Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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The Cloaca Maxima
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Gemma Barrows Comes to Cooperstown
    by Jamie Todd Rubin

Gemma Barrows Comes to Cooperstown
Artwork by Eric Wilkerson

Note: This article first appeared in the Creigh Monitor, Sunday edition, July 24, 2467. It is reprinted here with permission.)

It is 60 feet, 6 inches from the pitching rubber to home plate, a distance that Gemma Barrows traveled countless times in her 19-year career pitching in the majors. In one of those poetic coincidences sprinkled throughout the history of the game, Nisan is 60.6 light years from Earth. It is a distance that, until now, Barrows has never traveled. With her induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame three decades ago, Barrows was guaranteed a plot in the hallowed Memorial Park. Now, Nisan's first inductee is finally making the journey to Cooperstown.

On a blustery July 14, I watch as Gemma Barrows' casket is loaded onto the awaiting ship just outside the V.I.P. section of Terminal 2 at Gellin spaceport. Through its transparent surfaces I can just make out her quiescent figure within. She disappears into the belly of the ship. Then it is my turn to board. I say a nervous goodbye to my wife, my four girls, and my six grandchildren, and then follow the handlers down the gangway that leads into the cabin.

Each year members of the Federated Baseball Writers Association vote for one of their own to escort an inducted player to Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. This year they bestowed that honor upon me. Boarding the skip ship, my heart is racing, and I keep thinking about the distance that will separate me from my family. Baseball is a sport of numbers, and yet I cannot find a number that compares with the staggering distance that 60.6 light years represents. We take such distances for granted. Skip ships cheat their way through space the way a good runner cheats off first base.

I ask one of the handlers how long the trip will take.

"About three hours," he tells me. Just about the length of a ballgame.

The cabin is full and Gemma Barrows' casket has a place of honor carved out on the starboard side, just behind the first two rows of seats. Among the notables I see milling about are several of Gemma's former teammates, including Leland Eisley, who was part of the famous "Gemini Twins" battery of 2429. I see Delli Glouche, who writes for Nisan's Baseball Week. I see Mark Nash and Sheila Nester, broadcasters from Sports World. A woman that I don't recognize is pointed out to be the current mayor of Langdon, Gemma's hometown. Sitting quietly in the front of the cabin, keeping to himself, is Gemma's father. Her mother passed away last spring.

It is easy to tell the baseball players apart from the rest of the passengers. The players all look so old. Even Gemma's father, who I am told is past the century-mark, looks younger than most of the players, including his late daughter.

I sit with Gemma Barrows for the entire flight from Nisan to Earth. Gemma's eyes are closed, a serene countenance, the fine lines around her eyes, and brown spots on her hands the only real hints of her age. To my eyes, she looks like she is sleeping.

When the captain announces the skip, my muscles tighten involuntarily. Gemma appears calm. She had only two modes: calm or intense. I forgot to pack my calm. So I do what I always do when I need to force myself to relax. I begin to hum the opening bars of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

My family suddenly seems very far away.

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