Lester Chadwick.

Baseball Joe in the Central League; or, Making Good as a Professional Pitcher online

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was going to have a lot of trouble opening the bag when he came into the
station pretending he wanted a drink of water. It was a foreign-make
valise, he said, but it opened easier than he thought and he got a watch
and a lot of trinkets that ladies like."

"He did?" asked Joe, and his voice sounded strange, even to himself.

"Yes. Why, do you know anything about it?" asked Pop in some surprise.

"I might," said Joe, trying to speak calmly. "Would you remember how
this bag looked if I told you?"

"I think so."

"Was it a yellow one, of a kind of leather that looked like walrus hide,
and did it have two leather handles, and brass clips in the shape of
lions' heads?"

"Yes - that's exactly how Hogan described it," said Pop. "But - why - - "

"And would you remember the name of the station at which the robbery
took place?" asked Joe. "That is if you heard it?"

"I think so."

"Was it Fairfield?"

"That's it! Why, Joe, what does this mean? How did you know all this?
What is Hogan to you?"

"Nothing much, Pop, unless he proves to be the fellow who took the stuff
I was accused of taking," answered Joe, trying to speak calmly. "Do you
know where we could find this man again?"

"You mean Hogan?"

"Yes. I'm going to tackle him. Of course it's only a chance, but I
believe it's a good one."

"Oh, I guess we can easily locate him," said Pop. "He hasn't any money
to get far away."

"Then come on!" cried Joe, eagerly. "I think I'm at last on the track of
the man who took the stuff from Reggie Varley's valise. Pop, this means
more to me than you can imagine. I believe I'm going to be cleared at
last!"

"Cleared! You cleared? What of?" asked the old ball player in
bewilderment.

"I'll tell you," said Joe, greatly excited. "Come on!"




CHAPTER XXV

REGGIE'S AUTO


Hardly understanding what was afoot, and not in the least appreciating
Joe's excitement, Pop Dutton followed the young pitcher across the
diamond.

"What are you going to do?" asked the old player, as he hurried on after
Joe.

"Get into my street togs the first thing. Then I'm going to try and find
that fellow - Hogan, did you say his name was?"

"One of 'em, yes. But what do you want of him?"

"I want him to tell when and where he took that stuff from the queer
valise. And I want to know if he has any of it left, by any chance,
though I don't suppose he has. And, in the third place, I want to make
him say that I didn't take the stuff."

Pop Dutton drew a long breath.

"You, Joe!" he exclaimed. "You accused?"

"Yes. It's a queer story. But I'm beginning to see the end of it now!
Come on!"

They hurried into the dressing rooms. Most of the other players had
gone, for Joe and Pop had been delayed out on the diamond talking to
Hogan. Charlie Hall was there, however, and he looked curiously at Joe.

"Anything the matter?" asked the young shortstop.

"Well, there may be - soon," answered his friend. "I'll see you later.
Tell Gregory that I may be going out of town for a while, but I'll sure
be back in time for to-morrow's game."

"All right," said Charlie, as he went in to take a shower bath.

"Now, Pop," spoke Joe, as he began dressing, "where can we find this
Hogan?"

"Oh, most likely he'll be down around Kelly's place," naming a sort of
lodging-house hang-out for tramps and men of that class.

"Then down there we'll go!" decided the young pitcher. "I'm going
to have an interview with Hogan. If I'd only known he was the one
responsible for the accusation against me I'd have held on to him while
he was talking to you. But I didn't realize it until afterward, and then
the officer had put him outside. He was lost in the crowd. But suppose
he isn't at Kelly's?"

"Oh, someone there can tell us where to find him. But it's a rough
place, Joe."

"I suppose so. You don't mind going there; do you?"

"Well, no, not exactly. True, a lot of the men I used to trail in with
may be there, but, no matter. They can't do any more than gibe me."

"We could take a detective along," suggested Joe.

"No, I think we can do better by ourselves. I don't mind. You see after
I - after I went down and out - I used to stop around at all the baseball
towns, and in that way I got to know most of these lodging-house places.
This one in Washburg is about as rough as any."

"How did you come to know Hogan?"

"Oh, I just met him on the road. He used to be a good railroad man, but
he went down, and now he's no good. He's a boastful sort, and that's how
he came to tell me about the valise. But I never thought you'd be mixed
up in it."

"Of course I can't be dead certain this is the same valise that was
robbed," said Joe; "but it's worth taking a chance on. I do hope we can
find him."

But they were doomed to disappointment. When they reached Kelly's
lodging-house Hogan had gone, and the best they could learn, in the
sullen replies given by the habitu├ęs, was that the former railroad man
had taken to the road again, and might be almost anywhere.

"Too bad!" exclaimed Pop sympathetically, as he and Joe came out.

"Yes, it is," assented the young pitcher, "for I did want Reggie Varley
to know who really robbed his valise." Perhaps Joe also wanted a certain
other person to know. But he did not mention this, so of course I cannot
be sure. "Better luck next time!" exclaimed the young pitcher as
cheerfully as he could.

They endeavored to trace whither Hogan had gone, but without success.
The best they could ascertain was that he had "hopped a freight," for
some point west.

Joe did not allow the disappointment to interfere with his baseball
work. In the following games with Washburg he fitted well into the tight
places, and succeeded, several times, when the score was close, in being
instrumental in pulling the Pittston team out a winner.

On one occasion the game had gone for nine innings without a run on
either side, and only scattered hits. Both pitchers - Joe for Pittston,
and young Carrolton Lloyd for Washburg - were striving hard for victory.

The game came to the ending of the ninth, with Washburg up. By fortunate
chance, and by an error on the part of Charlie Hall, the home team got
two men on bases, and only one out. Then their manager made a mistake.

Instead of sending in a pinch hitter - for a hit was all that was needed
to score the winning run, the manager let the regular batting order be
followed, which brought up the Washburg pitcher. Lloyd was tired out,
and, naturally, was not at his best. He popped up a little fly, which
Joe caught, and then sending the ball home quickly our hero caught
the man coming in from third, making a double play, three out and
necessitating the scoring of another zero in the ninth frame for
Washburg.

Then came the tenth inning. Perhaps it was his weariness or the memory
of how he had had his chance and lost it that made Lloyd nervous.
Certainly he went to pieces, and giving one man his base on balls,
allowed Joe to make a hit. Then came a terrific spell of batting and
when it was over Pittston had four runs.

It was then Joe's turn to hold the home team hitless, so that they might
not score, and he did, to the great delight of the crowd.

This one feat brought more fame to Joe than he imagined. He did not
think so much of it himself, which is often the case with things that we
do. But, in a way, it was the indirect cause of his being drafted to a
big league, later on.

The season was now drawing to a close. The race for the pennant was
strictly between Pittston and Clevefield, with the chances slightly in
favor of the latter. This was due to the fact that there were more
veteran players in her ranks, and she had a better string of pitchers.

A week or so more would tell the tale. Pittston and Clevefield would
play off the final games, the best three out of four, two in one town
and two in the other.

Interest in the coming contests was fast accumulating and there was
every prospect of generous receipts.

The winners of the pennant would come in for a large share of the gate
receipts, and all of the players in the two leading teams were counting
much on the money they would receive.

Joe, as you may well guess, planned to use his in two ways. The major
part would go toward defraying the expenses of his father's operation.
It had not yet been definitely settled that one would be performed, but
the chances were that one would have to be undertaken. Then, too, Joe
wanted to finance the cost of getting Dutton's arm into shape. A
well-known surgeon had been consulted, and had said that a slight
operation on one of the ligaments would work wonders. It would be rather
costly, however.

"Joe, I'm not going to let you do it," said Pop, when this was spoken
of.

"You can't help yourself," declared Joe. "I saved your life - at least
I'm not modest when it comes to that, you see - and so I have, in a way,
the right to say what I shall do to you. Besides, if we win the pennant
it will be due, as much as anything, to the instruction you gave me. Now
will you be good!"

"I guess I'll have to," agreed Pop, laughingly.

Pittston closed all her games with the other teams, excepting only
Clevefield. The pennant race was between these two clubs. Arrangements
had been made so that the opening game would be played on the Pittston
grounds. Then the battle-scene would shift to Clevefield, to come back
to Pittston, and bring the final - should the fourth game be needed, to
Clevefield.

"If we could only win three straight it would be fine," said Joe.

"It's too much to hope," returned Pop.

It was the day before the first of the pennant games. The Pittstons had
gone out for light practice on their home grounds, which had been
"groomed" for the occasion. As far as could be told Pittston looked to
be a winner, but there is nothing more uncertain than baseball.

As Joe and his mates came off the field after practice there shuffled up
to the veteran player a trampish-looking man. At first Joe thought this
might be Hogan again, but a second look convinced him otherwise. The man
hoarsely whispered something to the old pitcher.

"He says Hogan and a gang of tramps are in a sort of camp in Shiller's
Woods," said Pop, naming a place that was frequently the abiding place
of "gentlemen of the road."

"He is?" cried Joe. "Then let's make a beeline for there. I've just got
to get this thing settled! Are you with me, Pop?"

"I sure am. But how are we going to get out there? It's outside the city
limits, no car line goes there, and trains don't stop."

"Then we've got to have an auto," decided Joe. "I'll see if we can hire
one."

He was on his way to the dressing rooms, when, happening to glance
through the big open gate of the ball ground he saw a sight that caused
him to exclaim:

"The very thing! It couldn't be better. I can kill two birds with one
stone. There's our auto, and the man in it is the very one I want to
convince of my innocence! That's Reggie Varley. I'll make him take us to
Shiller's Woods! We'll catch Hogan there. Come on!"

Never stopping to think of the peculiar coincidence that had brought
Reggie on the scene just when he was most needed, Joe sprinted for the
panting auto, Pop following wonderingly.




CHAPTER XXVI

THE TRAMP RENDEZVOUS


"Come on!" cried Joe to Reggie Varley, not giving that astonished young
man a chance to greet him. "Come on! Got plenty of gas?"

"Gas? Yes, of course. But where? What is it? Are they after you?"

"Not at all. We're after _them_!" laughed Joe. He could afford to laugh
now, for he felt that he was about to be vindicated.

"But I - er - I don't understand," spoke Reggie, slowly. "Where is it you
want to go?"

"After the tramp who rifled the valise you suspected me of opening in
that way-station some time ago," answered Joe quickly. "We're after him
to prove I didn't do it!"

"Oh, but my dear Matson - really now, I don't believe you took it. Sis
went for me red-hot, you know, after you told her. She called me all
kinds of a brute for even mentioning it to you, and really - - "

He paused rather helplessly, while Joe, taking the situation into his
own hands, climbed up beside Reggie, who was alone in his big car. The
young pitcher motioned for Pop to get into the tonneau, and the veteran
did so, still wondering what was going to happen.

"It's all right," laughed Joe, more light-hearted than he had been in
many months. "If you'll take us to Shiller's Woods you may see something
that will surprise you."

"But still I don't understand."

Joe explained briefly how Hogan, the railroad tramp, had boasted of
robbing a valise corresponding to Reggie's. Hogan was now within five
miles of Pittston, hiding in a tramps' camp, and if he was arrested, or
caught, he might be made to tell the truth of the robbery, clear Joe,
and possibly inform Reggie where the watch and jewelry had been disposed
of.

"I don't suppose he has any of it left," said Reggie, simply. "There was
one bracelet belonging to sis that I'd like awfully much to get back."

"Well, we can try," answered Joe, hopefully.

"Sometimes," broke in Pop, "those fellows can't dispose of the stuff
they take, and then they hide it. Maybe we can get it back."

"Let's hope so," went on Reggie. "And now, where do you want to go? I'll
take you anywhere you say, and I've got plenty of gas."

"Shiller's Woods," returned Joe. "Do you know where it is, Pop?"

"Yes. I've been there - once or twice."

"And now," went on Joe, as he settled back in the seat, still in his
baseball uniform, as was Pop Dutton, "how did you happen to be here?"
and he looked at Reggie.

"Why, I had to come up in this section on business for dad, and sis
insisted that I bring her along. So we motored up, and here we are. Sis
is at the Continental."

"Our hotel!" gasped Joe. "I didn't see her!" His heart was beating
wildly.

"No, I just left her there," returned Reggie. "She is wild to see these
final games - - "

"I hope she sees us win," murmured Joe.

"But about this chase," went on Reggie. "If we're going up against a lot
of tramps perhaps we'd better have a police officer with us."

"It wouldn't be a bad idea," agreed Pop. "We can stop and pick up a
railroad detective I know. They'll be glad of the chance to raid the
tramps, for they don't want them hanging around."

"Good idea," announced Joe, who was still puzzling over the manner in
which things fitted together, and wondering at the absurdly simple way
in which Reggie had appeared on the scene.

The car sped away from the ball field, purring on its silent, powerful
way. Pop Dutton gave directions as to the best roads to follow, and a
little distance out of Pittston he called a halt, in order that a
railroad detective might be summoned.

They found one at a small branch freight station, and this man called a
companion, so there were five who proceeded to the rendezvous of the
tramps in Shiller's Woods.

It is not a difficult matter to raid the abiding place of the men,
unfortunates if you will, who are known as "hoboes," and tramps. They
are not criminals in the usual sense of the term, though they will
descend to petty thievery. Usually they are "pan-handlers," beggars and
such; though occasionally a "yegg-man," or safe-blower, will throw in
his lot with them.

But for the most part the men are low characters, living as best they
can, cooking meager meals over a camp fire, perhaps raiding hen-roosts
or corn fields, and moving from place to place.

They have no wish to defy police authority, and usually disappear at the
first alarm, to travel on to the next stopping place. So there was no
fear of any desperate encounter in this raid.

The railroad detectives said as much, and expressed the belief that they
would not even have to draw their revolvers.

"We'll be glad of the chance to clean the rascals out," said one
officer, "for they hang around there, and rob freight cars whenever
they get the chance."

"But we'd like a chance to talk to them - at least to this Hogan,"
explained Joe. "We want to find what he did with Mr. Varley's jewelry."

"Well, then, the only thing to do is to surround them, and hold them
there until you interview them," was the decision. "I guess we can do
it."

Shiller's Woods were near the railroad line, in a lonesome spot, and the
outskirts were soon reached. The auto was left in charge of a switchman
at his shanty near a crossing and the occupants, consisting of the two
detectives, Joe, Pop and Reggie, proceeded on foot. They all carried
stout cudgels, though the officers had revolvers for use in emergency.

But they were not needed. Pop Dutton knew the way well to a little
hollow where the tramps slept and ate. He led the others to it, and so
quietly did they approach that the tramps were surrounded before they
knew it.

Down in a grassy hollow were half a dozen of them gathered about a fire
over which was stewing some mixture in a tomato can, suspended over the
flame on a stick, by means of a bit of wire.

"Good afternoon, boys!" greeted one of the officers, as he stood up, and
looked down on the men. It was apparent at first glance that Hogan was
one of them. Pop had silently indicated him.

The tramps started up, but seeing that they were surrounded settled back
philosophically. Only Hogan looked eagerly about for a way of escape.

"It's no go," said one of the railroad detectives. "Just take it easy,
and maybe you won't be so badly off as you imagine."

Hogan had been found at last. It developed that Pop had asked his former
"friends of the road" to keep track of him, and send word when located.
This had been done by the ragged man who accosted the old player on the
diamond that afternoon.




CHAPTER XXVII

THE SLOW WATCH


"Well, what do you want?" growled Hogan, for he seemed to feel that
attention was centered on him.

"Nothing much - no more than usual, that is," said one of the detectives,
to whom the story of the looted valise had been told. "Where did you put
the stuff you got from this gentleman's bag some time last Spring?" was
the sharp question.

"Whose bag?" Hogan wanted to know, with a frown.

"Mine!" exclaimed Reggie. "That is, if you're the man. It was a yellow
bag, with lions' heads on the clasps and it contained a Swiss watch,
with a gold face; some jewelry, including a bracelet of red stones was
also taken."

Hogan started as this catalog was gone over.

"Now look here!" broke in the officer. "These gentlemen are willing to
make some concessions to you."

"Yes?" spoke Hogan, non-committally. He seemed easier now.

"Yes. If you'll own up, and give back what you've got left we'll call it
off, providing you get out of the State and keep out."

"An' s'posin' I don't?" he asked, defiantly.

"Then it's the jug for yours. You're the one we want. The rest of you
can go - and keep away, too," added the detective, significantly.

The tramps slunk off, glad enough to escape. Only Hogan remained.

"Well," he said, but now his nerve was gone. He looked surlily at Pop,
and wet his lips nervously.

"Go on," urged the officer.

"I guess I did get a few things from his bag - leastwise it was a satchel
like the one he tells about," confessed Hogan.

"Then that clears me!" cried Joe, joyfully.

Reggie Varley held out his hand to the young pitcher.

"It was silly of me ever to have suspected you," he said, contritely.
"Will you forgive me?"

"Of course!" Joe would have forgiven Reggie almost anything.

"Where's the stuff now?" asked the chief detective, sharply.

Hogan laughed.

"Where do you s'pose?" he asked. "Think I can afford to carry Swiss
watches with gold faces, or ladies' bracelets? I look like it; don't
I?"

Truly he did not, being most disreputable in appearance.

"Did you pawn it?" asked the other officer.

"Yes, and precious little I got out of it. You can have the tickets if
you like. I'll never redeem 'em," and he tossed a bunch of pawn tickets
over to Reggie, who caught them wonderingly.

"Are - er - are these stubs for the things?" he asked. "How can I get them
back?"

"By paying whatever the pawnbrokers advanced on the goods," answered Pop
Dutton, who looked quickly over the tickets. He knew most of the places
where the goods had been disposed of.

"I'll be glad to do that," went on the young man. "I'm much obliged to
you, my good fellow."

Hogan laughed again.

"You're a sport!" he complimented. "Is that all you want of me?"

The detectives consulted together a moment. Then one of them asked Joe
and his two friends:

"What do you say? There isn't much to be gained by arresting him. You've
got about all you can out of him. I suppose you might as well let him
go."

"I'm willing," spoke Joe. "All I wanted was to have my name cleared, and
that's been done."

"I don't care to have him prosecuted," spoke Reggie. "It might bring my
sister into unpleasant prominence, as most of the things were hers."

"I say, my good fellow," he went on - he would persist in being what he
thought was English, "does the ticket for that bracelet happen to be
among these you've given me."

"No, here's the thing itself - catch!" exclaimed Hogan, and he threw
something to Joe, who caught it. It proved to be a quaint wrist-ornament.

The young pitcher slipped it into his pocket.

"It'll have to be disinfected before she can wear it," he said in a low
voice to Reggie. "I'll give it to her, after I soak it in formaldehyde."

Reggie nodded - and smiled. Perhaps he understood more than Joe thought
he did.

"Is that all you want of me?" asked Hogan, looking uneasily about.

"I guess so," answered one of the officers. "But how did you come to get
at the valise?"

"Oh, it was easy. I spotted it in the depot and when that chap wasn't
looking," - he nodded at Reggie - "I just opened it, took out what I
wanted, and slipped out of the station before anyone saw me. You'd never
have gotten me, either, if I hadn't been a dub and told him," and he
scowled at Pop Dutton.

"Well, I'm glad, for my own sake, that you did tell," spoke Joe.

"Now you'd better clear out," warned the officer, "and don't let us find
you near the railroad tracks again, or it will be the jug for yours.
Vamoose!"

"Wait a minute," said Pop Dutton, softly. "Have you any money, Hogan?"

"Money! No, how should I get money? I couldn't pawn that bracelet, or
I'd have some though. They all said it wasn't worth anything."

"My sister values it as a keepsake," explained Reggie to Joe in a low
voice. "She'll be awfully glad to get it back."

"Here," went on the old pitcher to his former companion of the highway,
and he passed him a bill. "It's all I can spare or I'd give you more."

Hogan was greatly surprised. He stared at the money half comprehendingly.

"You - do you mean it?" he stammered.

"Certainly," answered Pop.

"Well, I - er - I - I'm sorry!" burst out the tramp, and, making a quick
grab for the bill, he turned aside and was soon lost to sight amid the
trees.

"Hum! That's a queer go!" commented one of the officers.

"I guess he's got some feeling, after all," said Joe, softly.

They had accomplished what they set out to do - proved the innocence of
the young pitcher. And they had done more, for they were in the way of
recovering most of the stolen stuff. Joe anticipated much pleasure in
restoring to Mabel her odd bracelet.

They motored back to the city from the rendezvous of the tramps, talking
over the strange occurrence. But they took none of the members of the
ball team into their confidence - Joe and Pop. They thought the fewer who
knew of it the better.

"And now if I was sure dad would be all right, and Pop's arm would get
into pitching shape again, I wouldn't ask for anything more," said Joe
to Reggie that night, when he called on the youth and his sister.

"Don't you want to win the pennant?" asked Mabel, softly. She had
thanked Joe - and her brother - with blushing cheeks for the return of her
keepsake bracelet. But her blushes were not for her brother.

"The pennant! Of course!" cried Joe. "I almost forgot about that! And
we're going to win it!"

"I'm going to see every game, too!" exclaimed Mabel, with brilliant
cheeks and eyes.

The first pennant game with Clevefield was a hard-fought one. Collin
took the mound in the opening of the battle, and for a time all went
well. He made some mistakes, and the heavy batters on the other side
began "finding" him. But he was well supported by the fielders and
basemen, and three innings ran along with the visitors securing nothing
but zero tallies.

Then came a break. A swift ball glanced off Collin's glove, and Charlie


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