Episode 68— Chapter 77
A strong wind hits my face, causing the grass to sway as the air whistles through nearby trees. The sun is beginning to set and the sky is shaded with hues of red, orange, and purple. A glorious sunset. I feel at peace—at one with nature. There is no more throbbing, my vision is clear, so sharp. I’ve never been able to see faraway objects with such clarity.
The serenity is shattered by an ear-splitting noise coming from behind. I turn in the direction of the sound, the earth explodes revealing a large granite stone. There are words carved on the monolith. It’s all a blur, but I focus hard.
The first letters come into focus.
What does it mean?
Below her name are numerals: 1… 8… 8… 8…
1888… the year of her birth!
Oh my God! It’s her tombstone!
More numbers… the year of her death…. 1… 9…
I cry out in agony. It is her tombstone. She is dead.
The earth explodes again. Two more tombstones appear. I recoil in horror as I recognize the names of Ty, Jr. and Shirley Cobb.
Immense relief flooded Cobb’s senses with the first awareness that it had all been a dream. The sweat on his wrists, the moisture of his forehead and his furiously beating heart were all-too-common symptoms of his nocturnal state. At least, there had been a brief respite from his aching head, but now it had returned. He checked the time—it was nearly two hours before his scheduled appointment with Dr. Jacobs.
“Now I need you to place your chin here. This device is called a slit lamp—it’s just basically a microscope with a light attached—which enables us to see and chart the front and back of your eye.”
“That’s amazing, doctor. So, what will that tell you?”
“Well, since you recently suffered severe trauma to your head, it likely caused a blood vessel to burst. You may have experienced just a subcongunctival hemorrhage or a more serious vitreous hemorrhage. Blood in the back of the eye usually reabsorbs without treatment, but we’ll take a look and see exactly what’s going on.”
A few minutes later, Dr. Jacobs showed the images captured on his computer screen.
“This is a picture of the back of your right eye. The dark spot shows the accumulation of blood. That’s likely what has been causing your blurred vision. The excess blood is usually absorbed over a short period of time, but you have a couple of leaking blood vessels, most likely a result of the trauma to your head. I would recommend laser photocoagulation.”
“What’s that?” Cobb asked.
The doctor did his best to express it in layman’s terms, “… we cauterize the blood vessels with a focused high-beam of light or laser to prevent any further leakage. Your vision will be increasingly blurry during the next twenty-four hours, but then you should start seeing progress.”
Cobb left the office with topical steroids and a patch over his right eye, along with instructions to leave it in place for three days. Dr. Jacobs cautioned that premature exposure to light could prolong the recovery time and retard the healing process. Cobb arrived back at the apartment several hours in advance of the time he was expected at the stadium for the Friday night game with the visiting Chicago Cubs.
The patch remained in place until Cobb reached the ballpark. His right eye was extremely sensitive to light and his vision fuzzier than ever, worse than before the procedure. When possible, Cobb shielded his injured eye and kept it out of light.
In batting practice, Cobb looked woeful. Carpenter found himself smiling at the weak grounders and pop ups. Hell, he couldn’t even hit the ball in batting practice! It confirmed his assessment that Cobb couldn’t compete in the big leagues. Cobb’s days were numbered. Soon he would have the prima donna out of his hair forever.
Cobb sat on the bench during the home opener of the Cubs’ series. Following the game and throughout the next day, Cobb kept his eye covered.
Removing the patch just before arriving at the ballpark for the Saturday night game, Cobb was encouraged that there had been some improvement in his vision. During batting practice, he made far better contact than the night before, but his name was again missing from the starting lineup. No longer were there persistent cries from the crowd for Ty Cobb; the fickle fans’ love affair was all but forgotten.
The game became a see-saw contest with the lead changing hands several times. At the end of nine innings, the game was tied. Inning after inning, relief pitchers’ for both teams toiled, keeping batters in check until the game entered the fifteenth inning.
With his bench exhausted of position players, Carpenter reluctantly motioned to Cobb to pinch hit. The ball was no longer a white blur, though Cobb still had difficulty picking up the spin. After fouling off a pitch on a full count, he was relieved when the umpire signaled Ball Four.
Cobb was on first base when Adams split the left-center alley. With two outs, Cobb began running as soon as contact was made. He sprinted around the bases and slid home ahead of the relay, scoring the winning run. The win halted the Braves’ five-game losing skid.
In Sunday’s game, Carpenter inserted Cobb as a pinch-runner in the eighth inning of a close contest. Cobb was pleasantly surprised to receive the steal sign from the third-base coach. As he sprinted toward second, he saw the shortstop, Trap Franklin, preparing to receive the throw a foot above the bag. The ball arrived a fraction of a second ahead of Cobb as he went airborne with cleats flashing. Franklin bobbled the ball, barely evading Cobb’s cleats and Cobb arrived safely without making contact with the shortstop.
Time was called as the incensed shortstop began remonstrating at Cobb. In front of the home crowd and ignoring Franklin’s curses, Cobb dusted himself off and proceeded to mimic, with lavish embellishment, the shortstop juggling the ball while pirouetting away from the baseline out of harm’s way. The packed house erupted in laughter at Cobb’s superb mimicry.
After the game, Franklin issued a veiled threat to Cobb through a baseball beat reporter.