Episode 58 — Chapters 65 & 66
The cloud’s are threatening. It’s so dark, the game should have been called? The pitcher’s mound is too high and close. Who is that giant straddling the rubber? I can’t make out his features in the darkness.
My hands grip the wooden shaft, the only protection I have from the beast on the hill. I see him squeezing the sphere; it’s not white… it looks silver; how will I be able to pick it up in this darkness?
Why are the umpires allowing the contest to proceed in such a thick and bleak overcast? I can barely see the goliath beginning his rock back and forth, his appendages nearly scraping the dirt. The ground trembles with the creature’s roar as the metallic object explodes my way. I lunge at it with all my might, but fail to connect.
The ritual repeats and another spheroid—larger than the first—comes speeding towards me… but, my God!.. now it’s coming towards my head! It’s too late… the ball crushes into my skull in a thunderous detonation. I collapse to the ground.
I’m in agony…
Coming to, his moist hands clutched his skull.
A rush of relief filled Cobb, now that his surroundings became familiar. The horror and pain were quickly replaced by the euphoria an athlete feels after accomplishing the impossible. Cobb remembered the feeling of elation, something he recalled experiencing many times before in a different lifetime, reliving the moment. But it too, would soon fade away—until the next time.
Cobb could scarcely believe he had knocked two balls out of the park, in consecutive at bats no less. Home runs had always been such a rarity, especially those which cleared the fence. His mind replayed the shivers he felt with the initial blast. The ball had exploded off his bat as though it had been shot from a cannon. He couldn’t recall the ball ever carrying that way or that far in Detroit or any other American League ballpark. Then, to have repeated the act two innings later, had been doubly sweet.
Cobb began to second-guess his initial antipathy for the long ball and its impact on the game. This sensation of power, the ball leaping off the bat, was a powerful and alluring narcotic, and he understood better why so many hitters had succumbed to its wiles.
Over the next hour, Cobb continued to replay, over and over again, the events of the game; each internal replay boosted his confidence and strengthened his ego. Cobb looked at the digital radio clock on the night stand of his hotel room. It was 8:33. Time to rise.
After eating breakfast, Cobb returned to his hotel room. The light was flashing on his hotel phone. Eagerly, he followed the instructions to access the message.
“Ty! It’s Savannah. My gosh! What a surprise! But I thought you were Ty Cobb, not Babe Ruth! I caught the last few innings of the game and saw you hit both home runs live. Wow! I can’t believe it! Carpenter won’t be able to sit you down any longer. You’ve made a national splash that’s reverberating throughout the baseball world. Congratulations! See you soon, for sure!”
The message gave Cobb a warm feeling inside. She had taken the time to call.
Maybe she did have time for him, after all.
Game time for the Sunday afternoon affair was also at 1:00 p.m. It was a clear day—not at all reminiscent of his overcast dream, which had now faded from Cobb’s mind. It was also windy and by game time, the temperature had dropped to a frigid 42 degrees. Cobb knew he would be penciled into the starting line-up after his heroics and he was not at all surprised when his conviction was visually confirmed with a quick glance at the posted lineup card.
In spite of the dramatic victory, Carpenter’s evening had been anything but pleasant. He laid awake much of the night, dreading the inevitable phone call from Bolt that would lift Cobb’s brief suspension and put him back in the starting line-up. This time, he kept his mouth shut and listened to Bolt’s rants without protest. It only increased his hatred for Cobb. He couldn’t stand the man, whether Cobb made a meaningful contribution or not. Cobb was so damn arrogant and aloof. It was becoming Cobb’s Atlanta Braves again in the local tabloids and newspapers; the only time Carpenter’s name entered the print was when the reporters questioned why the skipper had Cobb frittering away on the bench.
Cobb’s whole persona exuded superiority and shouted to the world, I’m the best damned player in the game! It was so presumptuous and egocentric of a rookie that it made Carpenter’s blood boil. You’d better damn well pay your dues and perform like an All-Star for several years before displaying the kind of hubris Cobb showed. How dare him! Freakish luck, that’s all it was. It wouldn’t last. And when it ended, the media interest in the prima donna would also fade.
The Braves beat the Marlins 6 to 1 to conclude the series—their fourth straight victory. Cobb expected and received a pitch aimed at his head in his first at bat. Because it had been expected and because it signaled the highest form of respect, Cobb reined in his anger. Nor was Cobb about to let anyone disturb the somewhat diminishing, but still delicious feeling that carried over from his feats the night before. The umpire warning to both benches prevented any further head-hunting the remainder of the game, although several inside pitches to Cobb had also been intended as a reminder.
The umpire’s warning to Carpenter almost made the skipper laugh—there hadn’t been, and there would never be any payback by the Atlanta Braves for going after Cobb. Carpenter seriously considered sending flowers to Owen Carruthers, the Florida pitcher.
At the plate, Cobb was swinging harder than normal. His line-drive single in the fifth would have left the park if its arc had been several degrees higher. Following the base hit, he was surprised to receive the steal sign from the third base coach. Timing his departure perfectly, he easily beat the throw and deviously delighted in the crowd’s angry reaction to his larceny.
On Cobb’s fourth trip to the plate, the relief pitcher took an inordinate amount of time between pitches. On the first and second pitches—a called strike and a ball, Cobb stayed in the box an interminable time as the pitcher stared at the catcher and ultimately went into his wind-up.
On the third pitch, Cobb remained fixed in the batter’s box for twenty seconds, waiting for the pitcher who stood frozen on the mound. Exasperated, Cobb called time, dropped his bat and took several steps toward the pitcher.
“What the hell’s wrong with you? Your arm paralyzed? Throw the damn ball!”
The pitcher glared back.
“Afraid I’ll knock your head off?”
“Get your ass back in the box,” the pitcher shouted.
Cobb took a couple of more steps toward the mound and glared at the pitcher. He then turned to the home plate umpire, “How the hell long does he have to throw the damn ball?”
Without saying a word, the surly umpire merely pointed to Cobb’s bat lying on the ground.
Cobb picked up the bat and on the next pitch rocketed the ball directly at the second baseman on one bounce, who had plenty of time to retire the sprinting Cobb.
In his final appearance, Cobb’s screeching line drive was snared by the leaping first sacker. In spite of murdering the ball, Cobb had only one hit to show for five trips to the plate. Still, with nineteen official at bats, his average was a lofty .421.
Cobb was unaware of the tongue-lashing directed at the third base coach following the game; the coach had given the steal sign without the manager’s explicit instructions. Carpenter swore that Cobb would never steal another base so long as he was on the team.
The sweep of Miami positioned the Braves in second place with a record of 7 and 5, a game and a half behind the front-running Washington Nationals.