An Undiscovered Country, part 1

By
Updated: March 22, 2017

As she waited in LA’s Union Station for the Sunset Limited train south to Yuma, Pam Postema couldn’t shake the memory of her former GM handing her a baseball card—Eddie Mathews, wasn’t it?—from some baseball game he played in the hospital.

He couldn’t remember what draft choices were, for heavens sake!

The man used to swap overpaid ball players for first round draft picks as easily as he changed socks, and now he was reduced to exchanging baseball cards! Old cards, at that. Mathews played in the 50s, Pam seemed to remember. Teammate of Henry Aaron, she thought. Her father spoke often, and glowingly, of Hammerin’ Hank. That was before her time, before she started her ill-fated umpiring career in the late 70s, before the Good Old Boys halted her career advancement at AAA—God didn’t intend for no woman to umpire in the major leagues, that’s for sure!—before she tired of the whole damn business, sued them for sex discrimination, wrote a book about her frustrations and got herself blackballed from the MLB.

Before all that, Pam had inherited her father’s love of the game. She knew no woman would play in the majors, not in her lifetime, but she dreamed she could make it to the Bigs as an ump. And she did: first woman to umpire a major league game, albeit in spring training. Her future looked golden. But she never got the call to join a major league umpiring crew. Her career stalled in AAA and no one in organized baseball wanted to hire her. For anything.

Then the old MLB collapsed and the upstart PEBA league rose from its ashes, giving Pam a new lease on life, on a life in baseball, that is. Though she was too old to umpire by then, she accepted a PR position with the Yuma Bulldozers. The club’s new GM, Mayberry, had heard of Pam, figured she deserved a place in baseball, and hired her with a phone call. Pam later learned he ran the club with phone calls, rarely bothering to meet anyone in person. But he promoted her to his assistant and later left her in charge of the whole operation when he disappeared. For 379 days, the Yuma GM just vanished! A whole season of Bulldozer baseball without a GM. Postema ran the ball club, by default. And for the first time in their history, Yuma climbed out of the cellar.

How was Pam rewarded when the GM returned late in the 2015 season? He fired her.

He fired her and now she was visiting him in a mental hospital. That made her laugh.

“Amtrak train 16, the Sunset Limited, now boarding on track number 14.” Pam grabbed her bag and headed down the concourse toward track 14, wondering what had happened to the old GM during those 379 days he disappeared and whether the cause of his being in the state hospital now lay hidden in those mysterious days.

Her phone rang. “Yes?”

“This is Nurse Boogey, Mary Boogey, from the state hospital. You were just here visiting Mr. Mayberry?” Pam confirmed she was. “We need you to return to the hospital. If you could. Please.”

“Has something happened?”

“Yes,” the nurse said.”He’s had … well, we don’t know exactly what has happened, the doctors are with him now, but he’s had a fall.”

“Is he alright?”

“Yes, … I mean, no, not really. He’s okay physically, but a concussion, it’s …”

“A concussion? A serious one?”

“We think so. He’s not making sense. He’s having delusions.”

“Delusions? What kind of delusions?”

“I can’t explain, I’m not even supposed to be talking to you, the doctors will contact you as soon as —” the nurse faltered. “You were on your way back to Yuma, right?”

“Yes. My train is departing right now.”

“Your train?”

“Amtrak.”

“You’re at the Camarillo station?”

“No, Union Station.”

“In LA?”

“Yes.”

“Oh,” the nurse said. “Then we’ll send a car for you.”

Pam was climbing the steps from the concourse to the train platform, following the crowd of passengers up to where the Sunset Limited waited. “I really need to get back to Yuma, there’s a—”

“If you don’t come back, they’ll give him more shock therapy.” The nurse waited for Pam’s response. When she didn’t hear one, she added, “That’s not what he needs.”

“Okay,” Pam said. She put her bag down on the platform. The other passengers squeezed by her, annoyed that she was blocking the narrow passage to their train. “Sorry,” she said to a old man squeezing past her.

“Don’t say that,” the nurse said. “You must come. For him. I don’t think he’ll survive another electroshock.”

“No, I wasn’t speaking to you, I was … Never mind.” Pam paused to look up at the silver train looming above her, eager to go, annoyed that she was holding it up. The rumble of its diesel engine promised an escape, a new landscape, a whole other country of experiences.

“There’s no one else?” Pam asked the nurse, but she already knew the answer. The old GM had no family, except the family he’d built in the front offices of the Yuma Bulldozers. And he kept that family at arm’s length. Even Pam.

The nurse was explaining that she, Pam, was the only visitor the old man had had since he was admitted to the hospital.

“I know,” Pam said. “But what can I do?”

“If they know you’re coming back, they’ll hold off on treatment until they can discuss it with you. But if no family can be located, well …”

“I’m not family,” Pam said.

“He listed you as his only emergency contact.”

Pam smiled. He fires her one minute, then makes her his emergency contact! Typical of his contradictory, self-serving methods. And he never told her.

“Send a car,” Pam finally said. “How long?”

“Half an hour or so.”

“That fast? The train ride from Camarillo took an hour and a half.”

“He left before I called you. The driver. With the car.”

Pam chuckled. “You were pretty confident I’d agree to return.”

“Desperate is more like it,” the nurse said.

“You seem to care about him. A bit more than usual.”

“Yes,” the nurse said after a moment.

“May I ask why?” Pam said.

The phone was silent for several seconds. Then in a voice that seemed to Pam Postema to be smiling, the nurse said, “Let’s just say … I’m a baseball fan.”