Episode 73— Chapter 82
“Mister Cobb,” Bolt glanced across the desk and cringed at the sight of Cobb’s battered face, then returned his focus to the view. He had been furious when he had learned of Cobb’s antics in Philadelphia, but once he had reached his decision, he had cooled off; there was no reason not to be civil.
“I want to thank you for giving me one of the most entertaining months I’ve had in years. And… you gave me… gave us… hope for a time. You know, three or four weeks ago, when we were playing winning ball and you were playing like… well, like the Ty Cobb, you had me believing the impossible. Hell, I even started to worry I might have to cut you a check for a hundred mill…”
Actually it wouldn’t have hurt at all, Bolt thought. Except for the money I wasted on that damn premium. I would have given my eye teeth if you could have pulled it off.
Cobb’s face showed no emotion.
“But, you and I both know that you don’t belong here. And, as I’m sure you’re aware, there are a lot of players who want you off the team. I was deeply disappointed to hear about the your skirmish in Philly. That was really the straw the broke the camel’s back. It seems trouble follows you wherever you go and the league has voiced their displeasure with that event and even signaled you might face consequences. Hell, I could probably put up with that if you were producing on the field, but as you and I both know you haven’t hit a lick in the past month. A few more at bats and you’ll fall under the Mendoza line,” Bolt said, referring to the ex-Pirate shortstop from the previous millennium who’d had great difficulty keeping his batting average over .200. “Your fielding’s been erratic, too. Some of your errors cost us dearly just when we were starting to get things going.
“Hey, don’t get me wrong. You’ve got some talent. You’re run like the wind and play with the enthusiasm and energy of a Pete Rose. But you’re not major league caliber. Not yet, anyway. Now, if I thought you’d even consider going down to the minor leagues for a spell, we might….”
Cobb shook his head. “No, thank you. I don’t want any part of that.”
“I understand—you made that clear before. But you can’t expect to jump out of nowhere and hit major-league pitching. I only regret that the media’ll probably thinking I’m buckling under pressure from the league to release you…”
Cobb’s mind was a million miles away, in a different time, a different place. He preferred the slower pace of his old life, the classically-designed buildings, even the smell of grease and soot. He ached for the companionship of his wife and children. He yearned to be the king of the baseball world, as he had been before. He had lived long enough in the future and had endured enough of its leisure, alluring comforts and artificial enticements; it was time to return, if only he could find his way back.
“…it’s not about the money. I’ll give you a month’s severance and you can stay in the condo until the end of June…” Though he didn’t believe it, Bolt added, “Who knows, maybe you can hook up with another club.” Though Cobb had talent, he imagined that Cobb would be a disruptive force on any other team and engender the same resentment among veterans he had with the Braves; he didn’t expect any other club to take a flyer on him.
All Cobb wanted to do was leave the room, run away. He had to get as far away from this suffocating, humiliating world as possible. He couldn’t bear to show his face; he couldn’t bear to face the media, not after the way he had performed during the past few weeks. He would devote all of his energies to finding his way back. Suddenly his mind seized on an idea—he would contact the parapsychologist he had encountered on the Jason Coventry talk show–Dr. Sterling. Maybe he could help. After all, there were apparently others who had experienced a similar time displacement.
“… too much dissension on the team. I don’t say it’s all your fault. But the veterans, not to mention Carpenter, have been lobbying for your release since day-one. You’re a renegade, a loose cannon out there. Your style of play can be exciting—but it’s also dangerous. They play a different brand of ball nowadays. And, there’s got to be some discipline, some order… I know you defied Carpenter more than once…”
Cobb had heard enough. He had an overwhelming desire to flee the office, to contact Dr. Sterling. He remembered where he had placed Sterling’s business card; it was in the top drawer of the bedroom bureau.
In the middle of Bolt’s dissertation, Cobb stood up. Bolt stopped short, mildly surprised at the interruption. “I’m sorry I let you down, sir. You’ve been fair to me and I wish your team success.” Bolt stood up, extending his hand; it had been far easier than he had expected.
“Good luck, Mr. Cobb,” Bolt grasped Cobb’s hand firmly. Cobb turned and started walking toward the door. “I’ll have Marilyn transfer the severance pay to your bank account by week’s end…”
Cobb couldn’t get out of the building quick enough. Once into the corridor, his pace quickened. Cobb sped to his apartment in the suburbs as quickly as the traffic and stop lights permitted. He felt relief at being free of his commitment to the team; now he could focus on something far more pressing.
He rushed into his apartment, his heart pounding. He entered the bedroom and opened the top drawer. He was grateful the card was where he had laid it several weeks before. He sat on the bed and immediately began dialing Dr. Sterling’s office in Massachusetts. The phone began to ring. It was 11:45; hopefully the scientist hadn’t left for lunch yet. The rings continued. Just as Cobb’s spirits were beginning to fall, a female voice answered.
“Dr. Sterling’s office.”
Taking in a deep breath, his heart still pumping madly, Cobb spoke, “May I have a few words with Dr. Sterling, ma’am?”
“I’m sorry, but he’s in a meeting. May I ask who’s calling?”
“I must speak to him, ma’am. It’s very important!”
“I’m terribly sorry, but he can’t be disturbed.”
Cobb felt asphyxiated. “Ma’am, would you please tell him it is Ty Cobb on the line? I was on a talk show with him recently. It’s vital I speak to him!”
The distress in his voice caused the secretary to relent. “Hold the line. I’ll let him know you’re on the line and see if he can be interrupted…”
Cobb waited anxiously, his breathing hurried. The doctor had to be available. The very molecules of his world seemed to be disintegrating, his world collapsing. Seconds passed as hours, while Cobb waited impatiently for a voice on the line.
It was the female voice again. “Dr. Sterling can’t talk now. He says he will call you back.”
“I need to talk to him now,” Cobb uttered in a pleading tone.
“I’m terribly sorry, but he can’t be disturbed.”
Cobb enunciated his phone number and hung up. During the rest of the afternoon and early evening, he waited patiently, in vain, for the call, but it didn’t come.
He turned on the television with the remote control—the channel was tuned to ESPN where it had been last. Moments later, Cobb heard a commentator’s voice, “Sports alert. Ty Cobb has just been released by the Atlanta Braves.”
It surprised him how much the words sickened him—he had been branded a failure. He quickly changed the channel; the other news was equally depressing.
“Rayshon Lennings passed away earlier today. The heavy African American population in Bankhead, a neighborhood located on the west side of Atlanta, has staged a protest outside the police department. Police are bracing for retaliation and the mayor is scheduled to speak in thirty minutes….”
Cobb switched to another channel and saw people marching in D.C., seeking the ouster of a Supreme Court Justice who had been accused of sexual assault by a clerk. On another channel, there was news about the notorious free-way sniper, who had shot and killed a policeman in Ohio; the third shooting death of a mid-western highway patrolman in the last month.
There is rampant crime and widespread civil disobedience here. I’m living in a world gone mad.
Cobb couldn’t wait to find a way out.