Lester Chadwick.

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

. (page 11 of 12)
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Hall, the shortstop, after a magnificent jump, by which he secured the
horsehide, made a wild throw to first. Then began a slump, and Collin
had his share in it.

Joe was called on, but too late to be of any real service, though he
stopped the rout.

Score: Pittston three, Clevefield nine.

"We've got to take three straight, or make a tie so as to get another
game - making five instead of four," said Gregory, gloomily that evening.

The next contest would take place in Clevefield and the teams made a
night journey there. Reggie and his sister went on by auto early the
next day, arriving in time to visit Joe before practice was called.

"Joe, you're nervous!" exclaimed Reggie, when he met the young pitcher,
just before lunch. "You ought to come out in the country for a little
run. I'll take you in my car. It will do you good."

"Yes, do come," urged Mabel.

"All right," agreed Joe. "But I'll have to be back soon. No telling
which one of us Gregory will call on to pitch."

"Oh, I'll get you back in time," promised Reggie.

So Joe, with the permission of Gregory, who warned him not to be late,
started off for an auto ride.

They went for some distance into the beautiful country and Joe was
beginning to feel in fit condition to pitch a great game. As they passed
through one small town, Joe looked at the clock in a jeweler's window.
Then he glanced at his watch.

"I say!" he cried in dismay. "Either my watch is slow, or that clock is
fast. Why, I haven't time enough to get back to play! What time have
you, Reggie?"

"My watch has stopped. But we can ask the jeweler if his time is right."

It was, as Joe learned to his dismay. They had been going by his watch,
and now it developed that it was nearly an hour slow!

"Jove! If I should be late!" cried the young pitcher in a panic of
apprehension.




CHAPTER XXVIII

THE RACE


There was but one thing to do - make all speed back to the ball park.
Already, in fancy, Joe could see his team trotting out for warming-up
practice, and wondering, perhaps, why he was not there with them.

"This is fierce!" he gasped. "I had no idea it was so late!"

"Neither had I," admitted Reggie. "It was such easy going that I kept
on. It was my fault, Joe."

"No, it was my own. I ought to have kept track of the time on such an
important occasion. Of course I don't mean to say that they won't win
the game without me, but if Gregory should happen to call on me and I
wasn't there it would look bad. I'm supposed to be there for every game,
if I'm able, whether they use me or not."

"Then I'll get you there!" cried Reggie. "I'll make this old machine
hum, take my word for that! We'll have a grand old race against time,
Joe!"

"Only don't get arrested for speeding," cautioned the young pitcher.
"That would be as bad as not getting there at all."

He looked at his watch while Reggie turned the car around in a narrow
street, necessitating some evolutions. Again Joe compared his timepiece
with the clock in the window of the jewelry store. His watch was more
than an hour slow.

"I can't understand it," he murmured. "It never acted like this before."

Joe's watch was not a fancy one, nor expensive, but it had been
recommended by a railroad friend, and could be relied on to keep perfect
time. In fact it always had, and in the several years he had carried it
the mechanism had never varied more than half a minute.

"Maybe the hair spring is caught up," suggested Reggie. "That happens to
mine sometimes."

"That would make it go fast, instead of slow," said Joe. "It can't be
that."

He opened the back case, and looked at the balance wheel, and the
mechanism for regulating the length of the hair spring, which controls
the time-keeping qualities of a watch.

"Look!" he cried to Reggie, showing him, "the pointer is shoved away
over to one side. And my watch has been running slow, no telling for how
long. That's what made us late. My watch has been losing time!"

"Did you do it?" asked Reggie.

"Of course not."

"Then it was an accident. You can explain to your manager how it
happened, and he'll excuse you."

"It was no accident!" cried Joe.

"No accident! What do you mean?"

"I mean that someone did this on purpose!" cried Joe. "Someone got at my
watch when I wasn't looking, and shoved the regulator lever over to
slow. That was so it would lose time gradually, and I wouldn't notice.
It has lost over an hour. This is too bad!"

"Well, don't worry," advised Reggie, as he speeded the car ahead,
turning into a long, country road that would take them almost directly
to the ball park. "I'll get you there on time if I have to do it on bare
rims. Let the tires go! But who do you imagine could have slowed down
your watch?"

"I wouldn't like to say - not until I have more proof," answered Joe,
slowly. "It would not be fair."

"No, I suppose not. Yet it was a mean trick, if it was done on purpose.
They didn't want you to get back in time to pitch. Say! Could it have
been any of the Clevefield players? They have plenty of cause to be
afraid of you for what you did in the game yesterday - after you got a
chance."

"No, it wasn't any of them," said Joe, with a shake of his head.
"They're too good sports to do a thing like that. Besides, I didn't do
so much to them yesterday. We couldn't have had a much worse drubbing."

"But you prevented it from being a regular slaughter."

"Maybe. But it was none of them who slowed my watch."

"You don't mean it was one of your own men!" cried Reggie.

"I won't answer now," returned Joe, slowly. "Let's see if we can get
there on time."

Joe was doing some hard thinking. There was just one man on the Pittston
nine who would have perpetrated a trick like this, and that man was
Collin. He disliked Joe very much because of his ability, and since the
game of yesterday, when Collin, unmercifully batted, had been taken out
to let Joe fill his place, there was more cause than ever for this
feeling of hatred - no good cause, but sufficient in the eyes of a
vindictive man.

Joe realized this. He also realized that Collin might even throw away
the chance for his team to win in order to gratify a personal grudge.
Other players had said as much to Joe, and it was almost an open secret
that Gregory intended giving Collin his release at the end of the
season. But Joe had not believed his enemy would go to such lengths.

"He must be afraid I'll be put in first to-day," thought Joe, "and that
he won't get a chance at all. Jove, what a mean trick!"

Joe had no "swelled head," and he did not imagine, for a moment, that he
was the best pitcher in the world. Yet he knew his own abilities, and he
knew he could pitch a fairly good game, even in a pinch. It was but
natural, then, that he should want to do his best.

For Joe was intensely loyal to the team. He had always been so, not only
since he became a professional, but while he was at Yale, and when he
played on his school nine.

"Hold on now!" called Reggie, suddenly breaking in on Joe's musings.
"I'm going to speed her up!"

The car sprang forward with a jump, and Joe was jerked sharply back.
Then the race was on in earnest.

The young pitcher quickly made up his mind. He would say nothing about
the slowed watch, and if he arrived too late to take part in the
game - provided he had been slated to pitch - he would take his medicine.
But he resolved to watch Collin carefully.

"He might betray himself," Joe reasoned.

He could easily see how the trick had been worked. The players came to
the ball field in their street clothes, and changed to their uniforms in
the dressing rooms under the grandstand. An officer was always on guard
at the entrance, to admit none but the men supposed to go in. But Collin
could easily have gone to Joe's locker, taken out his watch and shoved
over the regulator. It was the work of only a few seconds.

Naturally when one's watch had been running correctly one would not stop
to look and see if the regulator was in the right position. One would
take it for granted. And it was only when Joe compared his timepiece
with another that he noticed the difference.

Could they make it up? It was almost time for the game to start, and
they were still some distance from the grounds. There was no railroad or
trolley line available, and, even if there had been, the auto would be
preferable.

"I guess we'll do it," Joe murmured, looking at his watch, which he had
set correctly, also regulating it as well as he could.

"We've just got to!" exclaimed Reggie, advancing the spark.

They were certainly making good time, and Reggie was a careful driver.
This time he took chances that he marveled at later. But the spirit of
the race entered into him, and he clenched his teeth, held the steering
wheel in a desperate grip, with one foot on the clutch pedal, and the
other on the brake. His hand was ready at any moment to shoot out and
grasp the emergency lever to bring the car up standing if necessary.

And it might be necessary any moment, for though the road was good
and wide it was well crowded with other autos, and with horse-drawn
vehicles.

On and on they sped. Now some dog would run out to bark exasperatingly
at the flying machine, and Reggie, with muttered threats, would be ready
to jam on both brakes in an instant. For a dog under an auto's wheels is
a dangerous proposition, not only for the dog but for the autoist as
well.

"Get out, you cur!" yelled Joe, as a yellow brute rushed from one house.
"I wish I had something to throw at you!"

"Throw your watch!" cried Reggie grimly, above the noise of the machine.

"No, it's a good watch yet, in spite of that trick," answered Joe. "It
wasn't the fault of the watch."

Once more he looked at it. Time was ticking on, and they still had
several miles to go. The game must have been called by this time, and
Joe was not there. He clenched his hands, and shut his teeth tightly.

"We'll do it - or bust!" declared Reggie.

His car was not a racer, but it was capable of good speed. He did not
dare use all that was available, on account of the traffic. Many autos
were taking spectators to the game, and they were in a hurry, too.

Amid dust clouds they sped on, the engine whining and moaning at the
speed at which it was run. But it ran true and "sweet," with never a
miss.

"They're playing now!" spoke Joe, in a low voice. In fancy he could hear
the clang of the starting gong, and hear the umpire cry:

"Play ball!"

And he was not there!

"We'll do it!" muttered Reggie.

He tried to pass a big red car that, unexpectedly, swerved to one side.
Reggie, in desperation, as he saw a collision in prospect, whirled the
steering wheel to one side. His car careened and almost went over. Joe
clung to the seat and braced himself.

An instant later there was a sharp report, and the car, wobbling from
side to side, shot up a grassy bank at the side of the road.

"A blow-out!" yelled Reggie, and then, as he managed to bring the car to
a sudden stop, the vehicle settled over on one side, gently enough,
tossing Joe out on the grass with a thud.




CHAPTER XXIX

A DIAMOND BATTLE


Confusion reigned supreme for a moment. Several autos that were passing
stopped, and men and women came running up to be of assistance if
necessary.

But neither Joe nor Reggie was hurt.

Slowly the young pitcher picked himself up, and gazed about in some
bewilderment. For a moment he could not understand what had happened.
Then he saw Reggie disentangling himself from the steering wheel.

"Hurt?" asked Joe, anxiously.

"No. Are you?"

"Not a scratch."

"Rotten luck!" commented Reggie. "Now you'll never get to the game on
time."

"Lucky you weren't both killed," commented an elderly autoist. "And your
car isn't damaged to speak of. Only a tire to the bad. That grassy bank
saved you."

"Yes," assented Reggie. "All she needs is righting, but by the time
that's done it will be too late."

"Where were you going?" asked another man.

"To the game," answered Reggie.

"I'm on the Pittston team," said Joe. "I'm supposed to be there to pitch
if I'm needed. Only - I won't be there," he finished grimly.

"Yes you will!" cried a man who had a big machine. "I'll take you
both - that is, if you want to leave your car," he added to Reggie.

"Oh, I guess that will be safe enough. I'll notify some garage man to
come and get it," was the reply.

"Then get into my car," urged the gentleman. "I've got plenty of
room - only my two daughters with me. They'll be glad to meet a
player - they're crazy about baseball - we're going to the game, in fact.
Get in!"

Escorted by the man who had so kindly come to their assistance, Joe and
Reggie got into the big touring car.

The other autoists who had stopped went on, one offering to notify a
certain garage to come and get Reggie's car. Then the young pitcher was
again speeded on his way.

The big car was driven at almost reckless speed, and when Joe reached
the ball park, and fairly sprang in through the gate, he was an hour
late - the game was about half over.

Without looking at Gregory and the other players who were on the bench,
Joe gave a quick glance at the score board. It told the story in mute
figures.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
PITTSTON 0 0 0 0
CLEVEFIELD 1 0 2 3

It was the start of the fifth inning, and Pittston was at bat. Unless
she had made some runs so far the tally was six to nothing in favor of
Clevefield. Joe groaned in spirit.

"Any runs?" gasped Joe, as he veered over to the bench where his mates
sat. He was short of breath, for he had fairly leaped across the field.

"Not a one," said Gregory, and Joe thought he spoke sharply. "What's the
matter? Where have you been?"

Joe gaspingly explained. When he spoke of the slow watch he looked at
Collin sharply. For a moment the old pitcher tried to look Joe in the
face. Then his eyes fell. It was enough for Joe.

"He did it!" he decided to himself.

"How many out?" was Joe's next question.

"Only one. We have a chance," replied Gregory. "Get into a uniform as
fast as you can and warm up."

"Are you going to pitch me?"

"I guess I'll have to. They've been knocking Collin out of the box."
Gregory said the last in a low voice, but he might as well have shouted
it for it was only too well known. Collin himself realized it. He fairly
glared at Joe.

As Joe hurried to the dressing room - his uniform fortunately having been
left there early that morning - he looked at the bases. Bob Newton was on
second, having completed a successful steal as Joe rushed in. Charlie
Hall was at bat, and Joe heard the umpire drone as he went under the
grandstand:

"Strike two!"

"Our chances are narrowing," thought Joe, and a chill seemed to strike
him. "If we lose this game it practically means the loss of the pennant,
and - - "

But he did not like to think further. He realized that the money he had
counted on would not be forthcoming.

"I'm not going to admit that we'll lose," and Joe gritted his teeth.
"We're going to win."

Quickly he changed into his uniform, and while he was doing it the stand
above him fairly shook with a mighty yell.

"Somebody's done something!" cried Joe aloud. "Oh, if I was only there
to see!"

The yelling continued, and there was a sound like thunder as thousands
of feet stamped on the stand above Joe's head.

"What is it? What is it?" he asked himself, feverishly, and his hands
trembled so that he could hardly tie the laces of his shoes.

He rushed out to find the applause still continuing and was just in time
to see Charlie Hall cross the rubber plate.

"He must have made a home run! That means two, for he brought in Bob!"
thought Joe.

He knew this was so, for, a moment later he caught the frantic shouts:

"Home-run Hall! Home-run Hall!"

"Did you do it, old man?" cried Joe, rushing up to him.

"Well, I just _had_ to," was the modest reply. "I'm not going to let you
do all the work on this team."

Gregory was clapping the shortstop on the back.

"Good work!" he said, his eyes sparkling. "Now, boys, we'll do 'em! Get
busy, Joe. Peters, you take him off there and warm up with him."

Charlie had caught a ball just where he wanted it and had "slammed" it
out into the left field bleachers for a home run. It was a great effort,
and just what was needed at a most needful time.

Then the game went on. Clevefield was not so confident now. Her pitcher,
really a talented chap, was beginning to be "found."

Whether it was the advent of Joe, after his sensational race, or
whether the Pittston players "got onto the Clevefield man's curves," as
Charlie Hall expressed it, was not quite clear. Certainly they began
playing better from that moment and when their half of the fifth closed
they had three runs to their credit. The score was

PITTSTON 3
CLEVEFIELD 6

"We only need four more to win - if we can shut them out," said Gregory,
as his men took the field again. He sat on the bench directing the game.
"Go to it, Joe!"

"I'm going!" declared our hero, grimly.

He realized that he had a hard struggle ahead of him. Not only must he
allow as few hits as possible, but, with his team-mates, he must help to
gather in four more tallies.

And then the battle of the diamond began in earnest.

Joe pitched magnificently. The first man up was a notoriously heavy
hitter, and Joe felt tempted to give him his base on balls. Instead
he nerved himself to strike him out if it could be done. Working a
cross-fire, varying it with his now famous fade-away ball, Joe managed
to get to two balls and two strikes, both the latter being foul ones.

He had two more deliveries left, and the next one he sent in with all
the force at his command.

The bat met it, and for an instant Joe's heart almost stopped a beat.
Then he saw the ball sailing directly into the hands of Charlie Hall.
The man was out.

Joe did not allow a hit that inning. Not a man got to first, and the
last man up was struck out cleanly, never even fouling the ball.

"That's the boy!" cried the crowd as Joe came in. "That's the boy!"

His face flushed with pleasure. He looked for Collin, but that player
had disappeared.

The rest of that game is history in the Central League. How Pittston
rallied, getting one run in the sixth, and another in the lucky seventh,
has been told over and over again.

Joe kept up his good work, not allowing a hit in the sixth. In the
seventh he was pounded for a two-bagger, and then he "tightened up," and
there were no runs for the Clevefields.

They were fighting desperately, for they saw the battle slipping
away from them. Pittston tied the score in the eighth and there was
pandemonium in the stands. The crowd went wild with delight.

"Hold yourself in, old man," Gregory warned his pitcher. "Don't let 'em
get your goat. They'll try to."

"All right," laughed Joe. He was supremely happy.

There was almost a calamity in the beginning of the ninth. Pittston's
first batter - Gus Harrison - struck out, and there was a groan of
anguish. Only one run was needed to win the game, for it was now evident
that the Clevefield batters could not find Joe.

George Lee came up, and popped a little fly. The shortstop fumbled it,
but stung it over to first. It seemed that George was safe there, but
the umpire called him out.

"Boys, we've got a bare chance left," said Gregory. "Go to it."

And they did. It was not remarkable playing, for the Clevefields had put
in a new pitcher who lost his nerve. With two out he gave Joe, the next
man, his base. Joe daringly stole to second, and then Terry Hanson made
up for previous bad work by knocking a three-bagger. Joe came in with
the winning run amid a riot of yells. The score, at the beginning of the
last half of the ninth:

PITTSTON 7
CLEVEFIELD 6

"Hold 'em down, Joe! Hold 'em down!" pleaded Gregory.

And Joe did. It was not easy work, for he was tired and excited
from the auto run, and the close call he had had. But he pitched
magnificently, and Clevefield's last record at bat was but a single hit.
No runs came in. Pittston had won the second game of the pennant series
by one run. Narrow margin, but sufficient.

And what rejoicing there was! Joe was the hero of the hour, but his
ovation was shared by Charlie Hall and the others who had done such
splendid work. Pop Dutton did not play, much to his regret.

"Congratulations, old man," said the Clevefield manager to Gregory.
"That's some little pitcher you've got there."

"That's what we think."

"Is he for sale?"

"Not on your life."

"Still, I think you're going to lose him," went on Clevefield's manager.

"How's that?" asked Gregory in alarm.

The other whispered something.

"Is that so! Scouting here, eh? Well, if they get Joe in a big league I
suppose I ought to be glad, for his sake. Still, I sure will hate to
lose him. He was handicapped to-day, too," and he told of the delay.

"He sure has nerve!" was the well-deserved compliment.




CHAPTER XXX

THE PENNANT


The pennant was not yet won. So far the teams had broken even, and
unless Pittston could take the next two games there would be a fifth one
necessary.

"If there is," decided Gregory, "we'll make it an exhibition, on some
neutral diamond, and get a big crowd. It will mean a lot more money for
us."

"Will it?" asked Joe. "Then let's do it!"

"We can't make sure of it," went on the manager. "We'll not think of
that, for it would mean throwing a game away if we won the next one, and
I've never thrown a game yet, and never will. No, Joe, we'll try to win
both games straight, even if it doesn't mean so much cash. Now take care
of yourself."

"I'll try," promised Joe.

The next contest would take place at Pittston, and thither the two teams
journeyed that evening. Before they left Joe spent a pleasant time at
the hotel where Reggie and his sister had rooms.

"Are you coming back to Pittston, or stay here for the fourth game?" the
young pitcher asked.

"We're going to see you play - of course!" exclaimed Mabel. "I wouldn't
miss it for anything."

"Thank you!" laughed Joe, and blushed. "Did you get your auto all
right?" he asked Reggie.

"Yes. The man brought her in. Not damaged a bit. Sis and I are going to
motor in to-morrow. But I won't take a chance in giving you a ride
again - not so close to the game."

"I guess not," agreed Joe, laughing.

"Did you find out anything?" Reggie went on. "About who meddled with
your watch?"

"I didn't ask any questions. It was too unpleasant a thing to have come
out. But my first guess was right. And I don't think that player will
stay around here."

I may say, in passing, that Collin did not. He left town that night and
was not seen in that part of the country for some years. He broke his
contract, but Gregory did not much care for that, as he was about ready
to release him anyhow. Joe told the story to the manager only, and they
kept it a secret between them. It was a mystery to Collin's team-mates
why he disappeared so strangely, but few ever heard the real story.

The third game with Clevefield came off before a record-breaking crowd.
It was a great contest, and was only won for Pittston in the tenth
inning, when Jimmie Mack, the doughty first-baseman, scored the winning
run.

The crowd went wild at that, for it had looked as though Clevefield
would take the game home with them. But they could not stand against
Joe's terrific pitching.

This made the pennant series stand two to one in favor of the Pittston
team. Another victory would clinch the banner for them, but the
following game must take place in Clevefield, and this fact was rather
a disadvantage to Joe's team.

"Now, boys, do your best," pleaded Gregory, as he sat with his men on
the bench, making up the batting order. "We want to win!"

Tom Tooley was to pitch in Joe's place, for our hero's arm really needed
a rest.

"I may have to use you anyhow, toward the end, if we get in a hole,
Joe," said the manager. "So hold yourself in readiness."

Much as Joe liked to pitch he was really glad that he did not have to
go in, for he was very tired. The strain of the season, added to the
responsibility of the final big games, was telling on him.

The battle opened, and at first it seemed to favor Pittston. Then her
best hitters began to "slump," and the game slipped away from them.
Clevefield came up strong and though, as a desperate resort, Joe was
sent in, it was too late. Clevefield won the fourth game by a score of
nine to seven.

"That means a fifth game!" announced Gregory. "Well, we'll have a better


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Online LibraryLester ChadwickBaseball Joe in the Central League; or, Making Good as a Professional Pitcher → online text (page 11 of 12)