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BASEBALL JOE IN THE CENTRAL
LEAGUE***


E-text prepared by Donald Cummings and the Online Distributed Proofreading
Team (http://www.pgdp.net)






Transcriber's note:

Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

Text enclosed by equal signs is in bold face (=bold=).





[Illustration: JOE STEADIED HIMSELF, AND SMILED AT HIS OPPONENT.]


BASEBALL JOE IN THE CENTRAL LEAGUE

Or

Making Good as a Professional Pitcher

by

LESTER CHADWICK

Author of
"Baseball Joe of the Silver Stars," "Baseball Joe at Yale,"
"The Rival Pitchers," "The Eight-Oared Victors," etc.

Illustrated







[Illustration]

New York
Cupples & Leon Company


* * * * *

=BOOKS BY LESTER CHADWICK=


=THE BASEBALL JOE SERIES=
=12mo. Cloth. Illustrated=


BASEBALL JOE OF THE SILVER STARS
Or The Rivals of Riverside

BASEBALL JOE ON THE SCHOOL NINE
Or Pitching for the Blue Banner

BASEBALL JOE AT YALE
Or Pitching for the College Championship

BASEBALL JOE IN THE CENTRAL LEAGUE
Or Making Good as a Professional Pitcher

(_Other Volumes in Preparation_)


=THE COLLEGE SPORTS SERIES=
=12mo. Cloth. Illustrated=


THE RIVAL PITCHERS
A Story of College Baseball

A QUARTER-BACK'S PLUCK
A Story of College Football

BATTING TO WIN
A Story of College Baseball

THE WINNING TOUCHDOWN
A Story of College Football

THE EIGHT-OARED VICTORS
A Story of College Water Sports

(_Other Volumes in Preparation_)

=CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, New York=

* * * * *

Copyright, 1914, by
Cupples & Leon Company

=Baseball Joe in the Central League=

Printed in U. S. A.




CONTENTS


CHAPTER PAGE
I DANGER 1
II OFF FOR THE SOUTH 13
III AN ACCUSATION 23
IV IN TRAINING 30
V THE CLASH 41
VI A STRAIGHT THROW 50
VII THE GIRL 58
VIII A PARTING 67
IX THE FIRST LEAGUE GAME 74
X BITTERNESS 84
XI OLD POP CONSOLES 92
XII THE QUEER VALISE 98
XIII MABEL 105
XIV BAD NEWS 113
XV JOE'S PLUCK 120
XVI A SLIM CHANCE 128
XVII OLD POP AGAIN 136
XVIII IN DESPAIR 144
XIX A NEW HOLD 153
XX JOE'S TRIUMPH 161
XXI A DANGER SIGNAL 168
XXII VICTORY 176
XXIII THE TRAMP AGAIN 185
XXIV ON THE TRACK 191
XXV REGGIE'S AUTO 198
XXVI THE TRAMP RENDEZVOUS 206
XXVII THE SLOW WATCH 212
XXVIII THE RACE 220
XXIX A DIAMOND BATTLE 228
XXX THE PENNANT 237




BASEBALL JOE IN THE CENTRAL LEAGUE




CHAPTER I

DANGER


"Why, here's Joe!"

"So soon? I didn't expect him until night."

The girl who had uttered the first exclamation, and her mother whose
surprise was manifested in the second, hurried to the door of the
cottage, up the gravel walk to which a tall, athletic youth was then
striding, swinging a heavy valise as though he enjoyed the weight of it.

"Hello, Mother!" he called gaily. "How are you, Sis?" and a moment later
Joe Matson was alternating his marks of affection between his mother and
sister.

"Well, it's good to be home again!" he went on, looking into the two
faces which showed the pleasure felt in the presence of the lad. "Mighty
good to be home again!"

"And we're glad to have him; aren't we, Mother?"

"Yes, Clara, of course," and Mrs. Matson spoke with a hesitation that
her son could not help noticing. "Of course we just love to have you
home Joe - - "

"There, now, Mother, I know what you're going to say!" he interrupted
with good-natured raillery. "You rather wish I'd stuck on there at Yale,
turning into a fossil, or something like that, and - - "

"Oh, Joe! Of course I didn't want you to turn into a fossil," objected
his mother, in shocked tones. "But I did hope that you might - - "

"Become a sky-pilot! Is that it, Momsey?" and he put his arm about her
slender waist.

"Joe Matson! What a way to talk about a minister!" she cried. "The
idea!"

"Well, Mother, I meant no disrespect. A sky-pilot is an ancient and
honorable calling, but not for me. So here I am. Yale will have to worry
along without yours truly, and I guess she'll make out fairly well. But
how is everything? Seen any of the fellows lately? How's father? How's
the business?"

The last two questions seemed to open a painful subject, for mother and
daughter looked at one another as though each one was saying:

"You tell him!"

Joe Matson sensed that something disagreeable was in the air.

"What is it?" he demanded, turning from his mother to his sister. "What
has happened?" It was not Joe's way to shrink from danger, or from a
disagreeable duty. And part of his success as a baseball pitcher was due
to this very fact.

Now he was aware that something had gone amiss since his last visit
home, and he wanted to know what it was. He put his arms on his mother's
shoulders - frail little shoulders they were, too - yet they had borne
many heavy burdens of which Joe knew nothing. What mother's shoulders
have not?

The lad looked into her eyes - eyes that held a hint of pain. His own
were clear and bright - they snapped with life and youthful vigor.

"What is it, Momsey?" he asked softly. "Don't be afraid to tell me. Has
anything happened to dad?"

"Oh, no, it isn't anything like that, Joe," said Clara quickly. "We
didn't write to you about it for fear you'd worry and lose that last big
game with Princeton. It's only that - - "

"Your father has lost some money!" interrupted Mrs. Matson, wishing to
have the disagreeable truth out at once.

"Oh, if that's all, we can soon fix that!" cried Joe, gaily, as though
it was the easiest thing in the world. "Just wait until I begin drawing
my salary as pitcher for the Pittston team in the Central League, and
then you'll be on Easy Street."

"Oh, but it's a great deal of money, Joe!" spoke Clara in rather awed
tones.

"Well, you haven't heard what my salary is to be."

"You mustn't make it so serious, Clara," interposed Mrs. Matson. "Your
father hasn't exactly lost the money, Joe. But he has made a number of
investments that seem likely to turn out badly, and there's a chance
that he'll have to lose, just as some others will."

"Oh, well, if there's a chance, what's the use of worrying until you
have to?" asked Joe, boy-like.

"The chances are pretty good - or, rather, pretty bad - that the money
will go," said Mrs. Matson with a sigh. "Oh, dear! Isn't it too bad,
after all his hard work!"

"There, there, Mother!" exclaimed the lad, soothingly. "Let's talk about
something pleasant. I'll go down to the works soon, and see dad. Just
now I'm as hungry as a - well, as a ball player after he's won out in the
world's series. Got anything to eat in the house?"

"Of course!" exclaimed Clara, with a laugh, "though whether it will suit
your high and mightiness, after what you have been used to at college, I
can't say."

"Oh, I'm not fussy, Sis! Trot out a broiled lobster or two, half a
roast chicken, some oysters, a little salad and a cup of coffee and I'll
try and make that do until the regular meal is ready!"

They laughed at his infectious good-humor, and a look of relief showed
on Mrs. Matson's face. But it did not altogether remove the shadow of
concern that had been there since Joe wrote of his decision to leave
Yale to take up the life of a professional baseball player. It had
been a sore blow to his mother, who had hopes of seeing him enter
the ministry, or at least one of the professions. And with all his
light-heartedness, Joe realized the shattered hopes. But, for the life
of him, he could not keep on at college - a place entirely unsuited to
him. But of that more later.

Seated at the dining-room table, the three were soon deep in a rather
disjointed conversation. Joe's sister and mother waited on him as only a
mother and sister can serve a returned son and brother.

Between bites, as it were, Joe asked all sorts of questions, chiefly
about his father's business troubles. Neither Mrs. Matson nor her
daughter could give a very clear account of what had happened, or was in
danger of happening, and the young pitcher, whose recent victory in the
college championship games had made him quite famous, remarked:

"I'll have to go down and see dad myself, and give him the benefit of
my advice. I suppose he's at the Harvester Works?"

"Yes," answered Mrs. Matson. "He is there early and late. He is working
on another patent, and he says if it's successful he won't mind about
the bad investments. But he hasn't had much luck, so far."

"I'll have to take him out to a ball game, and get the cobwebs out of
his head," said Joe, with a laugh. "It's a bad thing to get in a rut.
Just a little more bread, Sis."

"And so you have really left Yale?" asked his mother, almost hoping
something might have occurred to change her son's mind. "You are not
going back, Joe?"

"No, I've quit, Mother, sold off what belongings I didn't want to keep,
and here I am."

"And when are you going to begin pitching for that professional team?"
asked Clara, coming in with the bread.

"I can't exactly say. I've got to go meet Mr. Gregory, the manager and
the largest stockholder in the club. So far I've only dealt with Mr.
James Mack, his assistant and scout. He picked me up and made a contract
with me."

"Perhaps it won't go through," ventured Mrs. Matson, half-hopefully.

"Oh, I guess it will," answered Joe, easily. "Anyhow, I've got an
advance payment, and I can hold them to their terms. I expect I'll
be sent South to the training camp, where the rest of the players
are. The season opens soon, and then we'll be traveling all over the
circuit - mostly in the Middle West."

"Then we won't see much of you, Joe," and his sister spoke regretfully.

"Well, I'll have to be pretty much on the jump, Sis. But I'll get home
whenever I can. And if ever you get near where the Pittston club is
playing - that's my team, you know - " and Joe pretended to swell up with
pride - "why, just take a run in, and I'll get you box seats."

"I'm afraid I don't care much for baseball," sighed Mrs. Matson.

"I do!" cried Clara with enthusiasm. "Oh, we've had some dandy games
here this Spring, Joe, though the best games are yet to come. The Silver
Stars are doing fine!"

"Are they really?" Joe asked. "And since they lost my invaluable services
as a twirler? How thoughtless of them, Sis!"

Clara laughed.

"Well, they miss you a lot," she pouted, "and often speak of you. Maybe,
if you're going to be home a few days, you could pitch a game for them."

"I wouldn't dare do it, Clara."

"Why not, I'd like to know," and her eyes showed her surprise.

"Because I'm a professional now, and I can't play in amateur
contests - that is, it wouldn't be regular."

"Oh, I guess no one here would mind, Joe. Will you have some of these
canned peaches?"

"Just a nibble, Sis - just a nibble. I've made out pretty well. You can
make as good bread as ever, Momsey!"

"I'm glad you like it, Joe. Your father thinks there's nothing like
home-made bread."

"That's where dad shows his good judgment. Quite discriminating on dad's
part, I'm sure. Yes, indeed!"

"Oh, Joe, you're so - so different!" said Clara, looking at her brother
sharply.

"In what way, Sis?"

"Oh, I don't know," she said, slowly. "I suppose it's - the college
influence."

"Well, a fellow can't live at Yale, even for a short time, without
absorbing something different from the usual life. It's an education in
itself just to go there if you never opened a book. It's a different
world."

"And I wish you had stayed there!" burst out Mrs. Matson, with sudden
energy. "Oh, I don't like you to be a professional ball player! It's no
profession at all!"

"Well, call it a business then, if you like," said Joe good-naturedly.
"Say it isn't a profession, though it is called one. As a business
proposition, Mother, it's one of the biggest in the world to-day. The
players make more money than lots of professional men, and they don't
have to work half so hard - not that I mind that."

"Joe Matson! Do you mean to tell me a ball player - even one who tosses
the ball for the other man to hit at - does he make more than - than a
_minister_?" demanded his mother.

"I should say so, Mother! Why, there are very few ministers who make as
much as even an ordinary player in a minor league. And as for the major
leaguers - why, they could equal half a dozen preachers. Mind, I'm not
talking against the ministry, or any of the learned professions. I only
wish I had the brains and ability to enter one.

"But I haven't, and there's no use pretending I have. And, though I do
say it myself, there's no use spoiling a good pitcher to make a poor
minister. I'm sorry, Mother, that I couldn't keep on at Yale - sorry on
your account, not on mine. But I just couldn't."

"How - how much do you suppose you'll get a year for pitching in this
Central League?" asked Mrs. Matson, hesitatingly.

"Well, they're going to start me on fifteen hundred dollars a year,"
said Joe rather proudly, "and of course I can work up from that."

"Fifteen hundred dollars!" cried Mrs. Matson. "Why, that's more than a
hundred dollars a month!"

"A good deal more, when you figure that I don't have to do anything in
the Winter months, Mother."

"Fifteen hundred dollars!" murmured Clara. "Why, that's more than father
earned when he got married, Mother. I've heard you say so - lots of
times."

"Yes, Clara. But then fifteen hundred dollars went further in those days
than it does now. But, Joe, I didn't think you'd get so much as that."

"There's my contract, Mother," and he pulled it from his pocket with a
flourish.

"Well, of course, Joe - Oh! I _did_ want you to be a minister, or a
lawyer, or a doctor; but since you feel you can't - well, perhaps it's
all for the best, Joe," and she sighed softly. "Maybe it's for the
best."

"You'll see that it will be, Mother. And now I'm going down street and
see some of the boys. I suppose Tom Davis is around somewhere. Then I'll
stroll in on dad. I want to have a talk with him."

"Shall I unpack your valise?" asked Clara.

"Yes. I guess I'll be home for a few days before starting in at the
training camp. I'll be back to supper, anyhow," and, with a laugh he
went out and down the main street of Riverside, where the Matsons made
their home.

As Baseball Joe walked along the thoroughfare he was greeted by many
acquaintances - old and young. They were all glad to see him, for the
fame of the pitcher who had won the victory for Yale was shared, in a
measure, by his home town. In the case of baseball players, at least,
they are not "prophets without honor save in their own country."

Joe inquired for his old chum, Tom Davis, but no one seemed to have
noticed him that day, and, making up his mind he would locate him later,
the young pitcher turned his footsteps in the direction of the Royal
Harvester Works, where his father was employed. To reach the plant Joe
had to cross the railroad, and in doing this he noticed a man staggering
along the tracks.

The man was not a prepossessing specimen. His clothes were ragged and
dirty - in short "tramp" was written all over him.

"And he acts as though he were drugged, or had taken too much whiskey,"
said Joe. "Too bad! Maybe he's had a lot of trouble. You can't always
tell.

"But I'm sure of one thing, and that is he'd better get off the track.
He doesn't seem able to take care of himself.

"Look out there!" cried the young pitcher, with sudden energy. "Look out
for that freight, old man! You're walking right into danger!"

A train of freight cars was backing down the rails, right upon the man
who was staggering along, unheeding.

The engineer blew his whistle shrilly - insistently; but still the ragged
man did not get off the track.

Joe sprinted at his best pace, and in an instant had grasped
the man by the arm. The tramp looked up with bleary, blood-shot
eyes - uncomprehending - almost unseeing.

"Wha - wha's matter?" he asked, thickly.

"Matter - matter enough when you get sense enough to realize it!" said
Joe sharply, as he pulled him to one side, and only just in time, for a
second later the freight train thundered past at hardly slackened speed
in spite of the fact that the brakes had been clapped on.

The man staggered at Joe's sudden energy, and would have toppled over
against a switch had not the young pitcher held him.




CHAPTER II

OFF FOR THE SOUTH


Sweeping past, in the cab of the locomotive, the engineer leaned out and
shook his fist at the tramp.

"You ought to be locked up!" he yelled, with savage energy. Then, lest
he might not seem to appreciate Joe's action in saving the man's life
and preventing a lot of trouble for the railroad authorities, the
engineer added:

"Much obliged to you, young fellow. You saved us a bad mess. Better turn
that hobo over to one of the yard detectives. He'll take care of him,
all right."

"No, I'll get him off the tracks and start him home, if I can," answered
Joe, but it is doubtful if the engineer heard.

"You had a close call, old man," went on Joe, as he helped the tramp to
stand upright. "Better get off the railroad. Where do you want to go?"

"Hey?"

"I ask you where you want to go. I'll give you a hand, if it isn't too
far. It's dangerous here - for a man in your - condition."

"Uh! Don't make no difference where I go, I reckon," replied the man,
thickly. "No difference at all. I'm down and out, an' one place's good's
nuther. Down - an' - out!"

"Oh, well, maybe you can come back," said Joe, as cheerfully as he
could. "Don't give up."

"Come back! Huh! Guess you don't know the game. Fellers like me never
come back. Say, bo, you've got quite an arm on you," he said admiringly,
as he noted the ease with which the young pitcher helped him over the
tracks. The unfortunate man could hardly help himself. "You've got an
arm - all right."

"Oh, nothing much. Just from pitching. I expect."

"Pitching!" The man straightened up as though a lash had struck him.
"Pitching, did you say? In - er - in what league?"

"Not in any league yet, though I've signed with the Central."

"The Central? Huh! A bush league."

"I left the Yale 'varsity to go with them," said Joe, a little nettled
at the tone of the man whose life he had just saved.

"Oh - you pitched for Yale?" There was more deference shown now.

"Yes, and we beat Princeton."

"You did? An' you pitched? Say, young feller, put her there! Put
her - there!" The man held out an unsteady hand, which Joe, more to
quiet him than for any other reason, clasped firmly.

"An' you beat Princeton! Good for you! Put her there! I - er - I read
about that. I can read - I got a good education. But I - er - Oh, I'm a
fool, that's what I am. A fool! An' to think that I once - Oh, what's the
use - what's the use?"

The energy faded away from his voice, and he ended in a half sob. With
bowed head he allowed Joe to lead him across the tracks. A number of
railroad men who had seen the rescue looked at the pair, but once the
tramp was off the line, and out of immediate danger, they lost interest.

"Can I help you - do you want to go anywhere in particular?" asked Joe,
kindly.

"What's the use of goin' anywhere in particular?" was the demand. "I've
got nowhere to go. One place is as good as another when you're down - and
out. Out! Ha! Yes, out! He's out - out at first - last - out all the time!
Out!"

"Oh, quit!" exclaimed Joe, sharply, for the man was fast losing his
nerve, and was almost sobbing.

"That's right, young feller - that's right!" came the quick retort. "I do
need pullin' up. Much obliged to you. I - I guess I can take care of
myself now."

"Have you any - do you need any - money?" hesitated Joe.

"No - no, thank you. I've got some. Not much, but enough until I can
get - straightened out. I'm much obliged to you."

He walked straighter now, and more upright.

"Be careful to keep off the tracks," warned Joe.

"I - I will. Don't worry. Much obliged," and the man walked off into the
woods that adjoined the railroad.

"Poor old chap," mused the young pitcher, as he resumed his way to his
father's shop. And while I have just a few moments I will take advantage
of them to make my new readers better acquainted with Joe, and his
achievements, as detailed in the former books of this series.

The first volume is entitled "Baseball Joe of the Silver Stars," and
tells how Joe began his career as a pitcher. The Silver Stars were made
up of ball-loving lads in Riverside, a New England town where Joe lived
with his parents and his sister Clara. Mr. Matson was an inventor of
farming machinery, and had perfected a device that brought him in
substantial returns.

Joe, Tom Davis, and a number of other lads formed a team that was to
represent Riverside. Their bitterest rivals were the Resolutes of Rocky
Ford, a neighboring town, and many hot battles of the diamond were
fought. Joe rapidly developed as a pitcher, and it was due to his
efforts that his team made such an excellent showing.

In the second book, entitled, "Baseball Joe on the School Nine," I
related what happened when our hero went to Excelsior Hall, a boarding
institution just outside of Cedarhurst.

Joe did not find it so easy, there, to make a showing as a pitcher.
There was more competition to begin with, and he had rivals and enemies.
But he did not give up, and, in spite of many difficulties, he finally
occupied the mound when the annual struggle for the Blue Banner took
place. And what a game that was!

Joe spent several terms at Excelsior Hall, and then, more in deference
to his mother's wishes than because he wanted to, he went to Yale.

For an account of what happened there I refer my readers to the third
book of the series, called "Baseball Joe at Yale." Joe had an uphill
climb at the big university. Mingled with the hard work, the hopes
deferred and the jealousies, were, however, good times a-plenty. That is
one reason why Joe did not want to leave it. But he had an ambition to
become a professional ball player, and he felt that he was not fitted
for a college life.

So when "Jimmie" Mack, assistant manager of the Pittston team of the
Central League, who was out "scouting" for new and promising players,
saw Joe's pitching battle against Princeton, he made the young collegian
an offer which Joe did not feel like refusing.

He closed his college career abruptly, and when this story opens we find
him coming back from New Haven to Riverside. In a day or so he expected
to join the recruits at the training camp of the Pittston nine, which
was at Montville, North Carolina.

As Joe kept on, after his rescue of the tramp, his thoughts were busy
over many subjects. Chief among them was wonder as to how he would
succeed in his new career.

"And then I've got to learn how dad's affairs are," mused Joe. "I may
have to pitch in and help him."

Mr. Matson came from his private office in the Harvester Works, and
greeted Joe warmly.

"We didn't expect you home quite so soon," he said, as he clasped his
son's hand.

"No, I found out, after I wrote, that I was coming home, that I could
get an earlier train that would save me nearly a day, so I took it. But,
Dad, what's this I hear about your financial troubles?"

"Oh, never mind about them, Joe," was the evasive answer.

"But I want to mind, Dad. I want to help you."

Mr. Matson went into details, with which I will not tire the reader.
Sufficient to say that the inventor had invested some capital in certain
stocks and bonds the value of which now seemed uncertain.

"And if I have to lose it - I have to, I suppose," concluded Joe's father,
resignedly. "Now, my boy, tell me about yourself - and - baseball," and he
smiled, for he knew Joe's hobby.

Father and son talked at some length, and then, as Mr. Matson had about
finished work for the day, the two set out for home together. On the way
Joe met his old chum, Tom Davis, and they went over again the many good
times in which they had taken part.

Joe liked his home - he liked his home town, and his old chums, but still


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