Lester Chadwick.

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

. (page 3 of 12)
Online LibraryLester ChadwickBaseball Joe in the Central League; or, Making Good as a Professional Pitcher → online text (page 3 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


what Joe picked up by hearing the other men talk. And Collin himself was
not at all modest about his ability. That he had ability Joe was ready
to concede. And Collin wanted everyone else to know it, too. He was
always talking about his record, and his batting average, which, to do
him credit, was good.

Collin was not much older than Joe, but a rather fast life and hard
living counted for more than years. Joe heard whispers that Collin
could not last much longer.

Perhaps it was a realization of this that made Collin rather resent the
arrival of our hero on the Pittston nine. For he gave Joe but a cold
greeting, and, as he moved off to practice, the young pitcher could hear
him saying something about "college dudes thinking they can play
professional ball."

Joe's faced flushed, but he said nothing. It was something that called
more for deeds than words.

"Everybody lively now! I want some snappy work!" called Jimmie Mack as
the practice progressed. "If we're going to play the Montville team
Saturday we want to snow them under. A win by a few runs won't be the
thing at all, and, let me tell you, those boys can play ball.

"So step lively, everybody. Run bases as if you meant to get back home
some time this week. Slug the ball until the cover comes off. And you,
Collin, get a little more speed on your delivery. Is your arm sore?"

"Arm sore? I guess not! I'm all right!" and the man's eyes snapped
angrily.

"Well, then, show it. Let's see what you've got up your sleeve, anyhow.
Here comes Gregory now - he'll catch a few for you, and then we'll do
some batting."

The manager, whom Joe had met and liked, came out to join in the
practice. He nodded to our hero, and then took Collin off to one side,
to give him some instructions.

Joe under the direction of Jimmie Mack was allowed to do some pitching
now. With Terry Hanson the left fielder, to back him up, Joe began
throwing in the balls on a space in front of the grandstand.

Joe noticed that Collin regarded him sharply in the intervals of his own
practice, but he was prepared for a little professional jealousy, and
knew how to take it. He had seen it manifested often enough at school
and college, though there the spirit of the university was paramount to
personal triumph - every player was willing to sacrifice himself that the
team might win. And, in a large measure, of course, this is so in
professional baseball. But human nature is human nature, whether one is
playing for money or for glory, and in perhaps no other sport where
money counts for as much as it does in baseball, will you find more of
the spirit of the school than in the ranks of the diamond professionals.

"Take it easy, Joe; take it easy," advised Terry, with a good-natured
smile, as the lad stung in the balls. "You've got speed, and I'm willing
to admit it without having you split my mitt. But save yourself for a
game. You're not trying to pitch anyone out now, you know, and there's
no one looking at you."

"I guess I forgot this was just practice," admitted Joe with a laugh.
"I'll throw in some easy ones."

He did, and saw an admiring look on Terry's face.

"They seem to have the punch - that's a nice little drop you've got. But
don't work it too much. Vary your delivery."

From time to time as the practice proceeded Terry gave Joe good advice.
Occasionally this would be supplemented by something Mack or Gregory
would say and Joe took it all in, resolving to profit by it.

The practice came to an end, and the players were advised by their
trainer, Mike McGuire, to take walks in the country round-about.

"It'll be good for your legs and wind," was the comment.

Joe enjoyed this almost as much as the work on the field, for the
country was new to him and a source of constant delight. He went out
with some of the men, and again would stroll off by himself.

Saturday, the day when the first practice game was to be played, found
Joe a bit nervous. He wondered whether he would get a chance to pitch.
So too, for that matter, did Tom Tooley, the south-paw moundman, who
was nearer Joe's age than was Collin.

"Who's going to be the battery?" was heard on all sides as the Pittston
players went to the grounds.

"The old man hasn't given it out yet," was the reply of Jimmie Mack. The
"old man" was always the manager, and the term conveyed no hint of
disrespect.

The Montville team, a semi-professional one, was a good bit like the
Silver Stars, Joe thought, when he saw the members run out on the
diamond for practice. Still they looked to be a "husky lot," as he
admitted, and he was glad of it, for he wanted to see what he and his
team-mates could do against a good aggregation.

"Play ball! Play ball!" called the umpire, as he dusted off the home
plate. There was quite a crowd present, and when Gregory handed over his
batting list the umpire made the announcement:

"Batteries - for Pittston, Collin and Gregory. For Montville, Smith and
Jennings."

"Um. He's going to pitch Collin," murmured Tooley in Joe's ear. "That
means we warm the bench."

Joe was a little disappointed, but he tried not to show it.

This first game was neither better nor worse than many others. Naturally
the playing was ragged under the circumstances.

The Pittstons had everything to lose by being beaten and not much to
gain if they won the game. On the other hand the home nine had much to
gain in case they should win. So they took rather desperate chances.

Pittston was first at bat, and succeeded in getting two runs over. Then
came a slump, and in quick succession three men went down, two being
struck out. The Montville pitcher was a professional who had been in a
big league, but who had drifted to a minor, and finally landed in the
semi-pro ranks. But he had some good "heaves" left.

Collin walked to the mound with a rather bored air of superiority. There
was a little whispered conference between him and the catcher-manager,
and the second half of the first inning began.

Collin did well, and though hit twice for singles, not a run came in,
and the home team was credited with a zero on the score-board.

"Oh, I guess we can play some!" cried one of the professionals.

"What are you crowing over?" demanded Jimmie Mack. "If we win this I
suppose you fellows will want medals! Why this is nothing but a kid
bunch we're up against."

"Don't let 'em fool you, though," advised the manager, who overheard the
talk.

And then, to the surprise and dismay of all, the home team proceeded to
"do things" to the professionals. They began making runs, and succeeded
in stopping the winning streak of the Pittstons.

The detailed play would not interest you, and, for that matter it was a
thing the Pittstons did not like to recall afterward. There was a bad
slump, and when the seventh inning arrived Gregory called:

"Matson, you bat for Collin."

Joe felt the blood rush to his face.

"Does that mean I'm going to be taken out of the box?" asked the chief
pitcher, stalking angrily over to the manager.

"It means just that, son. I can't afford to lose this game, and we sure
will the way you're feedin' 'em in to 'em. I guess you drew it a little
too fine the last few days. You need a rest."

"But - I - er - I - - " protested Collin.

"That'll do," said Gregory, sharply. "Joe Matson will pitch. It's a
chance, but I've got to take it."

"What's the matter with Tooley?" demanded Collin. "What do you want to
go shove this raw college jake in ahead of us for? Say!"

"Go to the bench!" ordered the manager. "I know what I'm doing, Collin!"

The pitcher seemed about to say something, and the look he gave Joe was
far from friendly. Then, realizing that he was under the manager's
orders, he stalked to the bench.

"You won't do this again, if I can prevent it!" snapped Collin at Joe,
as he passed him. "I'll run you out of the league, if you try to come it
over me!"

Only a few players heard him, and one or two whispered to him to quiet
down, but he glared at Joe, who felt far from comfortable.

But he was to have his chance to pitch at last.




CHAPTER VI

A STRAIGHT THROW


Joe had hopes of making a safe hit when he came up, but pitchers are
proverbially bad batsmen and our hero was no exception. I wish I could
say that he "slammed one out for a home run, and came in amid wild
applause," but truth compels me to state that Joe only knocked a little
pop fly which dropped neatly into the hands of the second baseman, and
Joe went back to the bench.

"Never mind," consoled Jimmie Mack, "you're not here to bat - we count on
you to pitch, though of course if you can hit the ball do it - every
time. But don't get nervous."

"I'm not," answered Joe.

And, to do him justice, his nerves were in excellent shape. He had not
played on the school and Yale nines for nothing, and he had faced many a
crisis fully as acute as the present one.

Then, too, the action of Collin must have had its effect. It was not
pleasant for Joe to feel that he had won the enmity of the chief pitcher
of the nine. But our hero resolved to do his best and let other matters
take care of themselves.

Whether it was the advent of Joe into the game, or because matters would
have turned out that way anyhow, was not disclosed, but Pittston seemed
to brace up, and that inning added three runs to their score, which put
them on even terms with the home team - the members of which were playing
phenomenal ball.

"And now we've got to go in and beat them!" exclaimed Manager Gregory,
as his men took the field. "Joe, I want to see what you can do."

Enough to make any young pitcher nervous; was it not? Yet Joe kept his
nerves in check - no easy matter - and walked to the box with all the ease
he could muster.

He fingered the ball for a moment, rubbed a little dirt on it - not that
the spheroid needed it, but it gave him a chance to look at Gregory and
catch his signal for a fast out. He nodded comprehendingly, having
mastered the signals, and wound up for his first delivery.

"Ball one!" howled the umpire.

Joe was a little nettled. He was sure it had gone cleanly over the
plate, curving out just as he intended it should, and yet it was called
a ball. But he concealed his chagrin, and caught the horsehide which
Gregory threw back to him - the catcher hesitating just the least bit,
and with a look at the umpire which said much.

Again came the signal for a fast out.

Joe nodded.

Once more the young pitcher threw and this time, though the batter swung
desperately at it, not having moved his stick before, there came from
the umpire the welcome cry of:

"Strike - one!"

Joe was beginning to make good.

I shall not weary you with a full account of the game. I have other, and
more interesting contests to tell of as we proceed. Sufficient to say
that while Joe did not "set the river afire," he did strike out three
men that inning, after a two-bagger had been made. But Joe "tightened
up," just in time to prevent a run coming in, and the score was still a
tie when the last man was out.

In the next inning Pittston managed, by hard work, and a close decision
on the part of the umpire, to add another run to their score. This
put them one ahead, and the struggle now was to hold their opponents
hitless. It devolved upon Joe to accomplish this.

And he did it.

Perhaps it was no great feat, as baseball history goes, but it meant
much to him - a raw recruit in his first professional league, "bush"
though it was. Joe made good, and when he struck out the last man (one
of the best hitters, too, by the way) there was an enthusiastic scene on
that little ball field.

"Good, Joe! Good!" cried Jimmie Mack, and even the rather staid Mr.
Gregory condescended to smile and say:

"I thought you could do it!"

Collin, suffering from his turn-down, sulked on the bench, and growled:

"I'll show that young upstart! He can't come here and walk over me."

"He didn't walk over you - he pitched over you," said George Lee, the
second baseman. "He pitched good ball."

"Bah! Just a fluke! If I hadn't strained my arm yesterday I'd have made
this home team look like a sick cat!"

"Post-mortems are out of style," said Lee. "Be a sport! It's all in the
game!"

"Um!" growled Collin, surlily.

The team played the game all over again at the hotel that night. Of
course it was not much of a victory, close as it was, but it showed of
what stuff the players were made, and it gave many, who were ignorant of
Joe's abilities, an insight into what he could do.

"Well, what do you think of my find?" asked Jimmie Mack of his chief
that night.

"All right, Jimmie! All right! I think we'll make a ball-player of him
yet."

"So do I. And the blessed part of it is that he hasn't got a swelled
head from his college work. That's the saving grace of it. Yes, I think
Joe is due to arrive soon."

If Joe had heard this perhaps he would have resented it somewhat.
Surely, after having supplanted a veteran pitcher, even though of no
great ability, and won his first professional game, Joe might have been
excused for patting himself on the back, and feeling proud. And he did,
too, in a sense.

But perhaps it was just as well he did not hear himself discussed.
Anyhow, he was up in his room writing home.

The next day was Sunday, and in the afternoon Joe went for a long
walk. He asked several of the men to go with him, but they all made
good-enough excuses, so Joe set off by himself.

It was a beautiful day, a little too warm, but then that was to be
expected in the South, and Joe was dressed for it. As he walked along
a country road he came to a parting of the ways; a weather-beaten
sign-post informed him that one highway led to North Ford, while the
other would take him to Goldsboro.

"Goldsboro; eh?" mused Joe. "That's where that 'R. V.' fellow lives, who
thought I robbed his valise. I wonder if I'll ever meet him? I've a
good notion to take a chance, and walk over that way. I can ask him if
he found his stuff. Maybe it's risky, but I'm going to do it."

He set off at a swinging pace to limber up his muscles, thinking of many
things, and wondering, if, after all, he was going to like professional
baseball. Certainly he had started in as well as could be expected, save
for the enmity of Collin.

Joe got out into the open country and breathed deeply of the sweet air.
The road swept along in a gentle curve, on one side being deep woods,
while on the other was a rather steep descent to the valley below. In
places the road approached close to the edge of a steep cliff.

As the young pitcher strode along he heard behind him the clatter of
hoofs. It was a galloping horse, and the rattle of wheels told that the
animal was drawing a carriage.

"Someone's in a hurry," mused Joe. "Going for a doctor, maybe."

A moment later he saw what he knew might at any moment become a tragedy.

A spirited horse, attached to a light carriage, dashed around a bend in
the road, coming straight for Joe. And in the carriage was a young girl,
whose fear-blanched face told that she realized her danger. A broken,
dangling rein showed that she had tried in vain to stop the runaway.

Joe formed a sudden resolve. He knew something of horses, and had more
than once stopped a frightened animal. He ran forward, intending to cut
across the path of this one, and grasp the bridle.

But as the horse headed for him, and caught sight of the youth, it
swerved to one side, and dashed across an intervening field, straight
for the steep cliff.

"Look out!" cried Joe, as if that meant anything.

The girl screamed, and seemed about to jump.

"I've got to stop that horse!" gasped Joe, and he broke into a run. Then
the uselessness of this came to him and he stopped.

At his feet were several large, round and smooth stones. Hardly knowing
why he picked up one, just as the horse turned sideways to him.

"If I could only hit him on the head, and stun him so that he'd stop
before he gets to the cliff!" thought Joe. "If I don't he'll go over
sure as fate!"

The next instant he threw.

Straight and true went the stone, and struck the horse hard on the head.

The animal reared, then staggered. It tried to keep on, but the blow had
been a disabling one. It tried to keep on its legs but they crumpled
under the beast, and the next moment it went down in a heap, almost on
the verge of the steep descent.

The carriage swerved and ran partly up on the prostrate animal, while
the shock of the sudden stop threw the girl out on the soft grass, where
she lay in a crumpled heap.

Joe sprinted forward.

"I hope I did the right thing, after all," he panted. "I hope she isn't
killed!"




CHAPTER VII

THE GIRL


Joe Matson bent over the unconscious girl, and, even in the excitement
of the moment, out of breath as he was from his fast run, he could not
but note how pretty she was. Though now her cheeks that must usually be
pink with the flush of health, were pale. She lay in a heap on the
grass, at the side of the overturned carriage, from which the horse had
partly freed itself. The animal was now showing signs of recovering from
the stunning blow of the stone.

"I've got to get her away from here," decided Joe. "If that brute starts
kicking around he may hurt her. I've got to pick her up and carry her.
She doesn't look able to walk."

In his sturdy arms he picked up the unconscious girl, and carried her
some distance off, placing her on a grassy bank.

"Let's see - what do you do when a girl faints?" mused Joe, scratching
his head in puzzled fashion. "Water - that's it - you have to sprinkle her
face with water."

He looked about for some sign of a brook or spring, and, listening, his
ear caught a musical trickle off to one side.

"Must be a stream over there," he decided. He glanced again at the girl
before leaving her. She gave no sign of returning consciousness, and one
hand, Joe noticed when he carried her, hung limp, as though the wrist
was broken.

"And she's lucky to get off with that," decided the young pitcher. "I
hope I did the right thing by stopping the horse that way. She sure
would have gone over the cliff if I hadn't."

The horse, from which had gone all desire to run farther, now struggled
to its feet, and shook itself once or twice to adjust the harness. It
was partly loose from it, and, with a plunge or two, soon wholly freed
itself.

"Run away again if you want to now," exclaimed Joe, shaking his fist at
the brute. "You can't hurt anyone but yourself, anyhow. Jump over the
cliff if you like!"

But the horse did not seem to care for any such performance now, and,
after shaking himself again, began nibbling the grass as though nothing
had happened.

"All right," went on Joe, talking to the horse for companionship, since
the neighborhood seemed deserted. "Stay there, old fellow. I may need
you to get to a doctor, or to some house. She may be badly hurt."

For want of something better Joe used the top of his cap in which to
carry the water which he found in a clear-running brook, not far from
where he had placed the girl.

The sprinkling of the first few drops of the cold liquid on her face
caused her to open her eyes. Consciousness came back quickly, and, with
a start, she gazed up at Joe uncomprehendingly.

"You're all right," he said, reassuringly. "That is, I hope so. Do you
think you are hurt anywhere? Shall I get a doctor? Where do you live?"

Afterward he realized that his hurried questions had given her little
chance to speak, but he meant to make her feel that she would be taken
care of.

"What - what happened?" she faltered.

"Your horse ran away," Joe explained, with a smile. "He's over there
now; not hurt, fortunately."

"Oh, I remember now! Something frightened Prince and he bolted. He never
did it before. Oh, I was so frightened. I tried - tried to stop him, but
could not. The rein broke."

The girl sat up now, Joe's arm about her, supporting her, for she was
much in need of assistance, being weak and trembling.

"Then he bolted into a field," she resumed, "and he was headed for
a cliff. Oh, how I tried to stop him! But he wouldn't. Then - then
something - something happened!"

She looked wonderingly at Joe.

"Yes, I'm afraid _I_ happened it," he said with a smile. "I saw that
your horse might go over the cliff, so I threw a stone, and hit him on
the head. It stunned him, he fell, and threw you out."

"I remember up to that point," she said with a faint smile. "I saw
Prince go down, and I thought we were going over the cliff. Oh, what an
escape!"

"And yet not altogether an escape," remarked Joe. "Your arm seems hurt."

She glanced down in some surprise at her right wrist, as though noticing
it for the first time. Then, as she moved it ever so slightly, a cry of
pain escaped her lips.

"It - it's broken!" she faltered.

Joe took it tenderly in his hand.

"Only sprained, I think," he said, gravely. "It needs attention at once,
though; I must get you a doctor. Can you walk?"

"I think so."

She struggled to her feet with his help, the red blood now surging into
her pale cheeks, and making her, Joe thought, more beautiful than ever.

"Be careful!" he exclaimed, as she swayed. His arm was about her, so she
did not fall.

"I - I guess I'm weaker than I thought," she murmured. "But it isn't
because I'm injured - except my wrist. I think it must be the shock. Why,
there's Prince!" she added, as she saw the grazing horse. "He isn't
hurt!"

"No, I only stunned him with the stone I threw," said Joe.

"Oh, and so you threw a stone at him, and stopped him?" She seemed in
somewhat of a daze.

"Yes."

"What a splendid thrower you must be!" There was admiration in her
tones.

"It's from playing ball," explained Joe, modestly. "I'm a pitcher on the
Pittston nine. We're training over at Montville."

"Oh," she murmured, understandingly.

"If I could get you some water to drink, it would make you feel better,"
said Joe. "Then I might patch up the broken harness and get you home. Do
you live around here?"

"Yes, just outside of Goldsboro. Perhaps you could make a leaf answer
for a cup," she suggested. "I believe I would like a little water. It
would do me good."

She moistened her dry lips with her tongue as Joe hastened back to the
little brook. He managed to curl an oak leaf into a rude but clean cup,
and brought back a little water. The girl sipped it gratefully, and the
effect was apparent at once. She was able to stand alone.

"Now to see if I can get that horse of yours hitched to the carriage,"
spoke the young pitcher, "that is, if the carriage isn't broken."

"It's awfully kind of you, Mr. - - " she paused suggestively.

"I'm Joe Matson, formerly of Yale," was our hero's answer, and, somehow,
he felt not a little proud of that "Yale." After all, his university
training, incomplete though it had been, was not to be despised.

"Oh, a Yale man!" her eyes were beginning to sparkle now.

"But I gave it up to enter professional baseball," the young pitcher
went on. "It's my first attempt. If you do not feel able to get into the
carriage - provided it's in running shape - perhaps I could take you to
some house near here and send word to your folks," he suggested.

"Oh, I think I can ride - provided, as you say, the carriage is in shape
to use," she answered, quickly. "I am Miss Varley. It's awfully good of
you to take so much trouble."

"Not at all," protested Joe. He noticed a shadow of pain pass over her
face, and she clasped her sprained wrist in her left hand.

"That must hurt a lot, Miss Varley," spoke Joe with warm sympathy. "I
know what a sprain is. I've had many a one. Let me wrap a cold, wet rag
around it. That will do until you can get to a doctor and have him
reduce it."

Not waiting for permission Joe hurried back to the brook, and dipped his
handkerchief in the cold water. This he bound tightly around the already
swelling wrist, tying it skillfully, for he knew something about first
aid work - one needed to when one played ball for a living.

"That's better," she said, with a sigh of relief. "It's ever so much
better. Oh, I don't know what would have happened if you had not been
here!"

"Probably someone else would have done as well," laughed Joe. "Now about
that carriage."

Prince looked up as the youth approached, and Joe saw a big bruise on
the animal's head.

"Too bad, old fellow, that I had to do that," spoke Joe, for he loved
animals. "No other way, though. I had to stop you."

A look showed him that the horse was not otherwise injured by the
runaway, and another look showed him that it would be impossible to use


1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryLester ChadwickBaseball Joe in the Central League; or, Making Good as a Professional Pitcher → online text (page 3 of 12)