Lester Chadwick.

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

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To whisper a secret I might say that it was Joe himself who was under
observation on many of these occasions, for his fame was spreading. But
he was a modest youth.

Joe was not inquisitive, but he learned, in a casual way, that Pop
Dutton was seemingly on the right road to success and prosperity. It was
somewhat of a shock to the young pitcher, then, one evening, as he was
strolling down town in Pittston, to see his protegé in company with a
shabbily dressed man.

"I hope he hasn't taken to going with those tramps again," mused Joe.
"That would be too bad."

Resolving to make sure of his suspicions, and, if necessary, hold out a
helping hand, the young pitcher quickened his pace until he was close
behind the twain.

He could not help but hear part of the conversation.

"Oh, come on!" he caught, coming from Dutton's companion. "What's the
harm?"

"No, I'll not. You don't know how hard it is to refuse, but I - I
can't - really I can't."

"You mean you won't?"

"Put it that way if you like."

"Well, then, I do like, an' I don't like it! I'll say that much. I don't
like it. You're throwin' me down, an' you're throwin' the rest of us
down. I don't like it for a cent!"

"I can't help that," replied Dutton, doggedly.

"Well, maybe _we_ can help it, then. You're leaving us in the lurch just
when we need you most. Come on, now, be a sport, Pop!"

"No, I've been too much of a sport in the past - that's the trouble."

"So you won't join us?"

"No."

"Will you come out and tell the boys so? They maybe won't believe me."

"Oh, well, I can't see any harm in that."

"Come on, then, they'll be glad to see you again."

Joe wondered what was afoot. It was as though he saw a danger signal
ahead of Pop Dutton.




CHAPTER XXII

VICTORY


Joe hardly knew what to do. He realized that all his efforts toward
getting the old ball player back on the right road might go for naught
if Pop went off with these loose companions.

And yet would he relish being interfered with by the young pitcher? Pop
was much older than Joe, but so far he had shown a strong liking for the
younger man, and had, half-humorously, done his bidding. Indeed Pop was
under a deep debt not only of gratitude to Joe, but there had been a
financial one as well, though most of that was now paid.

"But I don't want to see him slip back," mused Joe, as he walked along
in the shadows, taking care to keep far enough back from the twain. But
Pop never looked around. He seemed engrossed in his companion.

"What shall I do?" Joe asked himself.

He half hoped that some of the other members of the nine might come
along, and accost Pop, perhaps taking him off with them, as they had
done several times of late. For the old player was becoming more and
more liked - he was, in a way, coming into his own again, and he had a
fund of baseball stories to which the younger men never tired listening.

"If some of them would only come along!" whispered Joe, but none did.

He kept on following the two until he saw them go into one of the less
disreputable lodging houses in a poor quarter of the city. It was a house
where, though some respectable workingmen, temporarily embarrassed, made
their homes for a time, there was more often a rowdy element, consisting
of tramps, and, in some cases, criminals.

At election time it harbored "floaters" and "repeaters," and had been
the scene of many a police raid.

"I wonder what he can want by going in there?" thought Joe. "It's a good
thing Gregory can't see him, or he'd sure say my experiment was a
failure. It may be, after all; but I'm not going to give up yet. Now,
shall I go in, and pretend I happened by casually, or shall I wait
outside?"

Joe debated the two propositions within himself. The first he soon gave
up. He was not in the habit of going into such places, and the presence
of a well-dressed youth, more or less known to the public as a member
of the Pittston nine, would excite comment, if nothing else. Besides, it
might arouse suspicion of one sort or another. Then, too, Pop might
guess why Joe had followed him, and resent it.

"I'll just have to wait outside," decided Joe, "and see what I can do
when Pop comes out."

It was a dreary wait. From time to time Joe saw men slouch into the
place, and occasionally others shuffled out; but Pop did not come, nor
did his ragged companion appear.

Joe was getting tired, when his attention was attracted to a detective
whom he knew, sauntering rather aimlessly past on the opposite side of
the street.

"Hello!" thought the young ball player, "I wonder what's up?" He eyed
the officer closely, and was surprised, a moment later, to see him
joined by a companion.

"Something sure is in the wind," decided Joe. "I'm going to find out."

He strolled across the highway and accosted the detective with whom he
had a slight acquaintance.

"Oh, it's Matson, the Pittston pitcher!" exclaimed the officer.

"What's up, Regan?" asked Joe.

"Oh, nothing much. Do you know Farley, my side partner? Farley, this is
Matson - Baseball Joe, they call him. Some nifty little pitcher, too,
let me tell you."

"Thanks," laughed Joe, as he shook hands with the other detective.

"Why, we're looking for a certain party," went on Regan. "I don't mind
telling you that. We'll probably pull that place soon," and he nodded
toward the lodging house. "Some of the regulars will be along in a
little while," he added.

"Pull," I may explain, is police language for "raid," or search a
certain suspected place.

"Anything big?" asked Joe.

"Oh, nothing much. There's been some pocket-picking going on, and a few
railroad jobs pulled off. A lot of baggage belonging to wealthy folks
has been rifled on different lines, all over the country, and we think
we're on the track of some of the gang. We're going to pull the place
and see how many fish we can get in the net."

Joe did not know what to do. If the place was to be raided soon it might
mean that his friend, the old pitcher, would be among those arrested.
Joe was sure of his friend's innocence, but it would look bad for him,
especially after the life he had led. It might also be discouraging to
Pop, and send him back to his old companions again.

"How long before you'll make the raid?" asked Joe.

"In about half an hour, I guess," replied Regan. "Why, are you going to
stick around and see it?"

"I might. But there's a friend of mine in there," spoke Joe, "and I
wouldn't like him to get arrested."

"A friend of yours?" repeated Regan, wonderingly.

"Yes. Oh, he's not a hobo, though he once was, I'm afraid. But he's
reformed. Only to-night, however, he went out with one of his old
companions. I don't know what for. But I saw him go in there, and that's
why I'm here. I'm waiting for him to come out."

"Then the sooner he does the better," observed Farley, grimly. "It's a
bad place."

"Look here," said Joe, eagerly, "could you do me a favor, Mr. Regan?"

"Anything in reason, Joe."

"Could you go in there and warn my friend to get out. I could easily
describe him to you. In fact, I guess you must know him - Pop Dutton."

"Is Old Pop in there?" demanded the officer, in surprise.

"Yes," responded Joe, "but I'm sure he's all right. I don't believe you
want him."

"No, he's not on our list," agreed Regan. "Well, say, I guess I could do
that for you, Joe. Only one thing, though. If Farley or I happen in
there there may be a scare, and the birds we want will get away."

"How can we do it, then?" asked Joe.

A figure came shuffling up the dark street, and, at the sight of the two
detectives and the young pitcher, hesitated near a gas lamp.

"Hello! There's Bulldog!" exclaimed Regan, but in a low voice. "He'll
do. We'll send him in and have him tip Pop off to come out. Bulldog is
on our staff," he added. "He tips us off to certain things. Here,
Bulldog!" he called, and a short, squat man shuffled up. His face had a
canine expression, which, Joe surmised, had gained him his name.

"Slip into Genty's place, Bulldog," said Regan in a low voice, "and tell
a certain party to get out before the bulls come. Do you know Pop
Dutton?"

"Sure. He and I - - "

"Never mind about that part of it," interrupted the detective. "Just do
as I tell you, and do it quietly. You can stay in. You might pick up
something that would help us."

"What, me stay in there when the place is going to be pulled, and get
pinched? Not on your life!" and the man turned away.

"Hold on!" cried Regan. "We'll get you out all right, same as we always
do. You're too valuable to us to go to jail for long."

Then, as Bulldog started for the dark entrance to the lodging house, Joe
realized that he had seen what is called a "stool-pigeon," a character
hated by all criminals, and not very much respected by the police whom
they serve. A "stool-pigeon" consorts with criminals, that he may
overhear their plans, and betray them to the police. Often he is himself
a petty criminal. In a sense he does a duty to the public, making it
more easy for the authorities to arrest wrong-doers - but no one loves a
"stool-pigeon." They are the decoy ducks of the criminal world.

I am making this explanation, and portraying this scene in Joe Matson's
career, not because it is pleasant to write about, for it is not. I
would much rather take you out on the clean diamond, where you could
hear the "swat" of the ball. But as Joe's efforts to make a new man of
the old pitcher took him into this place I can do no less than chronicle
the events as they happened. And a little knowledge of the sadder,
darker and unhappy side of life may be of value to boys, in deterring
them from getting into a position where it would appeal to them - appeal
wrongly, it is true, but none the less strongly.

The Bulldog had not been in the building more than a minute before the
door opened again, and Pop Dutton, alone, and looking hastily around,
came out. Joe got in a shadow where he could not be seen. He did
not want his friend humiliated, now that he had seen him come out
victorious.

For the young pitcher could see that Pop was the same straight and sober
self he had been since getting back on the right road. His association
with his former companions had evidently not tempted him.

"Oh, I'm glad!" exulted Joe.

Pop Dutton looked curiously at the two detectives.

"Thanks," he said briefly, as he passed them, and they knew that he
understood. Not for a long time afterward did the former pitcher know
that to Joe he owed so much. For, though his intention in going to the
rendezvous of the unfortunates of the under-world was good, still it
might have been misconstrued. Now there was no danger.

Afterward Joe learned that Pop had been urged by the man he met on the
street to take part in a robbery. The old pitcher refused, but his false
companion tried to lure him back to his old life, on the plea that only
from his own lips would his associates believe that Pop had reformed.
And Pop made them plainly understand that he had.

Pop Dutton passed on down the street, and, waiting a little while, Joe
followed. He did not care to see the raid. The young pitcher soon
reached his hotel, and he felt that Pop was safe in his own boarding
house.

The next morning Joe read of the wholesale arrests in the lodging house,
though it was said that the quarry the detectives most hoped to get
escaped in the confusion.

"Baggage robbers, eh?" mused Joe. "I wonder if they were the ones who
went through Reggie Varley's valise? If they could be caught it would
clear me nicely, providing I could prove it was they."




CHAPTER XXIII

THE TRAMP AGAIN


Baseball again claimed the attention of Joe and his mates. They were
working hard, for the end of the season was in sight, and the pennant
ownership was not yet decided.

Clevefield was still at the top of the list, but Pittston was crowding
her hard, and was slowly creeping up. Sometimes this would be the result
of her players' own good work, and again it would be because some other
team had a streak of bad luck which automatically put Joe's team ahead.

The young pitcher was more like himself than at any time since he had
joined the club. He was really pitching "great" ball, and Gregory did
not hesitate to tell him so. And, more than this, Joe was doing some
good work with the bat. His average was slowly but steadily mounting.

Joe would never be a great performer in this line, and none realized it
better than himself. No clubs would be clamoring for his services as a
pinch hitter. On the other hand many a pitcher in the big leagues had
not Joe's batting average, though of course this might have been because
they were such phenomenal twirlers, and saved all their abilities for
the mound.

Also did Joe pay attention to the bases. He wished he was a south-paw,
at times, or a left-hand pitcher, for then he could more easily have
thrown to first. But it was too late to change now, and he made up his
mind to be content to work up his reputation with his good right arm.

But, even with that, he made some surprisingly good put-outs when
runners took chances and got too long a lead. So that throughout the
circuit the warning began to be whispered:

"Look out for Matson when you're on first!"

Joe realized that a good pitcher has not only to play the game from the
mound. He must field his position as well, and the failure of many an
otherwise good pitcher is due to the fact that they forget this.

Much of Joe's success, at this time, was due to the coaching and advice
he received from Pop Dutton. The veteran could instruct if he could not
pitch yet, and Joe profited by his experience.

No reference was made by Joe to the night Pop had gone to the lodging
house, nor did the old pitcher say anything to his young friend. In fact
he did not know Joe had had any hand in the matter. Pop Dutton went on
his reformed way. He played the game, when he got a chance, and was
increasingly good at it.

"Joe!" he cried one day, when he had played a full game, "we're getting
there! I hope I'll soon be pitching."

"So do I!" added Joe, earnestly. True, the game Pop had played at centre
for the full nine innings was with the near-tailenders of the Central
League, but it showed that the veteran had "come back" sufficiently to
last through the hard work.

"How is your arm?" asked Joe.

"Not good enough to use on the mound yet, I'm sorry to say," was Pop's
answer. "I guess I'll have to have that operation, after all. But I
don't see how I can manage it. I'm trying to pay back some of my old
debts - - "

"Don't let that part worry you," spoke Joe, quickly. "If things turn out
right I may be able to help you."

"But you've done a lot already, Joe."

"I'll do more - if I can. Just wait until the close of the season, when
we have the pennant."

What Joe meant was that he would have the money for an operation on the
pitcher's arm if the cash was not needed to put Mr. Matson's eyes in
shape through the attention of a surgeon.

And this matter was still undecided, much to the worriment of Joe, his
mother and sister, to say nothing of his father. But it is necessary,
in such matters, to proceed slowly, and not to take any chances.

Joe felt the strain. His regular salary was much needed at home, and he
was saving all he could to provide for his father's possible operation.
That cost would not be light.

Then there was Pop Dutton to think of. Joe wanted very much to see the
old player fully on his feet again. He did not know what to do, though,
should all the money he might get from the pennant series be required
for Mr. Matson.

"Well, I'll do the best I can," thought Joe. "Maybe if Gregory and the
others see how well Pop is doing they'll take up a collection and pay
for the operation. It oughtn't to cost such an awful lot."

Joe shook his head in a puzzled way. Really it was a little too much for
him to carry on his young shoulders, but he had the fire of youth in his
veins, and youth will dare much - which is as it should be, perhaps.

Then, too, Joe had to be on edge all the time in order to pitch winning
ball. No pitcher is, or can be, at top notch all the while. He can
hardly serve in two big games in quick succession, and yet Joe did this
several times, making an enviable record for himself.

The rivalry between him and Collin grew, though Joe did nothing to
inflame the other's dislike. But Collin was very bitter, and Pop gave
Joe some warning hints.

"Oh, I don't believe he'd do anything under-handed," said Joe, not
taking it seriously.

"Well, be on the lookout," advised the veteran. "I don't like Collin,
and never did."

There came a series of rainy days, preventing the playing of games, and
everyone fretted. The players, even Joe, grew stale, though Gregory
tried to keep them in form by sending them off on little trips when the
grounds were too wet even for practise.

Then came fine bracing weather, and Pittston began to stride ahead
wonderfully. It was now only a question of whether Joe's team or
Clevefield would win pennant honors, and, in any event, there would have
to be several games played between the two nines to decide the matter.

This was due to the fact that the league schedule called for a certain
number of games to be played by each club with every other club, and a
number of rainy days, and inability to run off double headers, had
caused a congestion.

Pittston kept on playing in good form, and Joe was doing finely. So much
so that on one occasion when a big league scout was known to be in
attendance, Gregory said in a way that showed he meant it:

"Joe, they're going to draft you, sure."

The larger or major league clubs, those rated as AA, have, as is well
known, the right to select any player they choose from a minor league,
paying, of course a certain price. Thus the big leagues are controllers
in a way of the players themselves, for the latter cannot go to any club
they choose, whereas any big league club can pick whom it chooses from
the little or "bush" leagues. If two or more of the big clubs pick the
same player there is a drawing to decide who gets him.

"Well, I'm not worrying," returned Joe, with a smile.

After a most successful game, in Washburg, which team had been playing
good ball - the contest having been won by Pittston - Joe was walking
across the diamond with Pop Dutton, when the young pitcher saw
approaching them the same tramp with whom his protegé had entered the
lodging house that night.

"Hello, Pop!" greeted the shabby man. "I want t' see you." He leered
familiarly. Pop Dutton stopped and gazed with half-frightened eyes at
Joe.




CHAPTER XXIV

ON THE TRACK


"Well, are you comin'?" demanded the tramp, as Dutton did not answer. "I
said I want to see you, an' I'm dead broke! Took all I had t' git a seat
on th' bleachers t' see de bloomin' game."

"Well, you saw a good game - I'll say that," commented the old player,
though his voice was a bit husky. He seemed to be laboring under some
nervous strain.

"Huh! I didn't come to see th' game. I want t' see you. Are you comin'?"

Pop did not answer at once. About him and Joe, who still stood at his
side, surged the other players and a section of the crowd. Some of the
members of the team looked curiously at Pop and the ragged individual
who had accosted him. Collin, the pitcher, sneered openly, and laughed
in Joe's face.

"Who's your swell friend?" he asked, nodding toward the tramp. Joe
flushed, but did not answer.

"Well, I'm waitin' fer youse," spoke the tramp, and his tone was surly.
"Come on, I ain't got all day."

"Nothing doing," said Pop, shortly. "I'm not coming with you, Hogan."

"You're not!"

There was the hint of a threat in the husky tones, and the glance from
the blood-shot eyes was anything but genial.

"No, I'm not coming," went on Pop, easily. He seemed to have recovered
his nerve now, and glanced more composedly at Joe.

"Huh! Well, I like that!" sneered the tramp. "You're gettin' mighty
high-toned, all of a sudden! It didn't used to be this way."

"I've changed - you might as well know that, Hogan," went on Pop. There
were not so many about them now. All the other players had passed on.

"Well, then, if you won't come with me, come across with some coin!"
demanded the other. "I need money."

"You'll not get any out of me."

"What!"

There was indignant protest in the husky voice.

"I said you'll not get any out of me."

"Huh! We'll see about that. Now look here, Pop Dutton, either you help
me out, or - - "

Dutton turned to one of the officers who kept order on the ball field.

"Jim, see that this fellow gets out," the old player said, quietly.

"All right, Pop. What you say goes," was the reply. "Now then, move on
out of here. We want to clean up for to-morrow's game," spoke the
officer shortly to the man whom Pop had addressed as Hogan.

"Ho! So that's your game is it - _Mister_ Dutton," and the ragged fellow
sneered as he emphasized the "Mister."

"If you want to call it a game - yes," answered Dutton, calmly. "I'm done
with you and yours. I'm done with that railroad business. I don't want
to see you again, and I'm not going to give you any more money."

"You're not!"

"I am not. You've bled me enough."

"Oh, I've bled you enough; have I? I've bled you enough, my fine bird!
Well then, you wait! You'll see how much more I'll bleed you! You'll
sing another tune soon or I'm mistaken. I've bled you enough; eh? Well
you listen here! I ain't bled you half as much as I'm goin' to. And some
of the others are goin' t' come in on the game! You wait! That's all!"

And he uttered a lot of strong expressions that the ground officer
hushed by hustling him off the field.

Joe took no part in this. He stood quietly at the side of Pop as though
to show, by his presence, that he believed in him, trusted him and would
help him, in spite of this seeming disgrace.

They were alone - those two. The young and promising pitcher, and the old
and almost broken down "has-been." And yet the "has-been" had won a
hard-fought victory.

Pop Dutton glanced curiously at Joe.

"Well?" he asked, as if in self-defence.

"What's the answer?" inquired Joe, trying to make his tones natural.
"Was it a hold-up?"

"Sort of. That's one of the fellows I used to trail in with, before you
helped me out of the ditch."

"Is he a railroad man?" asked Joe. "I thought he said something about
the railroad."

"He pretends to be," said Dutton. "But he isn't any more. He used to be,
I believe; but he went wrong, just as I did. Just as I might be now, but
for you, Joe."

His voice broke, and there was a hint of tears in his eyes.

"Oh, forget it!" said Joe, easily. "I didn't do anything. But what sort
of a fellow is this one, anyhow?"

The man had been hustled off the grounds by the officer.

"Oh, he's just a plain tramp, the same as I was. Only he hasn't anything
to do with the railroad any more, except to rob baggage. That's his
specialty. He hangs around the depots, and opens valises and such when
he gets a chance."

"He does!" cried Joe, with sudden interest. "Is he the fellow the
detectives wanted to get the time they raided the Keystone Lodging
House?"

Pop Dutton flushed red.

"What - what do you know about that?" he asked.

"Oh - I - er - I happened to be around there when the police were getting
ready to close in," answered Joe, truthfully enough. He did not want to
embarrass his friend by going into details.

"Oh," said Pop, evidently in relief. "Yes, I think he was one of the
gang they wanted to get. But they didn't."

"He's taking a chance - coming here now."

"Oh, he's let his whiskers grow, and I suppose he thinks that disguises
him. He's had a hold over me, Joe, but I'm glad to say he hasn't any
longer. I won't go into details, but I will say that he had me in his
power. Now I'm out."

"So he used to rob travelers' baggage, did he?"

"Yes, and he does yet I guess, when he gets the chance. Jewelry is his
specialty. I remember once he was telling me of a job he did.

"It was at a small station. I forget just where. Anyhow this
fellow - Hogan is one of his names - he pretended to be a railroad
freight brakeman. You know they are rather roughly dressed, for their
work is not very clean. Well, he got a chance to open a certain valise.
I remember it because he said it was such an odd bag."

Joe felt a queer sensation. It was as though he had heard this same
story years before. Yet he knew what it meant - what it was leading
to - as well as if it had all been printed out.

"Hogan made a good haul, as he called it," went on Pop. "He thought he


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