Episode 35 — Chapter 40
Cobb soon developed his own daily ritual of working out in the morning. He first spent forty minutes in the exercise and weight room. Thereafter, he ran a couple of miles around the perimeter of the cotton fields followed by fifteen minutes of hard wind sprints. Cobb was always on the lookout for opportunities to bat, even pestering Calvin’s oldest son, Raymond, the ace of the local high school team, to throw to him. When Raymond pitched, Cobb moved the plate ten feet closer to the mound, aware that the average velocity of major league pitchers was in the nineties.
One morning, Cain pulled into the farm with an oversized cardboard box weighing down the back of his truck. Cobb had just completed his wind sprints and walked up to the truck.
“Got a surprise for you,” Cain said.
Cobb looked at him curiously.
“Help me set it up.”
It took nearly an hour for Cain and Cobb to get it ready. They installed it next to the makeshift mound. “This is a very special pitching machine,” Cain looked over at Cobb.
Calvin had previously taken Cobb to town to try out a pitching machine at the family fun center complex, where balls came to the plate at 80 mph. “I can increase the velocity all the way to 100 mph. More importantly, this device simulates the pitcher’s actual release. It’s like your hitting against a live pitcher.”
Cobb smiled. “Let’s see what it’s got.”
“But first,” Calvin interrupted. “I got you a batting helmet.”
“Batting helmet?” Cobb asked with a surprised look on his face. “I don’t need one of those.”
“If you’re going to play pro ball, you damn well do. They won’t let you bat without it.”
Cobb examined it. “It’s heavy. We never had use for anything like this.”
“Well, at the speed they throw today, it’s a must. You need to learn to start hitting with one.”
Cobb put it on his head. “That’s heavy… it’ll interfere with my hitting.”
“I doubt it, once you get the hang of it.”
“I’ll give it a try later…”
“No,” Cain was adamant. “I’m not sure how accurate this damn machine is and you’ve got to start adaptin’ to the helmet now.”
Cobb shrugged his shoulders and put it on his head. “It’s gonna take some getting’ used too.”
Cain started the speed at 80 mph and gradually increased the velocity. There was also an option on the device that randomly changed speeds and another setting which delivered pitches at random locations–in and out of the strike zone.
“Just don’t push the button that aims the ball at my head,” Cobb laughed.
Cobb began spending an hour or two daily batting with the device; Cobb’s only complaint was it didn’t throw curve balls. Meantime, Cain purchased some new wooden bats, with an assortment of weights in the heavier range to satisfy his guest.
The days passed peacefully at the Cain farm. Savannah served as Cobb’s mentor, nurse and guardian as she continued to assist him in adjusting to a new environment and building his muscle strength and tone. But the time finally arrived for her to leave and return to work in St. Louis. Though she had been working daily on her article, Ramsey pestered her to return to the office so that he could more readily help shape and monitor the story’s progress. She couldn’t put it off any longer.
The evening before her departure, Savannah invited Cobb to join her for a walk in the cool evening. When she informed him that she was returning to St. Louis, Cobb couldn’t mask his disappointment.
The bright moon’s beams reflected onto the cotton fields as they walked slowly around the fence-lined perimeter. Savannah stopped for a second and began speaking while she placed a hand on the wooden fence.
“You know, you’re not at all the way I imagined Ty Cobb.” Savannah stared into his eyes.
“So, how did you imagine me?”
“Well, of course, I would never have expected to meet someone from the past. But if I had met the great Ty Cobb, I would have expected him to be very moody, unfriendly, aloof, and ready to explode into a violent tempest at the drop of a hat.”
“And you don’t find me that way?” Cobb gave a surprised look.
“Only some of the time,” she laughed.
Cobb looked away and there was silence for a few moments. “I could say the same about you.”
“What do you mean, Mr. Cobb?”
“You’re unlike any woman I have ever met. So open, confident, athletic, and if you don’t mind me sayin’, beautiful…”
Savannah gave a shy smile. “I’m just a Carolina girl.”
There was silence between them for a few moments, before Savannah asked, “Tell me about your world before the accident?”
Cobb looked down morosely. “My world was so different than here, in every way. It was an exciting time to be alive. I never craved fame and fortune, but it soon found me after I started playing with the Tigers. And, I’ll have to admit, I miss the crowd’s cheers.”
“I’ll bet you heard a lot of them playing Billy Bolton, too.”
“I did, but that was much different. I knew I was an imposter taking advantage of my celebrity, doing something that I didn’t have any particular talent for. But, with baseball, it’s different. I’ve mastered the game and succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. I just wish my dear father could have seen me play… always been my biggest regret.”
“I’m sure he’d be so proud of you. You’re still considered by many experts the greatest player of all-time.”
“Even now? After all these years?”
“Yes. No one has ever come close to your lifetime batting average. And your record for most hits and steals lasted half a century.”
“I had all the adulation and glory a person could ever dream of. But, I would trade it all, if I could go back, just to see my wife’s face and hug my kids.”
They continued walking in the cool of the night.
“How ever did this happen to me?” Cobb asked with a pained look, more to himself than to Savannah.
“Some things in life defy explanation,” Savannah spoke in a soothing tone. “Since meeting you, I’ve discovered strange stories about people who claim to have traveled from the past or future. There’s a story about a couple who were driving down the road and encountered a lady going the opposite way in an antique car, yet it appeared brand new. The lady was dressed in clothes from half a century earlier and appeared frantic and stunned at the sight of the couple’s modern vehicle, causing her to nearly veer off the road. When the couple stopped and looked back, the car had completely disappeared from view. I’ve also read about aviators who claimed to have seen ancient cities from the past and then when they circled back, found the mirage gone. Had these people gone mad? Probably not. These people never recanted their accounts of what they witnessed. While it seems preposterous, so much of life is an enigma. Maybe when certain conditions are present, a pathway, a portal in time as they call it, opens up for a brief instant, sending a person into a different world, a different time.”
“But in my case, it hasn’t been brief.”
“I know. I wish I had an explanation for you.”
There was silence between them for a few minutes, until Cobb wondered in a plaintive voice, “So how do I get back?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the same way you got here. Maybe the universe will fix the imbalance and reclaim the person who breached the laws of physics. Don’t lose hope. Maybe in time, you’ll find the answers you’re looking for and everything will become clear.”
“Must you leave?” Cobb asked, lowering his eyes, too shy to make eye contact. “You’ve been such a help… and a great friend. If it hadn’t been for you, God knows where I’d be now. I am deeply in your debt.”
“Don’t you worry. I feel responsible for you,” Savannah laughed, “having helped break you out of your confinement. It wouldn’t be right to abandon you now.”
Cobb looked up, staring into Savannah’s eyes. “I feel I’ve imposed far too long on your family’s charity. I should be movin’ on.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I can see how much they adore you. And you’ve been a great help. They say you’re the best worker they’ve ever had. You’ve more than repaid their kindness.”
“They’re good folk.”
“And you’re a good man,” Savannah said with sincerity. “Calvin enjoys your company and loves having someone to talk baseball with.”
“How long will you be gone?” Cobb made eye contact briefly.
“I’ll be back soon, as soon as I get my story completed. I promise.”
They returned to the house and entered, stopping at the entryway.
“I’ll be off before you’re awake,” Savannah smiled.
Cobb held out his hand, “Then I guess it’s time to say good-bye.”
Savannah pushed his hand aside and gave him a warm embrace. She felt Cobb’s rigid reaction, but seconds later his arms encircled her.
She released him.
“Everything will work out. You’ll see.” Savannah turned and walked up the stairs. She felt Cobb’s eyes following her ascent. At the top of the stairs, she paused and looked back.
“Now, don’t plan on going back in time until I return,” she flashed a friendly smile.
Cobb smiled back.