Small Town Heroes
Jakob DeCosta felt good about being home again although he told nobody except Jack Granderson about his planned visit.
Jakob was visiting for business not pleasure seeing how his parents had retired to Florida and his sister was living in Rhode Island.
Jakob drove north on the interstate from Bridgeport Connecticut until he reached Blue County, taking Route 36 North to his hometown of Mt. Griffin.
Jack Granderson lived in his family's multi-generation mansion-like old Victorian on the Main Street, a block from the high school. The house looked the same as Jakob remembered it in the fifteen years that had passed since he graduated from Mt. Griffin High.
Jakob had rarely been back since graduating from Emerson College four years later. But a book idea about off the field sports heroes made him think about Mt. Griffin legend Jim Ford who died in World War II.
Jakob was also working on Bernardo "Beano" Serguci's story from nearby Hillsboro who also died in World War II and had the local amateur baseball league and stadium named after him.
Jakob's book project included nationally known sports figures – Terry Fox the one legged marathoner, Pat Tillman the NFL Player killed in Iraq, baseball great Roberto Clemente killed bringing supplies to Nicaragua after an earthquake, baseball legend Ted Williams who sacrificed the meat of his career to serve in two wars, as well as lesser known personalities like Polo player Sue Sally Hale, Wyomia Tyron from the '68 Olympics, minor league baseball player Bill Bannon who served in the Korean War, Pam Postema the first female baseball umpire, various players from the All American Women's Baseball League, and women who first played in the post Title IX era.
Jakob parked his car in the wide section at the top of the Granderson driveway and he walked to the large wrap around porch at the front of the house, stepping onto the stone steps that led to the front door, ringing the chiming doorbell.
A moment later, the large wooden door opened and Jakob found himself being greeted by an unsmiling but attractive woman close to his age, her brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. She was wearing scrub-like garb.
"Hi, I'm Jakob DeCosta," he said politely.
"I know who you are," the woman said with disapproval.
"I'm here to see Jack Granderson," Jakob let her know. "He's expecting me."
"I want to go on the record and tell you that I think this is a bad idea," the woman said.
Jakob gave her a funny look. "May I ask who you are, exactly?"
"I'm Marjorie Phillips," she answered. "Jack's caregiver and grandniece."
"Nice to meet you," Jakob said, offering her his hand.
"We've met before," She frowned. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised you wouldn't remember."
"You went to Mt. Griffin High?"
"No," she replied. "But I'd visit in the summer. You worked at Griff's Pizza."
"Did I give you bad service?" Jakob wondered, still not placing her.
"You called me a snot," Marjorie pouted.
"I remember now!" Jakob exclaimed when the memory finally flowed back into his conscious. "You had a party here. I walked seven pizzas over and you didn't tip me."
"I didn't realize I was supposed to," Marjorie admitted. "Nobody ever told me. I was fourteen. But you were mean to me."
"That's why you don't want me interviewing your uncle?" Jakob asked.
"No, of course not," she said. "I have other reasons that I'm not going to share with you."
"Because then you'll know!" She said, rolling her eyes. "I don't want you writing about it."
"I already have the story mostly written," Jakob told her. "I'm just here to get some quotes from Jack."
"Why are you staying here" Marjorie asked suspiciously.
"Jack invited me," Jakob explained with a shrug of his shoulders. "I'm doing a story on Beano Serguci down in Hillsboro too."
"The baseball guy?"
Jakob nodded affirmatively.
She let out a sigh. "I could just lie and tell Jack that you never came."
"You could," Jakob agreed.
Marjorie considered that thought for a moment. "Promise me you'll be fair," she requested.
"Maybe you should stop raising my suspicions with your resistance," Jakob suggested.
She sighed again but finally stepped back from the door and she motioned with a nod of her head for him to enter.
"Didn't you bring any luggage?" Marjorie wanted to know as he stepped into the foray.
"I thought I should visit first," he replied.
"Jack's in the den," she said. "Come with me."
Jakob had never been inside the Granderson house before. It was massive with countless well decorated rooms and high ceilings, antiques and eye catching art work on the walls.
"They don't make houses like this anymore," Jakob said with a whistle, glancing at the spiral stairwell with balcony that led to the second floor.
"I worry what will become of it after," Marjorie admitted as she led him through the living room.
Jakob noticed that one of the side rooms had been converted into a bedroom, complete with a hospital bed with rails.
"How's Jack doing?" Jakob asked with concern.
"Let's just say you've come at the right time," Marjorie replied.
The den was a large room to the left just before the formal dining room. Jakob noticed the large kitchen beyond the dining room with old fashioned cupboards and counters.
The den was paneled and had several windows. It may have once been a porch, Jakob realized as he stepped into the room. There was sports memorabilia throughout the room - photos and trophies and framed newspaper articles, a trophy case with signed basketballs and baseballs and other collectibles. There were three wide screen televisions on one wall.
Seated in the middle of the room empty of furniture except for a couch and an arm chair was a balding man with just a few strands of hair left sitting in a fancy wheelchair.
He was larger than Jakob remembered, having often seen him around town and at the various sporting events at Mt. Griffin High. He also frequented Griff's Pizza when Jakob worked there.
"Hello, Mr. Granderson, I'm Jakob DeCosta," he said, extending his hand.
"Please, call me Jack," the old man insisted, accepting the handshake.
"Or Coach," Marjorie said with affection as she stepped closer to the wheelchair. "How you doing?"
"I'm fine, Missy," Jack said with amusement. "Did you offer our guest here a refreshment?"
"Would you like anything?" Marjorie asked.
"I'm good," Jakob said, taking a seat on the couch.
"How's your Dad doing?" Jack asked.
"He's great," Jakob answered. "Retired, living in Florida."
"He was a great baseball player," Jack assessed. "Great kid. Loved having him on the team."
Marjorie took a seat in the arm chair.
"It's stunning to realize that you knew people now in their sixties when they were kids," Jakob grinned.
"When you outlive most everybody, you get to know a lot of people," Jack agreed.
"Thanks for having me, Jack, I appreciate it," Jakob said.
"Well, it isn't every day that we get a fancy sportswriter from ESPN The Magazine in these parts," he laughed.
"I've seen you on TV a few times," Marjorie remarked.
"I'd rather write," Jakob replied.
"They put your picture up on the wall in the student newspaper office at the high school," Jack let him know.
"There are plenty of grads who are much more successful than me," Jakob said. "I just happen to be in a medium that promotes celebrity."
"You wrote in high school?" Marjorie asked.
"I was editing my own neighborhood newspaper in sixth grade," Jakob revealed. "I always wanted to be a writer."
"And now I get to be in one of your books!" Jack bragged.
"It's only my second book," Jakob noted.
"Got the first one right over there," Jack said, motioning toward a built in wall bookshelf in the corner of the room.
Jakob saw The Pride of Hillsboro sitting on the table, about ball player Danny Schmidt who had a cup of coffee with the Boston Red Sox in 1912.
"I thought it was a better love story than it was a baseball book," Marjorie offered.
"You read it?" Jakob asked with a smirk, causing Marjorie to blush slightly. "Anyway, I spent a lot of time in Hillsboro researching that book about five years ago," he revealed. "I think my next book might be about the Serguci League but my editors want me to write about national stories, not regional or local."
"Write about what you know," Jack advised.
"It's time for Jack's shot," Marjorie said. "Why don't you get your things from the car," she told Jakob. "I'll show you your room when I'm done here."
"Okay," Jakob agreed, standing.
"We'll have plenty of time to talk," Jack smiled. "Welcome Home, Son."
"Thanks, Coach," Jakob replied, heading for the door.