have known such an obscure fact.
And he said he did that on consecutive pitches? We’ll see about that! Baseball Almanac was silent on that point, but Savannah had easy access to the Detroit Free Press archives online. Recognizing the game would have been reported the following day in the papers, she selected first the year, then month and day from the various icons. The Thursday, July 13, 1911 paper popped up, showing fourteen small boxes, each containing one page from the ancient newspaper. It felt eerie slipping into an era more than a century old, like traveling back in time.
In a few seconds, she located page 9’s headline: “WORLD’S CHAMPIONS AGAIN OUTCLASSED BY SCRAPPY TIGERS.”
Below that was a headline that read: “COBB’S GREAT BASE RUNNING MAKES THOMAS LOOK SILLY.” She searched in the article that described the game’s action, finally coming across an excerpt on the game:
Ty Cobb introduced the thieving fashion in the first inning when he went out with the deliberate intention of showing up Thomas. As an exposé, it proved the best thing of the season. Whoever wrote the rules carelessly prohibited the stealing of first base, so Ty couldn’t grab that one…
Savannah chuckled at the writer’s humor—these old-time reporters weren’t all that bad!
… he got on free of charge, however, by working Krause for a base on balls. He stole second as Crawford struck out, and immediately went to third by the same method, Baker giving him plenty of room. Krause evidently thought that two bases dishonestly acquired would be enough to satisfy the Peach, so he coiled up like a spiral spring and didn’t pay much attention to the runner.
As soon as the pitcher began to knot his limbs so that he looked like the Lancoon group, Ty dashed for the plate and was over before Krause could sort himself out. The ball came to Thomas high, but even had the pitch been perfect, the Peach would have been safe by enough margin to make it possible for the decision to go only one way.
Savannah felt a shiver pass up and down her spine.
How could the patient have possibly known this? He even knew that Cobb had reached first on a free pass!
Every detail of his story had checked out.
Was it possible that a person could somehow unknowingly step through a time portal, from the past to the future?
Savannah shook her head and blinked her eyes.
Whoa girl. Slow down! I didn’t have that much wine with dinner! Perhaps, I’d better schedule an appointment with Dr. Cantril, she chuckled to herself.
It had taken her less than ten minutes’ research on the web to locate the remarkable base stealing feat; surely, anyone else with a laptop and the internet could have just as easily done the same. Still, Savannah had met a man who bore a startling resemblance to Ty Cobb, whose accuracy about every detail, thus far, had proven to be dead on.
The opening paragraphs of her feature story began to form in her mind. Savannah couldn’t type the words quickly enough.
Ty Cobb lies in a Georgian hospital. If you’re a student of the game, one look at him would give you pause. He’s a dead-ringer for the baseball great; compared to photographs of Cobb’s early years, the likeness is truly extraordinary. And it doesn’t end with his physical similarity. His language hails from a bygone era. He speaks freely about his playing career, spouting off obscure facts and feats that only an advanced researcher of his life could possibly know, yet his memory abruptly stops at 1911, the year he claims to hail from. An experienced stage actor would be hard-pressed to produce a more convincing performance as theTy Cobb of yesteryear.
So, if Ty Cobb were to mysteriously re-appear in the present, how would he fare today? If we transported the Murderers’ Row of the Yankees from 1927, would they be murdering pitches today with the same ferocity they did in the roaring twenties? Some prognosticators claim that yesterday’s batters would strike out with much greater regularity when faced with the blazing speed and off-speed arsenal of modern-day hurlers. Others predict that batters would drop at least fifty, maybe even a hundred points in average. But would that really be the case? Would they be so inept?
Yesteryear’s batters faced challenges that don’t exist today. In the early twentieth century, batters faced pitchers who spit on the ball, added tobacco, emery or a multitude of other foreign substances, causing the ball to twist, curve and dart in ways that we can only imagine. By mid-innings, the ball would often become so dark that it was hard to pick up, especially as most games began in mid-afternoon and continued until dusk. The ball itself was denser with a dead center, so it took a herculean clout to reach the outfield fences.
Yesteryear’s hitters were true batsmen, who regularly choked up, were adept at bunting and spraying the ball to all fields. Given time to adapt, for a month or a year, who’s to say that the old-timers couldn’t adapt to the increase in velocity? Home runs from past greats might be fewer when compared to today’s stars, who seem to swing from their heels on every pitch and who eclipse the majority of yesteryear’s players in height and weight. But isn’t it also logical to assume that the old-time batsmen would make far more frequent contact than today’s weight-lifting behemoths whose sole goal seems to be to launch every pitch into orbit. Who’s to say that their batting average would drop precipitously? Perhaps, it might even rise.
So, is the man recuperating from a horrific accident in an Atlanta hospital really the Ty Cobb? His look, his voice, his dialogue all make a convincing case for time travel.
But, can he play ball?
Savannah smiled as she re-read the opening paragraphs. It always sounded better once she got the words out.
This would do just fine!