Lester Chadwick.

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

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he wished to get into the new life that had called him.

He was not sorry, therefore, when, a few days later he received a
telegram from Mr. Mack, telling him to report at once at Montville.

"Oh, Joe!" exclaimed his mother. "Do you really have to go so soon?"

"I'm afraid so, Momsey," he answered. "You see the league season will
soon open and I want to begin at the beginning. This is my life work,
and I can't lose any time."

"Pitching ball a life work!" sighed Mrs. Matson. "Oh, Joe! if it was
only preaching - or something like that."

"Let the boy alone, Mother," said Mr. Matson, with a good-humored
twinkle in his eye. "We can't all be ministers, and I'd rather have a
world series winner in my family than a poor lawyer or doctor. He'll do
more good in society, too. Good luck to you, Joe."

But Joe was not to get away to the South as quietly as he hoped. He
was importuned by his old baseball chums to pitch an exhibition game
for them, but he did not think it wise, under the circumstances, so
declined.

But they wanted to do him honor, and, learning through Tom Davis - who, I
may say in passing, got the secret from Clara - when Joe's train was to
leave, many of the old members of the Silver Stars gathered to wish
their hero Godspeed.

"What's the matter with Baseball Joe?" was the cry outside the station,
whither Joe had gone with his sister and mother, his father having
bidden him good-bye earlier.

"What's the matter with Joe Matson?"

"_He's - all - right!_" came the staccato reply.

Again the demand:

"Who's all right?"

"_Baseball Joe!_"

"Why - what - what does it mean?" asked Mrs. Matson in bewilderment as
she sat near her son in the station, and heard the cries.

"Oh, it's just the boys," said Joe, easily.

"They're giving Joe a send-off," explained Clara.

Quite a crowd gathered as the members of the amateur nine cheered Joe
again and again. Many other boys joined in, and the scene about the
railroad depot was one of excitement.

"What's going on?" asked a stranger.

"Joe Matson's going off," was the answer.

"Who's Joe Matson?"

"Don't you know?" The lad looked at the man in half-contempt. "Why, he
pitched a winning game for Yale against Princeton, and now he's going to
the Pittstons of the Central League."

"Oh, I see. Hum. Is that he?" and the man pointed to the figure of our
hero, surrounded by his friends.

"That's him! Say, I wish he was me!" and the lad looked enviously at
Joe.

"I - I never knew baseball was so - so popular," said Mrs. Matson to
Clara, as the shouting and cheers grew, while Joe resisted an attempt on
the part of the lads to carry him on their shoulders.

"I guess it's as much Joe as it is the game," answered Clara, proudly.

"Three cheers for Joe!" were called for, and given with a will.

Again came the question as to who was all right, and the usual answer
followed. Joe was shaking hands with two lads at once, and trying to
respond to a dozen requests for letters, or passes to the league games.

Then came the whistle of the train, more hurried good-byes, a last
kiss for his mother and sister - final cheers - shouts - calls for good
wishes - and Joe was on his way to the Southern baseball camp.




CHAPTER III

AN ACCUSATION


"Whew!" exclaimed Joe, as he sank into a car seat and placed his valise
beside him. "Some doings - those!"

Several passengers looked at him, smiling and appreciative. They had
seen and heard the parting ovation tendered to our hero, and they
understood what it meant.

Joe waved his hand out of the window as the train sped on, and then
settled back to collect his thoughts which, truth to tell, were running
riot.

Pulling from his pocket some books on baseball, one of which contained
statistics regarding the Central League, Joe began poring over them. He
wanted to learn all he could about the organization with which he had
cast his fortunes.

And a few words of explanation concerning the Central League may not be
unappreciated by my readers.

In the first place let me be perfectly frank, and state that the Central
League was not one of the big ones. I have not masqueraded a major
league under that title. Some day I hope to tell you some stories
concerning one of the larger leagues, but not in this volume.

And in the second place Joe realized that he was not going to astonish
the world by his performances in this small league. He knew it was but a
"bush league," in a sense, yet he had read enough of it to know that it
was composed of clean-cut clubs and players, and that it bore a good
reputation. Many a major league player had graduated from this same
Central, and Joe - well, to put it modestly - had great hopes.

The Central League was of the Middle West. It played its eight clubs
over a circuit composed of eight well-known cities, which for the
purposes of this story I have seen fit to designate as follows:
Clevefield, Pittston (to which club Joe had been signed), Delamont,
Washburg, Buffington, Loston, Manhattan and Newkirk. Perhaps, as the
story progresses, you may recognize, more or less successfully, certain
players and certain localities. With that I have nothing to do.

The train sped on, stopping at various stations, but Joe took little
interest in the passing scenery, or in what took place in his coach.
He was busy over his baseball "dope," by which I mean the statistics
regarding players, their averages, and so forth.

"And my name will soon be among 'em!" exulted Joe.

As the train was pulling out of a small station, Joe looked out of the
window, and, to his surprise, saw, sitting on a baggage truck, the same
tramp he had saved from the freight train some days before.

"Hum!" mused Joe. "If he's beating his way on the railroad he hasn't
gotten very far," for this was not many miles from Riverside. "I guess
he's a sure-enough hobo, all right. Too bad!"

Others beside Joe seemed to have noticed the tramp, who, however, had
not looked at our hero. One of two men in the seat back of Joe spoke,
and said:

"I say, Reynolds, see that tramp sitting there?"

"You mean the one on the truck?"

"Yes. Do you recognize him?"

"Recognize him? I should say not. I'm not in the habit of - - "

"Easy, old man. Would you be surprised if I told you that many times
you've taken your hat off to that same tramp, and cheered him until you
were hoarse?"

"Get out!"

"It's a fact."

"Who is he?"

"I don't know who he is now - not much, to judge by his looks; but that's
old Pop Dutton, who, in his day, was one of the best pitchers Boston
ever owned. He was a wonder!"

"Is that Pop Dutton?"

"That's the wreck of him!"

"How have the mighty fallen," was the whispered comment. "Poor old Pop!
Indeed, many a time I have taken my hat off to him! He sure was a
wonder. What caused his downfall?"

"Bad companions - that and - drink."

"Too bad!"

Joe felt an irresistible impulse to turn around and speak to the two
men. But he refrained, perhaps wisely.

"And to think that I saved his life!" mused Joe. "No wonder he talked as
he did. Pop Dutton! Why, I've often read of him. He pitched many a
no-hit no-run game. And now look at him!"

As the train pulled out Joe saw the wreck of what had once been a fine
man stagger across the platform. A railroad man had driven him from the
truck. Joe's heart was sore.

He realized that in baseball there were many temptations, and he knew
that many a fine young fellow had succumbed to them. But he felt himself
strong enough to resist.

If Joe expected to make the trip South with speed and comfort he was
soon to realize that it was not to be. Late that afternoon the train
came to an unexpected stop, and on the passengers inquiring what was
the trouble, the conductor informed them that, because of a wreck ahead,
they would be delayed at a little country station for several hours.

There were expostulations, sharp remarks and various sorts of suggestions
offered by the passengers, all of whom seemed to be in a hurry. Joe,
himself, regretted the delay, but he did not see how it could be avoided.

"The company ought to be sued!" declared a young man whose rather "loud"
clothes proclaimed him for an up-to-date follower of "fashion." He had
with him a valise of peculiar make - rather conspicuous - and it looked to
be of foreign manufacture. In fact, everything about him was rather
striking.

"I ought to be in New York now," this young chap went on, as though
everyone in the train was interested in his fortunes and misfortunes.
"This delay is uncalled for! I shall start suit against this railroad.
It's always having wrecks. Can't we go on, my good man?" he asked the
conductor, sharply.

"Not unless you go on ahead and shove the wreck out of the way," was the
sharp answer.

"I shall report you!" said the youth, loftily.

"Do! It won't be the first time I've been reported - my good fellow!"

The youth flushed and, taking his valise, left the car to enter the
small railway station. Several other passengers, including Joe, did the
same, for the car was hot and stuffy.

Joe took a seat near one where the modish young man set down his queer
valise. Some of the other passengers, after leaving their baggage
inside, went out on the platform to stroll about. Joe noted that the
young man had gone to the telegraph office to send a message.

Our hero having nothing else to do, proceeded to look over more of his
baseball information. He was deep in a study of batting averages when he
was aware that someone stood in front of him.

It was the young man, who had his valise open, and on his face was a
puzzled expression, mingled with one of anger.

"I say now! I say!" exclaimed the young chap. "This won't do! It won't
do at all, you know!" and he looked sharply at Joe.

"Are you speaking to me?" asked the young pitcher. "If you are I don't
know what it is that won't do - and I don't care."

"It won't do at all, you know!" went on the young man, speaking with
what he probably intended to be an English accent. "It won't do!"

"What won't?" asked Joe sharply.

"Why, taking things out of my valise, you know. There's a gold watch
and some jewelry missing - my sister's jewelry. It won't do!"

"Do you mean to say that I had anything to do with taking jewelry out of
your valise?" asked Joe hotly.

"Why - er - you were sitting next to it. I went to send a wire - when I
come back my stuff is missing, and - - "

"Look here!" cried the young pitcher in anger. "Do you mean to accuse
me?" and he jumped to his feet and faced the young man. "Do you?"

"Why - er - yes, I think I do," was the answer. "You were next my bag, you
know, and - well, my stuff is gone. It won't do. It won't do at all, you
know!"




CHAPTER IV

IN TRAINING


For a moment Joe stood glaring at the modish young man who had accused
him. The latter returned the look steadily. There were superciliousness,
contempt and an abiding sense of his own superiority in the look, and
Joe resented these too-well displayed feelings fully as much as he did
the accusation.

Then a calmer mood came over the young pitcher; he recalled the
training at Yale - the training that had come when he had been in
troublesome situations - and Joe laughed. It was that laugh which formed
a safety-valve for him.

"I don't see what there is to laugh at," sneered the young man. "My
valise has been opened, and my watch and some jewelry taken."

"Well, what have I got to do with it?" demanded Joe hotly. "I'm not a
detective or a police officer!"

Joe glanced from the youth to the bag in question. It was a peculiar
satchel, made of some odd leather, and evidently constructed for heavy
use. It was such a bag as Joe had never seen before. It was open now,
and there could be noticed in it a confused mass of clothes, collars,
shirts of gaudy pattern and scarfs of even gaudier hues.

The young pitcher also noticed that the bag bore on one end the initials
"R. V." while below them was the name of the city where young "R. V."
lived - Goldsboro, N. C.

"Suffering cats!" thought Joe, as he noted that. "He lives in Goldsboro.
Montville is just outside that. I hope I don't meet this nuisance when
I'm at the training camp."

"I did not assume that you were an officer," answered the young man,
who, for the present, must be known only as "R. V." "But you were the
only one near my valise, which was opened when I went to send that wire.
Now it's up to you - - "

"Hold on!" cried Joe, trying not to let his rather quick temper get the
better of him. "Nothing is 'up to me,' as you call it. I didn't touch
your valise. I didn't even know I sat near it until you called my
attention to it. And if it was opened, and something taken out, I beg to
assure you that I had nothing to do with it. That's all!"

"But if you didn't take it; who did?" asked "R. V." in some bewilderment.

"How should I know?" retorted Joe, coolly. "And I'd advise you to be
more careful after this, in making accusations."

He spoke rather loudly - in fact so did "R. V.," and it was but natural
that several of the delayed passengers should gather outside the
station, attracted by the voices.

Some of them looked in through the opened windows and doors, and, seeing
nothing more than what seemed to be an ordinary dispute, strolled on.

"But this won't do," insisted "R. V.," which expression seemed to be a
favorite with him. "This won't do at all, you know, my good fellow. My
watch is gone, and my sister's jewelry. It won't do - - "

"Well, I have nothing to do with it," declared Joe, "and I don't want to
hear any more about it. This ends it - see!"

"Oh, but I say! You were nearest to my valise, and - - "

"What's the trouble?" interrupted the ticket agent, coming from his
little office. "What's the row here?"

"My valise!" exclaimed "R. V." angrily. "It's been opened, and - - "

"He thinks I did it just because I sat near it!" broke in Joe,
determined to get in his word first. "It's absurd! I never touched his
baggage."

The agent looked at the modish youth.

"Is that the only reason you accuse him - because he sat near your
satchel?" he asked.

"Why - er - yes, to be sure. Isn't that reason enough?"

"It wouldn't be for me, young man. I don't see that you can do anything
about it. You say he took something of yours, and he says he didn't.
That's six of one and a half-dozen of the other. You ought to have your
satchel locked if you carry valuables in it."

"It was locked, but I opened it and forgot to lock it again."

"That's up to you then," and the agent's sympathies seemed to be with
Joe.

"Well, but it won't do, you know. It won't do at all!" protested "R.
V.," this time pleadingly. "I must have my things back!"

"Then you had better go to the police," broke in the agent.

"If you like, though I've never done such a thing before, I'll submit to
a search," said Joe, the red blood mantling to his cheeks as he thought
of the needless indignity. "I can refer to several well-known persons
who will vouch for me, but if you feel - - "

"All aboard!" suddenly called the conductor of the stalled train, coming
into the depot. "We just got word that we can proceed. If we can reach
the next junction before the fast mail, we can go ahead of her and get
around the wreck. Lively now! All aboard!"

There was a scramble in which Joe and "R. V." took a part. All of the
passengers were anxious to proceed, and if haste meant that they could
avoid further delay they were willing to hasten. The engineer whistled
impatiently, and men and women scrambled into the coaches they had left.

"R. V." caught up his peculiar bag and without another look at Joe, got
aboard. For a moment the young pitcher had an idea of insisting on
having the unpleasant matter settled, but he, too, wanted to go on. At
any rate no one he knew or cared about had heard the unjust accusation
made, and if he insisted on vindication, by means of a personal search,
it might lead to unpleasant complications.

"Even if he saw that I didn't have his truck on me that wouldn't prove
anything to him - he'd say it 'wouldn't do,'" thought Joe. "He's
altogether too positive."

And so, leaving the matter of the missing articles unsettled, Joe
sprinted for the train.

Joe saw his accuser enter the rear coach, while the young ball player
took his place in the second coach, where he had been before.

"If he wants to take up this matter again he knows I'm aboard," mused
Joe, as the train pulled out of the way-station.

But the matter was not reopened, and when the junction was reached our
hero saw "R. V." hurrying off to make other connections. As he turned
away, however, he favored Joe with a look that was not altogether
pleasant.

The remainder of our hero's trip to Montville was uneventful, save that
it was rather monotonous, and, the further South he went the worse the
railroad service became, until he found that he was going to be nearly
half a day late.

But he was not expected at any special time, and he knew that he had
done the best possible. Arriving in Montville, which he found to be a
typical small Southern town, Joe put up at the hotel where he had been
told by "Jimmie" Mack to take quarters.

"Are any of the Pittston players around - is Mr. Gregory here?" asked Joe
of the clerk, after registering. It was shortly after two o'clock.

"They're all out practicing, I believe," was the answer. "Mr. Gregory
was here a while ago, but I reckon as how he-all went out to the field,
too. Are you a member of the nine, sir?"

The clerk really said "suh," but the peculiarities of Southern talk are
too well known to need imitating.

"Well, I suppose I am, but I've only just joined," answered Joe, with a
smile. "I'm one of the new pitchers."

"Glad to know you. We enjoy having you ball players here. It sort of
livens things up. I believe your team is going to cross bats with our
home team Saturday."

"That's good!" exclaimed Joe, who was just "aching" to get into a game
again.

He ate a light luncheon and then, inquiring his way, went out to the
ball field.

He was rather disappointed at first. It was not as good as the one where
the Silver Stars played - not as well laid out or kept up, and the
grandstand was only about half as large.

"But of course it's only a practice field," reasoned Joe, as he looked
about for a sight of "Jimmie" Mack, whom alone he knew. "The home field
at Pittston will probably be all right. Still, I've got to remember that
I'm not playing in a major league. This will do for a start."

He looked over the men with whom he was to associate and play ball for
the next year or so - perhaps longer. The members of the team were
throwing and catching - some were batting flies, and laying down
grounders for others to catch or pick up. One or two were practicing
"fungo" batting. Up near the grandstand a couple of pitchers were
"warming-up," while the catchers were receiving the balls in their big
mitts.

Several small and worshipping boys were on hand, as always is the case,
gathering up the discarded bats, running after passed balls and
bringing water to their heroes.

"Well, I'm here, anyhow," thought Joe. "Now to see what sort of a stab I
can make at professional ball."

No one seemed to notice the advent of the young pitcher on the field,
and if he expected to receive an ovation, such as was accorded to him
when he left home, Joe was grievously disappointed.

But I do not believe Joe Matson looked for anything of the sort. In fact
I know he did not, for Joe was a sensible lad. He realized that however
good a college player he might be he was now entering the ranks of men
who made their living at ball playing. And there is a great deal of
difference between doing a thing for fun, and doing it to get your bread
and butter - a heap of difference.

Joe stood on the edge of the diamond looking at the players. They seemed
to be a clean-cut set of young fellows. One or two looked to be veterans
at the game, and here and there Joe could pick out one whose hair was
turning the least little bit gray. He wondered if they had slid down the
scale, and, finding their powers waning, had gotten out of the big
leagues to take it a little easier in one of the "bush" variety.

"But it's baseball - it's a start - it's just what I want!" thought Joe,
as he drew a deep breath, the odors of crushed green grass, the dry dust
and the whiff of leather mingling under the hot rays of the Southern
sun.

"It's baseball, and that's enough!" exulted Joe.

"Well, I see you got here!" exclaimed a voice behind him, and Joe turned
to see "Jimmie" Mack, in uniform, holding out a welcoming hand.

"Yes," said Joe with a smile. "I'm a little late, but - I'm here."

"If the trains arrive on time down here everybody worries," went on
Jimmie. "They think something is going to happen. Did you bring a
uniform?"

Joe indicated his valise, into which he had hastily stuffed, at the
hotel, one of his old suits.

"Well, slip it on - take any dressing room that's vacant there," and
Jimmie motioned to the grandstand. "Then come out and I'll have you meet
the boys. We're only doing light practice as yet, but we'll soon have to
hump ourselves, for the season will shortly open."

"Is Mr. Gregory here?" asked Joe, feeling that he ought to meet the
manager of the team.

"He'll be here before the day is over. Oh, Harrison!" he called to a
passing player, "come over and meet Joe Matson, one of our new pitchers.
Harrison tries to play centre," explained the assistant manager with a
smile.

"Quit your kiddin'!" exclaimed the centre fielder as he shook hands with
Joe. "Glad to meet you, son. You mustn't mind Jimmie," he went on. "Ever
played before?"

"Not professionally."

"That's what I meant."

"Joe's the boy who pitched Yale to the championship this year,"
explained Jimmie Mack.

"Oh, ho! Yes, I heard about that. Well, hope you like it here. I'm going
out in the field. See you there," and Harrison passed on.

Joe lost no time in changing into his playing togs. The dressing rooms
in the Montville grandstand were only apologies compared with what Joe
was used to.

But he knew that this was only a training camp, and that they would not
be here long.

He walked out on the field, feeling a little nervous and rather
lonesome - "like a cat in a strange garret," as he wrote home to his
folks. But Joe's school and college training stood him in good stead,
and when he had been introduced to most of the players, who welcomed him
warmly, he felt more at home.

Then he went out in the field, and began catching flies with the
others.

"But I wish they'd put me at pitching," mused Joe. "That's what I want
to do."

He was to learn that to make haste slowly is a motto more or less
followed by professional ball players. There would be time enough to put
on speed before the season closed.




CHAPTER V

THE CLASH


"That's the way! Line 'em out, now!"

"Put some speed into that!"

"Look out for a high one!"

"Oh, get farther back! I'm going to knock the cover off this time!"

These were only a few of the cries and calls that echoed over the ball
field at Montville. The occasion was the daily practice of the Pittston
nine, and orders had come from the manager and trainer to start in on
more lively work. It was Joe's third day with the professionals.

He had made the acquaintance of all the players, but as yet had neither
admitted, nor been admitted to, a real friendship with any of them. It
was too early.

Joe held back because he was naturally a bit diffident. Then, too, most
of the men were older than he, and with one exception they had been in
the professional ranks for several seasons. That one exception was
Charlie Hall, who played short. He, like Joe, had been taken that
Spring from the amateur ranks. Hall had played on a Western college
team, and had been picked out by one of the ever-present professional
scouts.

With Charlie, Joe felt more at home than with any of the others and yet
he felt that soon he would have good friends among the older men.

On their part they did not become friendly with Joe at once simply for
the reason that they wanted to "size him up," or "get his number," as
Jimmie Mack put it in speaking of the matter.

"But they'll cotton to you after a bit, Joe," said the assistant manager,
"and you'll like them, too. Don't get discouraged."

"I won't," was the answer.

There was one man on the team, though, with whom Joe felt that he would
never be on friendly terms, and this was Jake Collin, one of the
pitchers - the chief pitcher and mainstay of the nine on the mound, from


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