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stories & essays


cory jenkins
Cleveland writer Cory Jenkins grew up in an era when the Cleveland Indians couldn't win a game fer nuthin. He has fond memories anyway, and is working on a book of baseball-themed prose pieces.


Three Baseball Bits

Memo to ray chapman in 1920
Good morning Ray. How do you feel today? You don't look too good. I got an idea. Call Tris and tell him you're sick. Why don't you take the day off? Stay at the hotel. Stay in bed. You can miss today's game. Read the paper. Read a book. Maybe take a walk later. If you feel better after that, stop in at a joint and have a seltzer. Or go to a nice restaurant. You're in the Big Apple, man. Take in a Broadway play. Catch a jazz show. Or just go to bed early. Fall asleep listening to the radio. Do anything, but just do me one favor Ray. Don't go to the Polo Grounds today. Please.

Home run
My grandparents house was on E 34th St. between Superior Ave. and Payne Ave., right downtown. Sometimes, we would be there for dinner on a Sunday afternoon, and my grandmother would suddenly start going, "Shhh shhh, quiet," and stop us all from talking. She would have her ear cocked toward the window. In the distance, you could hear snap, pop, pop, bang! In those days, in the early 1970s, you could never be sure if the sound wasn't gunfire, but more than likely, it was something else. "Someone just hit a home run," my grandmother would say softly, almost reverentially. Then we would all go back to our roast pork and sauerkraut.

God gives Bob Feller his fastball
Bob Feller, 16 years old, lopes around the family farm in Iowa, comes upon a rock and tosses it at the side of a barn. It doinks off the side, and bounces to the ground. Bob Feller, picks up rocks and throws them at anything he can find -- barns, field mice, corn stalks, whatever.

Bob Feller with an old baseball, tosses it at a target painted on the side of a barn. The old ball dunt-dunts against the barn. One day, aiming for the target, a mouth appears on the side of the barn -- a mouth with muscular lips, just the hint of white teeth beyond it, and beyond that just an eternal internal darkness swirling into calm nothingness.

Bob, the voice said, in a tone neither huge nor tiny, neither focused nor unclear, do you want to throw the speedball by 'em? Why yes, I do, Bob Feller replies. Then be it so, the voice said, if you agree to one thing. Anything, Bob Feller said. You shall go to the land of the Major Leagues with the speedball and you shall find great success -- but when that success is over, you must never forsake the game, and you must autograph whatever is passed to you. Balls, shirts, napkins, arms, whatever.

I will, Bob Feller says. And with that, the mouth disappears. Bob Feller retrieves the baseball, as if nothing strange happened and goes back to what he is doing. He rears back and throws the ball at the target yet again, but this time it's different. The ball slams into the side of the barn, and crashes right through. Bob Feller raises one eyebrow and smiles. That night, he practices writing his name. And to this day, he still practices.

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