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.
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
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.