Episode 31 — Chapter 36
Calvin’s eleven-year old son, Troy, even joined the conversation. “Who was the best hitter you ever saw, Mr. Cobb.”
Mr. Cobb pondered for a moment. “I guess I’d have to say the best natural hitter I ever saw is that newcomer, Joseph Jefferson Jackson.”
Calvin’s ears perked up, “You played against Shoeless Joe Jackson?”
“Sure did. I just beat him out for the batting title. He had a great year too, hit .408.”
Not a great student of the game’s history, Calvin was stupefied. “What the hell did you hit?!”
“My God, do you realize what a player would be paid today if he hit .420?” Calvin asked in astonishment. “That’s a hundred points higher than today’s best hitters.”
“I was paid…,” Mr. Cobb hesitated for a second. “Gee Willikers, I’m drawing a blank. That’s been happenin’ from time to time since I walked into this crazy new world. How much was it? I reckon around nine thousand, but I’m fixin’ to get a big raise this comin’ year.”
“Nine thousand dollars?” Calvin laughed. “Mr. Cobb, today that kind of performance would be worth about nine grand per plate appearance.”
“A lot more than that!” Savannah piped in, giving her brother a questioning look.
The guest showed little interest in finances. “Yeah. Pretty amazing. Jackson hit .400 his first full year. He’s bound to top that mark a bunch more before his career is over.”
“Boy, it’s a real shame what happened to him,” Calvin cleaned up the last helping of mashed potatoes. “Too bad he threw the Series and got suspended for life.”
Mr. Cobb looked at him quizzically. “What’s that you say?”
“Don’t you see, Calvin. Mr. Cobb wouldn’t know anything about that. The scandal happened in 1919… eight years from now, for him,” Savannah explained. “It almost ruined the game. Jackson was playing for the Chicago White Sox—I guess back then, they were known as the Black Sox…”
“No. Jackson plays for Cleveland,” the guest corrected.
“He was traded to Chicago after playing in Cleveland. Anyway, the Black Sox of 1919 were heavy favorites to win the World Series. The mob seized the opportunity to make some big money betting. They paid off seven or eight key members of the team to throw the Series. Jackson got paid something like $5,000.”
Mr. Cobb was dumbfounded, “Jackson would never do it. He may not be schooled, but he’d never throw a game. Baseball’s all he knows. I don’t believe it.”
“You never know human nature,” Calvin responded. “He would have been a sure-fire Hall of Famer. The disgrace pretty much ruined his life, from what I recall. I read he died a bitter and penniless alcoholic. Tragic…”
Calvin and Savannah’s recollection of the Black Sox Scandal was a bit sketchy. “…the Sox put on a good show,” Calvin continued. “They even won a coupl’a games in the Series, as I recall…”
Savannah interrupted, “Jackson hit nearly .400 during the series… Not exactly the kind of performance you’d expect from somebody on the take.”
“Kenesaw Landis.” Calvin piped back in. “Commissioner of Baseball. Really made a name for himself by kickin’ the players outta the game for life. It’s almost like they erased Jackson’s name from baseball’s past. Like he never existed…”
The discussion of Jackson’s banishment put Cobb in a melancholy mood. Just then, Annabelle entered the room and asked if she could get anybody a Coke.
The guest’s ears perked up. “Coca Cola? You still have it now? That was the first product I ever endorsed.”
“Boy, imagine what you’d be worth today if you’d invested heavily in Coca Cola stock back in the day. It’s been positively the most popular soft-drink in the world for ages.”
The domain of discussion was not exclusively baseball. They touched on some of the important historical occurrences—the World Wars, the rise of terrorism in the world, scientific and medical advances, and more. The whirlwind of information left the guest reeling at times— so much of it seemed utterly fantastic. It was like reading the morning newspaper and having the headlines change every second, with each event more startling and incredible than the last. By his guest’s mood-swings and reactions, Calvin sensed that Cobb had long since reached his saturation level.
It was eleven-thirty when Calvin suggested that they retire to bed, though the children had departed with Annabelle an hour before. Standing up, Calvin spoke, “You know Ty, I’m not in the best physical shape of my life, but I can still throw a pretty decent curveball and at least an eighty mile-an-hour fastball. It would be a treat to see the Ty Cobb in action.” Calvin was intrigued enough in the man’s story to see if his guest could actually play ball. Nevertheless, he was skeptical—there had been a time or two during his life when some relative or acquaintance claimed they knew a close friend who was a superstar-in-the-making, only to find out the wannabee star could barely manage Little League pitching.
“I miss not holding a bat or throwin’ a ball, but I need to get my strength back. The cast just came off my leg and it’s still feeling a bit weak.”
Calvin smiled inwardly. Just as I expected. He failed that test. Afraid to dispel the myth.
“Tell you what, tomorrow morning I’ll show you the exercise and weight room I built inside my barn, and you’ll have your strength back in no time.”
Dr. Cantril saw the message light on his office phone.
He retrieved the message and listened: “Doctor, Brad Hodges here. I just got off the phone with the deputy district attorney, Ben Jacobs… I’ve dealt with him a couple of times in the past. Anyway, I told him that there’s a dangerous man on the loose from the hospital; I sent over the commitment order and he assured me that he’ll get the local constabulary to put it over the wire and get some people assigned to track him down.”
Dr. Cantril hoped that would be enough, but he worried that detective Kramer might dilute the police efforts.
Damn it! I wish I’d never talked to him.
Dr. Cantril was even more furious with himself for not having moved quicker on the commitment order; he should have had Mr. Cobb moved to the psych ward before his damn cast came off. But surely Mr. Cobb couldn’t have gotten too far yet, especially without any money or friends; he was certain to show up sooner or later. But, something more needed to be done now!
Dr. Cantril hurriedly scanned the hospital telephone extensions and found the department he was looking for: Public Relations.
A few minutes later he had Sharon Blakely on the line. “Sharon, this is Dr. Cantril. I’ve got a patient, with no next-of-kin, suffering from severe psychosis: extreme paranoia and delusions. We just obtained a temporary commitment order and he disappeared from the hospital before we were able to get him transferred to the psych ward. The police have been alerted, but I think we need to contact the media… warn the public. I can send you a photograph of the patient.”
“You think he’s dangerous?”
“Of course, I wouldn’t be calling you if I didn’t,” Dr. Cantril tried to restrain his anger.
“Okay, send me over the order and a photograph. I’ll see what I can do.”
“It’s urgent!” Dr. Cantril emphasized. “We don’t want another Atlanta shooting and the negative publicity that the hospital would face for not having done something more.”
‘I understand, doctor. I’ll get right on it.”
The Cain’s guest slept peacefully for the first time in weeks. He was unable to recall the specifics of his dream, except that it had left him with a warm and comfortable feeling. As light ushered in the morning, Cobb slowly focused on the decor and furnishings that he had paid little heed to earlier. The room was not the least bit ostentation nor very large, yet it conveyed warmth. The large oak bed and matching cabinets dominated much of the floor space. There were several bags of clothes in the corner, thanks to the beneficence of Calvin on their jaunt to the town the day before. Mr. Cobb put on a sweatshirt, pants and a jacket and descended the stairs to the living room.
“You ready for a work-out?” Calvin greeted his guest.
They walked outdoors in the crisp winter air and sauntered over to the barn. A few minutes later, Calvin began educating his guest on the equipment and the purpose of each device. Cobb was a quick study and spent thirty minutes working out, with Cain as his coach.