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Igms issue 45, p.1

IGMS Issue 45, page 1


IGMS Issue 45

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IGMS Issue 45

  Issue 45 - May 2015

  Copyright © 2015 Hatrack River Enterprises

  Table of Contents - Issue 45 - May 2015

  * * *

  Gemma Barrows Comes to Cooperstown

  by Jamie Todd Rubin

  The Cloaca Maxima

  by Rob Steiner

  The Species of Least Concern

  by Erica L. Satifka

  Lost and Found

  by Christian Heftel

  Electricity Bill for a Darkling Plain

  by H.G. Parry

  The Robot Who Couldn't Lie

  by Sunil Patel

  Letter From The Editor

  by Edmund R. Schubert

  Gemma Barrows Comes to Cooperstown

  by Jamie Todd Rubin

  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.

  Gemma Barrows touched her first baseball when she was just a year old. The only child of Vassar and Selma Barrows, she spent the first seventeen years of her life on the Barrows' farm in Langdon, about forty kilometers west of Meterson. By all accounts she had a normal childhood. She attended Langdon Elementary School, and later the Verin County Consolidated High School. She was once asked in an interview when she first came to love baseball.

  "That's like asking when I first came to love Shakespeare, or cotton candy. There's not a time in my memory when I didn't love baseball."

  Late in her career, when speaking to students at Consolidated, she described herself as a "brute force" ballplayer.

  "There were lots of kids that had more talent than I did; kids to which the physical aspects of the game came naturally. I wasn't one of them. I was a terrible baseball player right up until my sophomore year here at Consolidated. But I had a good coach that year, Sam Somerville, and he saw something in me that I guess I didn't, not at first anyway. He worked me twice as a hard as the other kids just so that I could make the cut. It paid off. I landed a spot on the J.V. team when I was still a sophomore."

  By her junior year, Gemma pitched Consolidated to its first regional championship in twenty years. Her fastball was in the mid-80s. Stephanie Danvers (who would, a decade later, become the manager of the Corwin Stallions) was a scout for Emory University when Barrows was at Consolidated.

  "Lots of kids had fastballs, some of them faster than what Gemma was throwing at the time. But she had the best changeup I'd ever seen. A major league change. Her mechanics were perfect, and she knew exactly when to use it and how to sell it. She made the best batters in the league look silly with that off-speed stuff."

  Emory University courted Gemma, as did a dozen of Nisan's top schools. But Gemma opted to enter the professional draft early in her senior year at Consolidated. She was seventeen years old when the Waterloo Black Hawks took her as a first round draft pick for their triple-A affiliate in Lawrenceport. Gemma played for a season-and-a-half in triple-A before being called up to Waterloo in the summer of 2413. She played in Waterloo for three-and-half seasons, before being traded to the Creigh Prairie Bison in 2417.

  Over the course of nineteen seasons in the majors, Gemma Barrows racked up 289 wins, more than any other woman in the history of the game. Most of those wins came for the Bison, where she played the last fifteen years of her career. She won three Cy Young awards, pitched the Bison to four separate Nisan World Series, where she went undefeated in eight starts. The Bison advanced to the Quadrant Series four times in fifteen years thanks in large part to Gemma's stellar pitching.

  All of these achievements would be enough to fill a plaque in Cooperstown, but she did something even more remarkable, something that no one else in the five hundred year history of the game had ever done, something that every statistical model said was impossible.

  Of all the professional sports that humanity dragged into space, baseball is the game that has changed the least. Its long, vibrant history provides a foundation of tradition that makes the game something special. The rules of baseball have hardly changed over the course of five centuries. Where changes have been made, they have always leaned toward maintaining the tradition of the game. Nature adjusts to baseball, not the other way around. Take, for instance, the playing field.

  From Rule 1.04 ("The Playing Field") of the Official Rules of Major League Baseball, 2467 Edition:

  (a) Any playing field constructed by a professional league club after November 1, 2269, must reside within a gravity of 0.96 to 1.04 Earth equivalents, or use artificial gravity to adjust to Earth standard.

  (b) If artificial gravity is used to augment the gravity of the playing field, the net gravity must be equal to exa
ctly 1.0 Earth standard (1 "gee").

  (c) Any field constructed according to 1.04(a) which does not use artificial gravity shall provide a minimum distance from home plate to the nearest fence, stands, or other obstruction according to Table No. 1 below to account for variations in gravity from Earth standard.

  There is no jarring when we come out of the skip, no internal vertigo, no sign whatsoever that we'd left normal space or returned to it. The captain announces our arrival in the Solar System. You can almost hear the capital letters in his words. We will, he tell us, be arriving at Rockmount shortly.

  Earth does not allow landings. Your ship docks at Rockmount, a massive asteroid in geosynchronous orbit, a counterweight to the Anchorside space elevator. A crawler takes you down the elevator to Earth. The ride in a crawler takes three days. Three hours to go sixty light years, followed by three days to go that last 40,000 kilometers.

  Out my window the glow of the Earth dampens out the stars, one which is my home. It is a strange feeling to be so far from home so quickly. I look about the cabin. The party atmosphere continues, pitched with the excitement of our imminent arrival on Earth. I catch Leland Eisley looking at me, and wave him over.

  Eisley looks ancient, a clear sign he was a baseball player. "Congratulations, Ed," he said, holding out a fragile-looking hand. I take it thinking: that hand once caught two of the most remarkable games in history. "I liked your piece on Marty Forrester in Sports Week. He was quite a character."

  "Thanks," I say. "Can I ask you a question?"

  "On or off the record?" Eisley jokes, giving me a sly wink.

  "Everything here is off the record."


  "How did you guys get the nickname 'Gemini Twins'?"

  Eisley looks at me curiously. "You really don't know?"

  I shake my head.

  "You ain't kidding?" His laugh is phlegmy, the sound of crumpling paper. "It's not all that complicated. Everyone has a nickname. Gemma was 'Gem' for obvious reasons. Guys have been calling me 'Eye' or 'Eyes' ever since I've been playing ball.

  "We did a lot of games together, and I would go around the clubhouse saying things like, 'Gem and I figured we'd . . .' or 'Gem and I worked out plan for . . .' I said it a lot, I guess, and someone, might have been Craig Hayes, finally said, 'Gem and I this, Gem and I that. You guys might as well be twins.' 'Gemini Twins,' Lucy Sanchez said suddenly. And it stuck."

  I laugh, having never heard that particular story before.

  Eisley's face turns toward Gemma, and the laughter fades. "I can't believe she's gone," he says, "but I'm glad she coming to Cooperstown."

  When I was fifteen years old my father took me to a Bison game at Carue-Hauley Stadium, and I saw Gemma Barrows pitch. This would have been sometime in 2417, her first season with the Bison. The park had yet to be refurbished; the left field bleachers were still completely exposed to sunlight, wind, and rain.

  My old man and I had been going through a rough patch. This game was a gesture on his part, and I took it as such. We called a truce, and under the blazing red-orange sun, we ate hot dogs and popcorn, and watched baseball. I kept score. My dad drank a beer, and when he'd finished off two-thirds, he handed me the cup with a look that said, "Don't tell your mother." It was another gesture.

  Gemma Barrows started the game, but she didn't finish it. She didn't make it out of the third inning.

  During the eighth inning with the Bison losing 15-3, my old man tapped me on the shoulder. "Come on."

  "Game's not over yet," I said, flicking my pen against the scorecard.

  "Come on," he said, and made his way down the aisle and up the steep, narrow steps that led to the concession concourse. I followed, and we fell in with hundreds of others who'd given up on the Bison that day. Outside the stadium, the crowd veered to the right, where the autotaxis waited in a glittering line. My father veered left, following the curve of the building and down a ramp to a nondescript double-door with the word PRIVATE on it. Across the street was a small fenced-in area and through the fence I could make out private cars.

  "Player's cars," my father said, "this is where they'll come out after the game. Maybe we can get an autograph." I shrugged. I had no idea what I'd do with an autograph from a baseball player. But my Dad and I were getting along for a change, and I decided not to rustle the grass.

  Eventually the players began to emerge from the door in clusters of two and three, wearing their street clothes. A few more fans had gathered, and some of the players walked over to where we stood, ready to sign a baseball, a scorecard, or t-shirt. The afternoon winds had picked up, and clouds raced across the sky, their shadows gliding over the pavement like two-dimensional ghosts.

  When the door opened again, Gemma Barrows stepped out. She was dressed in street clothes, but her matte black hair was unmistakable. She didn't smile, she didn't seem to notice those of us standing off to the side. She walked head-down, lost in thought, perhaps trying to figure out how she only managed to go 2 innings that day.

  "She was terrible," I observed to my father.

  "She won't always be terrible."

  Barrows didn't head to the fenced in parking where the other players had gone. Instead she walked passed us in the direction of the autotaxis. No one stopped her for an autograph as she passed by.

  I chased after her. I'm not sure why. Pity, perhaps? "Miss Barrows?"

  She stopped and turned to face me. I can still see that face, a much younger version of the woman I was escorting to her final resting place on Earth. "Yes?"

  I looked around, uncertain what to do or say next. I saw that I was still holding my scorecard. "Can I get your autograph?"

  A shadow seemed to lift from her face. It was like the sun emerging from behind a prairie deluge. Her eyes gleamed. "Of course, I'd happy to." She took the scorecard and my pen. "What's your name?"

  "Eddie," I said, "Eddie O'Halloran." It was still a decade before my byline would shorten my name to Ed.

  She wrote for what seemed like a long time, and then handed back the scorecard and pen.

  "Thanks," I said.

  She smiled, winked at me, and without a word, resumed her walk toward the autotaxis. But there was a bounce in her step that I hadn't seen before. I looked down at the scorecard to see what she'd written:

  Dear Eddie, You made my day! Thanks for coming to the game. Come again, and I promise I'll do better next time. Best wishes, Gemma Barrows.

  That scorecard with Gemma Barrows' note is tucked securely into my jacket pocket as our ship docks at Rockmount, and we are escorted to the specially reserved crawler that awaits us.

  I have a lot of time to think on the descent to Earth. The crawler moves at such a slow pace it hardly seems to move at all. Yet eventually it will take us safely through the atmosphere and down to the surface. It makes me think of small beginnings. In baseball, the most innocuous beginnings can lead to the most unexpected endings. Unlike football or basketball or soccer or hockey, there is no clock. Baseball is a game outside of time.

  On August 25, 2429, I'd been a baseball columnist for the Nisan Sports Week for just over two years. Gemma's small beginning took place on that day, although I didn't learn of it until the following day. And even after I read about it and saw it in the highlights, it never occurred to me that it was the beginning of something momentous.

  Barrows was in her 16th year in the majors, her 12th with the Creigh Prairie Bison. She'd been steadily racking up W's and if she could stay healthy and hang on for a few more seasons, she was almost certain to overtake Callista Seamus's 277 career win record. Sportswriters were already beginning to whisper the possibility of Gemma Barrows' name on a Hall of Fame ballot when the time came.

  But she'd hit a rough patch earlier that season, and Bison manager Evander Neiland moved her to the bullpen for a while to shake things up. And that is why on a warm August day, with the Bison winning 7-2 over the Lake Monsters, Neiland brought in Gemma to relieve in the 8th.

  Barrows was
efficient that afternoon, sweeping away all six batters she faced, striking out four of them. She threw nineteen pitches. Such was the quiet grace with which the single greatest record in baseball began.

  Tradition is the lifeblood of baseball, in many ways quite literally. Football players are allowed muscle enhancements. Basketball players are allowed artificial knee replacements. Golfers often use enhanced corneas. Many professional sports -- long distance running, for instance -- allow synthetic blood replacements, oxygen-rich plasmas that allow for greater stamina.

  And consider those of us who don't play a professional sport. The Nisan Institute of Health says that by fifty, most of us will have had complete joint replacements; by our mid-sixties, we've had vision enhancements. And then there are body augmentations for fashion purposes.

  Yet while physical enhancements have become a staple of modern culture, baseball repudiates them, an irony that will not escape baseball historians. Strict testing helps ensure that all major league baseball players play the game with their natural talent and physical abilities. For a kid who wants to grow up to be a major league ballplayers, they must decide early to avoid the kinds of physical enhancements that their friends, schoolmates, and peers are routinely getting.

  This lack of physical enhancement is reflected in baseball's demographics. It is rare for a major league career to last more than two decades. On the other hand, the game of baseball today is the same physical sport played by the pantheon of legends the game has created. You can't say that about football or basketball.

  Gemma Barrows played for ninteen seasons, an above average duration for a major league career. You would think that after two decades of watching friends and family stay young and spry, while a ballplayer ages visibly before their eyes, the first thing a player would do upon retiring is trade in their old, beat-up equipment for shiny new gear. But that rarely happens.

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