On his birthday, the ghost of Ty Cobb came to visit me.
I know what you’re thinking, but whatever. It happened. As I was sitting at the keyboard and struggling to come up with some sort of idea to write about, a flicker in the corner of my eye drew my attention. And when I turned, Ty Cobb was standing there.
He held a bat—I think every picture I’ve ever seen of Ty Cobb included a bat. And he glowed and shifted, just like ghosts in movies, but he seemed to grow more solid the longer I stared.
Eventually he grinned at me and nodded, just a quick bob of the Tigers cap. Go ahead.
“How are you, Dave?” Accent—must be Georgia, right?
“Mr. Cobb, it is a genuine pleasure to meet you.” I stammered something out.
He leaned on the wall and waited patiently.
“Um… Okay, why me? Assuming I’m not just crazy or drunk or both.”
“No, you’re just sleeping,” he said. “But does it matter? There are things you wanted to ask me and I’ve given bunches of interviews, go ahead and ask.”
“I don’t want to offend you.”
“Ah,” he nodded. “The racist thing, right?”
“Sure, I was born in the 19th century. In Georgia. By 21st century standards I’d be plenty racist. Everybody in my hometown was, just about. Can’t really apologize for how I was raised. I got into plenty enough scraps with black folks over my career. Guess most of it’s true, some of it’s false.”
“So is that Shoeless Joe story true?”
“The Greenville thing? Naw, some sports writer made that up.”
I fidgeted for a bit, scraping for polite ways to question the greatest natural hitter that the game ever saw, things that didn’t sound just trivial or stupid.
“Look,” Ty said. “Want to talk about something important?”
Important. What’s important, to a ghost?
“Sure, I guess?”
“What kind of legacy are you gonna leave, Dave?”
What kind of… What?
“Legacy, Mr. Cobb?”
“Ty is fine. Legacy. You’re 52 years old. What sort of impact have you made on the world? What do you want to be remembered for?”
“Hell, Ty. I don’t know that.”
“You know what History says about me. Deadball era, hall of fame hitter, racist, unlikeable asshole. Whatever mistakes or accomplishments I made with my life, that’s my legacy, right?”
“I guess so?”
“Well, I was lucky enough to get paid to do something I was good at, worked hard at, and that I really enjoyed doing. That’s what all those sports writers remembered about me, so that’s the reputation my spirit lives with. What about yours?”
“I… Don’t know, Ty.”
“Well, you think about it. If it wasn’t bothering you a little, you wouldn’t be having this dream, right?”
He pointed his bat at me.
“You still have dreams,” he said. “Work from there. You may not arrive at a world-famous lifetime legacy, but at least you can have some fun before you go. Don’t make me come visit again, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
I stared, startled, as Ty Cobb suddenly turned green and grew huge, bulging muscles that burst out of his baseball shirt. Hulked Out, right before my eyes. He flexed, and his baseball bat exploded into splinters. “Rawr.”
“Naw,” he winked. “I’m just screwing with ya. I’m a ghost, we can do that.”
“Sweet dreams, Dave. Think you can come up with a more trite way to end a story than that’un?” Ty Cobb laughed and faded away.
Son of a…
Ty Cobb really was an asshole.