Episode 30 — Chapter 35
It was Saturday and the older kids were sleeping in. Anabelle first met Savannah’s friend in the dining room, serving breakfast. Calvin and Cobb had been up for some time chatting in front of the large wood-burning stone fireplace, when Annabelle called them for breakfast. Upon introduction, the name Ty Cobb hadn’t evoked the same reaction in her that it had in her husband.
“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Cobb.” Annabelle shook the guest’s hand.
“The pleasure’s all mine, ma’am.”
Calvin grabbed a plate and filled it with scrambled eggs, hashed browns and crispy smoked bacon and then handed it to Cobb, before serving himself. Anabelle excused herself to get another pitcher of orange juice from the refrigerator.
Being a baseball wife had been difficult for Annabelle, though she was certainly grateful for the financial security her husband’s success in baseball had provided. But it had come at the cost of rearing five children with an absentee husband most of the year. There had been relief when Calvin had been released from professional ball the previous fall, though she sensed that a part of Calvin had died when he had removed his glove and cleats for the last time.
Two years his junior, Anabelle had known almost nothing about the game when she married Calvin soon after turning twenty. It wasn’t baseball that had won her over, but rather the gentleness of a man the size and stature of her husband. He had been socially shy and awkward during their early courting, scarcely having the nerve to even hold her hand. In fact, she had initiated most of the steps that gradually led to intimacy.
Throughout all of their early trials and hardships, Calvin had always retained his gentleness and steady equilibrium. When he had become an overnight celebrity upon his stirring introduction into the major leagues, he had retained his modesty and humility. Annabelle loved how Calvin showed attention and even devotion to his adoring fans, often spending a couple hours a day signing autographs during the season. Over the years, their mutual love had grown stronger despite the frequent separation during the baseball season.
Still pleasant in appearance, Annabelle nonetheless looked her age. The years of childbearing had taken their toll and despite frequent exercising, she couldn’t quite regain the stunning figure from her early twenties. For years now, she wore her dark hair short. Her pretty brown eyes were soft and sensitive—they had won Calvin over years before. Annabelle had been born with a face that exuded a perpetual smile and goodness. Hailing from a small Southern country town, she felt right at home on the family farm.
Annabelle had been more than mildly surprised when Calvin notified her that Savannah was visiting from St. Louis on an impromptu trip. She was even more surprised to learn that a male companion had accompanied her. She had a special bond with Savannah, treating her has the younger sister she’d never had. Even though she didn’t share Savannah’s obsession with baseball, they had much in common and had grown close over the years.
After a mouthful of hash browns soaked in egg yolk, Calvin turned to Annabelle with a wide grin. “Mr. Cobb is famous. The greatest ballplayer the State of Georgia ever produced.”
Annabelle looked puzzled. “That’s remarkable. For such a young man?”
“But he’s a bit rusty. He hasn’t played in about a hundred years.”
Annabelle laughed. “Naturally. So, what’s the punch line?”
“Annabelle. Come over her for a second and sit down. Let me show you some photographs of our guest.” Calvin pushed his laptop over to her. There was a series of photographs on the screen of a young man with a startling resemblance to Mr. Cobb.
“I’ve never seen a baseball player dressed like that.”
“That’s because Mr. Cobb played in the early 1900’s.”
“So, you’re an actor in a movie?” Annabelle turned her head toward their guest with a bemused look.
“No, that is me, ma’am” Cobb insisted.
“Now, don’t be alarmed, sweetheart. Savannah drove this man from a hospital in Atlanta last night. She’s been interviewing him for her magazine.”
Annabelle now stared intently at their guest for the first time. “I don’t understand.”
“Sweetheart. Look at the photographs. Is this the same man who’s in those photographs or not?”
She studied the photographs and looked back at their guest. “It appears so. But who are you really?”
Cobb looked intently into Annabelle’s eyes, “Ma’am, those are pictures of me. I was traveling with a theater group in Atlanta a couple of months ago. I suffered a bad accident and woke up a hundred years later.”
An anxious look formed on Annabelle’s face. How could her husband possibly consider harboring some lunatic? She stood up from the table. “Let me bring you some pastries, Mr. Cobb.” She returned to the kitchen.
Seconds later, she appeared again, “Cal, can you give me a hand?”
In the kitchen, Annabelle looked at her husband with an accusatory look. “Are you crazy?! Bringing this stranger into our home? He could be a fugitive from the law or an escapee from a mental hospital.”
“Calm down, dear. Savannah’s spent a lot of time with him. He’s harmless…”
“How do you know that?”
“Call it a first impression. He may be delusional, but he really believes he is the Ty Cobb. He’s been recuperating from a terrible accident for the last couple of months. Hopefully, we can help him find out who he really is. Savannah said it’s a disorder that sometimes happens when people have a serious head injury… she’s been readin’ up on it.”
“But why did she bring him here?”
“Because, they were going to ship him out to the looney bin and who knows what they would have done to him there.”
“But, if he’s supposed to be in the psych ward, shouldn’t he be there and not here?” Annabelle argued.
“It’s a favor for Savannah. I promised her that I’d let him to stay for a couple o’ days. I’ll keep a good eye on him in the meantime.”
“I don’t know, Cal. I don’t want to expose our kids to some psycho.”
“Look. Why don’t you get a little better acquainted with him. You’ll see he’s a real gentleman,” Calvin spoke in a reassuring voice.
“It sounds risky to me, having a stranger under our roof even for even a short time.”
“I really think you’ll like him once you get to know him. He’s bright, interesting, well spoken and well mannered.”
Annabelle shrugged her shoulders reluctantly. “Well, just a couple of days then.”
Although it had been overcast all week, the bright, morning sun filtered through patterned curtains into the dining room, providing a promise of warmer days to come.
Savannah arrived at the breakfast table a few minutes later.
“That smell of bacon was irresistible,” she gave her sister-in-law a hug. “So nice to see you again.”
“I hope you slept well.”
“Like a baby. I guess you’ve met my traveling companion.”
“Been gettin’ acquainted,” Annabelle forced a smile, trying to conceal her concern.
Savannah turned to her guest. “So, how are you feeling this morning, Mr. Cobb?”
“Much better. It’s a relief to be out of the hospital.”
The food was handed around the table and Calvin continued where he had left off. “Mr. Cobb, this story of yours is just too fantastic! People don’t just walk out of one century and into the next. Surely there must be some other explanation.”
Cobb looked helplessly at his host, shrugging his shoulders, “I wish I had an answer. I keep hoping that it’s all a dream, that I’ll wake up and everything will be back to normal.”
Savannah interrupted, “Cal, you can’t believe the wealth of information Mr. Cobb has about life a hundred years ago and the way baseball was played in its early days. He can recite the most minute details of games, descriptions of players from that era; I’ve checked them out. His recollection of events is extraordinary and accurate.”
The conversation continued all during breakfast and thereafter. Calvin was mesmerized by the accounts and encounters that Cobb related with legendary greats—Honus Wagner, Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Napoleon Lajoie, Tris Speaker—as well as other players he’d never heard of before. Yet, Cobb’s recall mysteriously vanished after 1911. Even though his knowledge of the game was extensive and detailed, their guest claimed to have never heard of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Mike Trout or any of the other modern-day stars.
Calvin was dying to ask, “How fast was Walter Johnson?” He had heard apocryphal stories about pitches so fast that hitters couldn’t even see the ball.
“Oh, he is damn fast, I’ll give him that. No one throws harder. But, he’s too much of a gentleman. If he occasionally threw at a hitter, no one would ever step in against him.”
Calvin and Savannah were fascinated how their guest spoke of players and events from the beginning of the twentieth century, as if it were today.
“…Johnson is afraid to death he’s going to kill a batter with his fast ball. And, he’s probably right… it could happen someday.”
“You needn’t worry, Mr. Cobb,” Savannah volunteered. “He never killed anyone, but he had a magnificent career.”
“Leave it to Savannah to know all the details,” Annabelle interjected.
After finishing breakfast, they retreated to the living room and continued their discussion. A couple of the older Cain children overheard their animated exchange and descended from their second-story bedrooms to the meet the guest; by late morning, the entire Cain clan was engrossed in discussion with Cobb.
Despite their protestations, the children could no longer postpone their Saturday chores and reluctantly left Cobb talking with the adults. Soon afterwards, Savannah excused herself, explaining that she needed to devote time to her feature story. Calvin volunteered to drive Cobb into town and help get him some clothes.
As they stepped outside, there was no reminder of yesterday’s snow—it was as if yesterday evening’s snowfall had been a mirage.
Moments later, they were on their way to town. “You sure you’re Ty Cobb? I mean, why him? I heard he was one mean, ornery son-of-a-bitch with hardly a friend in the world.”
“So that’s how I’m remembered in your day?” Cobb shook his head, speaking wistfully. “I made a lot of enemies playing baseball, but a lot o’ friends, too.”
“Couldn’t ya have chosen Honus Wagner or Nap Lajoie, instead?” Calvin chuckled. “I heard they were more friendly fellahs.”
“You don’t believe me, do you?”
“Well, you have to admit, this is some cockamamie story. How would you feel if I traveled back to your time and told you I came from the future—a hundred years from now.”
“I’d think you were a first-rate crackpot.”
“You’re right. If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t believe a word either.”
There was silence for a couple of miles.
“I really appreciate you puttin’ me up for a few days. I hope to be able to return your kindness.”
“Southern hospitality. It’s the least we can do.”