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The Chums of Scranton High out for the Pennant online

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"K.K." (Ken Kinkaid) Center Field
Julius Hobson Second Base
Alan Tyree Pitcher
Thad Stevens Catcher


Belleville High Player
Position
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Conway Left Field
Gould First Base
Wright Right Field
Waterman Shortstop
"O.K." Kramer Third Base
Major Center Field
O'Malley Second Base
Kinsey Pitcher
Leonard Catcher

Of course the home team elected to go into the field in the opening
inning. This brought "Just" Smith to the bat to start things moving.
Well, he proved to be the "round peg in the round hole," for what did
he do but tap the very first ball up for as pretty a single as any
one would want to see. This was certainly a good beginning. Joe
Danvers "whiffed out" after knocking several foul strikes. That was
one down, but the eager Scranton fans were saying to each other:

"Notice that our fellows don't seem to have any trouble as yet in
getting to Arthur Kinsey this fine afternoon! Oh! wait till they
limber up, and you'll see them knock him out of the box."

"Yes, just wait," some of the local rooters would call out, "and
see how he mows your fellows down in one, two, three style. Arthur
always starts in easy and stiffens up as he goes along. He has
pitched two games in an afternoon, and won both. They do say he
was better at the end of the eighteen innings than when he started.
Yes, please don't take snap judgment on our poor pitcher. There,
did you see how Joe Danvers nearly broke his back trying to hit
a ball that didn't come within a foot of the plate. He'll have
them all guessing pretty soon and eating out of his hand. The game
is long, my brother, don't settle it in the first inning."

Owen got in his little bunt, all right, and succeeded in advancing
the runner to second, as well as saving his own bacon. So there
were two on the bags, and as many down, when Hugh stepped up and took
a chance at the offerings of the wily Kinsey.

Hugh managed to pick out a good one and sent it like a bullet straight
at the shortstop, who knocked it down; and finding that he could not
reach first in time, as Hugh was jumping along like the wind, sent
it over to second, where he caught Owen just by a fraction of an
inch, and Mr. Hitchens waved him off; so after all the brave start,
no score resulted.

In their half of the first, Belleville did no better. In fact, they
only got a man on first through an error on the part of Joe Danvers,
who unfortunately slipped in reaching for the ball, and as his
foot was not on the bag the umpire called the runner safe. But he
died there, Alan Tyree cutting the next two men down as a mower in
the field might the ripe grain with his scythe.

Again did Scranton make a bid for a run in the next deal, but once
more slipped up when hope had begun to grip the hearts of many of
the anxious home rooters. In this inning "K.K." struck out, Julius
Hobson was sent to the bench on a foul that Wright out in the field
managed to settle under after a lively run; Tyree got a Texas league
hit that allowed him to plant himself on first, and Thad slipped
one over into the bleachers in right that, according to the ground
rules, allowed him to go to second.

With men on two bags up came "Just" Smith, who had done so bravely
before; but alas! as that Belleville fan had truly said, the local
pitcher had tightened up and was not such "easy pickings" now; so
Smith only whiffed, and the side was out.

Belleville, much encouraged, started hitting in their half of this
inning. Two good blows, added to a couple of errors, allowed them
to send a brace of runners around the circuit. It began to look
serious for Scranton, and Hugh bade his men brace up and do something
worth while.

With Scranton at the bat Joe Danvers cracked out a clean single,
after he had had seven fouls called on him. Juggins tried to do
the same but failed to connect. Owen, after two strikes and three
balls, again bunted. He succeeded in shoving Joe down to second,
but it went as a sacrifice after all, because they got Owen before
he could cross the initial sack.

Again history repeated itself, and it seemed up to Hugh to do something
to save the inning from being a goose-egg again. He braced himself
for an effort. Kinsey apparently considered Hugh dangerous, and was
for passing him, in hopes of being better able to strike out the
next man up, "K.K." But Hugh refused to be denied, and stepping
out he smote one of those curves a blow that sent it spinning far
out in left, allowing Joe to come in, and placing Hugh on second.

Things began to look a bit brighter now. Encouraged by the aspect,
and possibly the cheers of the Scranton fans, "K.K." put one over
second that allowed Hugh to reach third, no attempt being made to
nip the batter at first.

Then up stepped Julius Hobson. As he was so fond of saying, it
was "Hobson's choice" with him, because he could not bunt, but had
to hit out. Well, he succeeded in doing a mighty thing, for the
ball went whizzing far over Major's head out in center, and started
rolling down the little incline. Hugh and "K.K." raced home amidst
thunderous plaudits, and after them came Julius, plodding along
"like an ice-wagon," some of the anxious ones declared, though after
all he had abundance of time to make the complete rounds.

There were no more runs garnered that inning, but then Scranton was
not greedy. Four against two looked mighty good to the visitors.

So the game went on. It became a regular see-saw sort of affair,
first one side being ahead and then the other.

At the end of the seventh, after considerable excitement, the two
rival nines found themselves just where they had started in the
beginning of the game, for they were tied, eight to eight, and both
fighting tooth and nail to keep the other from adding to the score,
while also endeavoring to secure a few runs on their own account.
Both pitchers had warmed to their work, however, and runs were likely
to be a scarce article from that time on.

When Scranton was going into the field for the beginning of the
eighth inning, the vast crowd settled down for an interesting close,
because when two teams are as nearly matched as these seemed to be,
it is a toss-up which will win the game.




CHAPTER VI

A HOT FINISH


"It's anybody's game so far!" one of the Scranton boys was calling out.

"Well, I told you that Kinsey would grow better the longer he was in
the box," laughed the local rooter, who had spoken before. "Why,
he's just getting warmed up by now. Your fellows will be lucky
to touch him again from now on. It's as good as sewed up already."

"Don't crow too soon," Scranton told him, unflinchingly, for boys
are not to be so easily bluffed; and the Scranton fellows still had
great confidence in their team, led by Hugh Morgan, as strong finishers.

It began to look very much like a pitchers' battle from that time
on. Kinsey was fast becoming invulnerable, and batter after batter
failed to connect with his wizard delivery. He would smile at them,
and then proceed to give them something they were not expecting, so
that the heaviest Scranton batters struck out.

On the other hand, Alan Tyree was doing almost as well, and if he
fell a trifle short his teammates made up the difference, for they
performed splendidly. Several hummers that apparently were ticketed
for two-baggers, perhaps more, were hauled down by expert fingers
before they could get out of the diamond, while the fielders caught
several particularly vicious flies that would have counted heavily
against Scranton were they allowed to fall safely.

The ninth inning saw no change, for the tie was still unbroken. This
sort of thing pleased the crowd immensely, as an extra inning game
always means additional excitement, and added thrills for the money.

Even the tenth did not break the monotony, although at one time
it looked as if Belleville might add a tally to their score, and
possibly clinch matters. Leonard, their hard-hitting backstop,
sent one out in short center, failing to give it enough force to
take advantage of that incline back of "K.K." Then Conway, who had
been hitting savagely latterly, tried to knock the cover off the
ball, but only succeeded in popping up a high foul which Thad smothered
in his big mitt after dancing around for several seconds, as though
the twister were difficult to gauge correctly.

Gould bunted unexpectedly when the stage was set for a mighty blow,
with the fielders playing away out. He advanced Leonard, although
caught himself, thanks to the quick work of the pitcher, who closed
in on the ball, and tossed it to first ahead of the sprinting Gould.

So Leonard was on second, with two out, and another slugger at the
plate in the person of Wright, with Waterman to follow.

Some of the Belleville boys started cheering and they appeared to
be almost certain that a run was as good as counted, but for once
they made a mistake, because after Tyree had gotten himself into a
bad hole, with three balls and one strike called, he forced the
batter to foul, and then shut him out on a dizzy inshoot that he
failed to connect with, being called out by the watchful umpire.

The eleventh inning saw no difference in the prevailing score, which
after both clubs had had a turn at bat remained the same, eight to eight.

"Why, anything is possible with those two boys going as strong as
they are right now," the Belleville rooter was saying. "That pitcher
of yours, Scranton, is no slouch, believe me. He isn't hardly in
the same class as Kinsey, but your fellows are supporting him in
great shape, and saving many a run by fine field work. But of course
we'll win in the end; we're bound to. One of our boys will put in
the big wallop and circle the bases on a trot, and then it'll all be
over but the shouting. It's no disgrace to be whipped by a Belleville
team, Scranton."

"Spell able first!" taunted the visiting fan, still filled with
implicit faith in his school representatives.

It was now the beginning of the twelfth. Hugh had again talked to
his fellows, and once more implored them to get busy with their bats.

"Don't ever get the notion in your heads that you can't hit Kinsey's
shoots and drops!" he told them, as Julius Hobson selected his bat,
being the first man up. We've just _got_ to work a man around the
circuit this inning."

"If we don't we never will next time, because it's the unlucky
thirteenth," remarked another, who, like many baseball players,
seemed to have a touch of superstition in his make-up.

"The thirteenth is as good as any other," Hugh told him, reprovingly;
"and if we reach it I hope you'll not lie down on that account. Julius,
you're due for a wallop, remember."

"Sure thing, Hugh, watch my smoke!" chuckled the other, as he stepped
blithely out and tapped his bat several times on the plate after
a fashion he had, while Kinsey was eyeing him reflectively, as though
trying to remember what the long and short suit of the Hobson boy was.

Then he sent in a screamer which Julius as promptly sent far out
in the heavens, and started running like mad for first. They could
see the long-legged Conway out in left field sprinting like a huge
grasshopper in hopes of getting under the soaring ball in time to
set himself for the catch. As if by a preconcerted signal everybody
in the grandstand and the bleachers stood up, the better to see
what happened, because it was a most critical point of the game.

Julius was half-way down to second and still going strong when Conway
was seen to fairly leap up into the air, then take a headlong fall;
after which he hastily scrambled to his feet, holding up his hand
to signify that he had a ball, which he then threw in to the pitcher,
amidst a roar of cheers. Even Scranton fans joined in the applause,
being able to appreciate a fine bit of work, although it gave them
the keenest sort of disappointment to realize that after all Julius
had had all his run to second for nothing.

But at least his mighty blow would serve to encourage some of his
team-mates, who latterly had not been doing much with Kinsey's weird
offerings.

Of course, nothing was expected of the pitcher, for Tyree was a
notoriously weak man at the bat. He tried the best he knew how
to connect, but after three attempts had to go back to the bench.
So two were down, and Thad Stevens at bat. Hugh said something
to his chum as the latter stepped forward to the plate. Thad looked
very grim as though he felt that the whole fate of the game rested
on his young shoulders just then. He waited for his ball, had a
strike called, and then connected. The sound of that blow would
never be forgotten by those eager Scranton fans. It was as loud
and clear as the stroke of a woodsman's ax on a hollow tree. And
they saw the ball speeding away out dead ahead. Everybody started
up again to watch its course, while shouts rent the air.

Major was making along like mad. No use, Major, because that ball
is ticketed for a home run, and nothing on earth but a collapse of
the part of the fellow spinning around the bases can prevent it.
When the ball struck the ground Major was not within thirty feet
of it. He did not even attempt to jump up and tag the fleeting
sphere as it passed far above his bead, realizing the absurdity
of such a proceeding. His business was simply to recover the ball,
and get it in home as rapidly as he could.

But before this could be accomplished Thad Stevens was lying on
the ground among his mates, panting for breath, but a pleased grin
on his face, while some of the fellows were patting him happily on
the back, and telling him that he had saved the day for good old
Scranton High.

That ended the scoring for Scranton, although "Just" Smith did manage
to get on first by means of a scratch hit. Joe Danvers tried to equal
the performance of the backstop, but while he met the ball and sent
it far afield, unluckily. It went too high, and this enabled Major
to get beneath, with the result that the fly was caught, and the side
went out.

The excitement started all over again when Belleville came to bat for
their turn. It was plain to be seen that they had "blood in their
eye," and meant to redouble their efforts to score.

An error, together with two fair hits, put a couple of the locals
on the bases. Only one man was down in the bargain. Everybody
looked anxious on both sides, for the game was likely to be ended,
one way or the other, in that same twelfth inning.

A single would tie the score, a double give the game to Belleville.

Hugh signaled to his infield to play close. He wanted a double play
so as to put an end to the intense strain, which was beginning to
tell upon every player.

It was the great Conway at bat again. He looked particularly dangerous,
for he had a way of standing there like a mighty warrior, flourishing
his club, and watching the pitcher like a hawk. Conway had shown
himself to be the most consistent hitter on the Belleville team when
up against the deceptive shoots of Alan Tyree. Would he again succeed
in connecting with the elusive ball, and sending one or both
runners home?

Tyree appeared perfectly cool, but of course he was far from being so.
He delivered his first offering, and the umpire called it a ball.
A second followed likewise labeled. Some thought he feared Conway
so much that he meant to pass him, to take chances with Gould, who
had been less able to connect with the ball.

But with the third effort they heard again that suggestive "crack"
as Conway struck, having finally received the ball he wanted. The
crowd gave a convulsive gasp, but that was all; there was no time
for anything more, so rapidly did events occur. Three runners were
in motion, Conway heading down for first, Leonard making for second
and O'Malley beating it along the line full-tilt toward third.

Owen Dugdale was seen to leap frantically up into the air, then
almost fall over with the force of the ball which he held tightly
in his right band. He did not make any attempt to cut the runner
down at first, partly because Conway was already out through the
catch, and then things were better fixed for him closer at hand.
O'malley was coming down like a hurricane. He saw what had happened
and tried to get back, but Julius was at the bag and ready to take
the toss like lightning.

When the spectators saw him touch the bag, and that the umpire had
made the motion to indicate that Leonard was easily out, a great
shout arose; for the game was over.

After all the intense anxiety Scranton had won the first of the series
of three games which she expected to play with Belleville, unless
the other team failed to take the next one there would be no necessity
for playing the "rubber."

So Scranton boys were able to wend their way homeward in the coming
dusk, singing their school songs, and feeling all the airs of conquerors.
A happy crowd it was, taken in all, and rosy visions of the future
naturally filled the minds and hearts of those boys who had fought
so valiantly that day to overcome the enemy.

They could even look forward confidently now to the next game, which
would be with Allendale, two weeks off; and some there were who
already saw in imagination the championship pennant of the Three Town
High School League floating from the flag-pole on the dear old campus
during the Fall session of school.




CHAPTER VII

WHAT THAD SAW


Some days passed.

As there would be no championship game the coming Saturday for Scranton
High the town settled back into its ordinary condition, so far as the
young people went. There were afternoons for practice, of course, when
the full team was expected to be on deck, and renew their acquaintance
with the many intricacies of the game as taught by Coach Saunders.

Still every other day the boys were at liberty to go and come as they
pleased. Some made it a religious duty, as well as pleasure, to show
up regularly at the ball grounds, where there were always enough
fellows handy to get up a scrub game, for baseball aspirants were as
thick as blackberries in August around Scranton that season. A great
revival of interest in outdoor sports had struck the town, and
promised to stick far into the fall and winter.

On one of these off-days - -it was Friday, to be exact - -Thad showed
up over at the home of his chum, evidently laboring under some unusual
stress of excitement. Hugh had walked home with him from school, and
being busy with certain things had stayed in his den for two hours or
more. Then in burst Thad, his face red with suppressed news.

"What's happened now?" demanded Hugh, realizing instantly that the
other was in a perfect "sweat" to communicate something he had learned.
"Have the Germans landed on the coast, or is little old New York being
bombarded from giant airplanes? There's something amiss, I can see
from your way of bursting in on me."

"Oh! you know what I've been bothering my head over lately, Hugh,"
snapped the panting Thad. "Of course it's that hobo!"

"Meaning Matilda's now quiet and respected brother Lu, eh?" the other
chuckled. "Well, what's he been doing now - -cut stick, and lit out,
as we hoped would be the case, finding life in and around a sleepy
town like Scranton too dull and commonplace to please the fastidious
notions of such a wonderful world traveler?"

"What! that leech clear out, and free his poor sister from the load
he's gone and fastened on her? Well, it's just the contrary; he can't
be shaken off, try as you will. Why, Hugh, even my respected Ma and
two of her friends couldn't do the first thing toward getting Matilda
to say she'd chase him off."

"Oh! that's the way the land lies, is it, Thad? Then some of the good
ladies of Scranton have been over trying to convince Matilda that
blood isn't thicker than water, and that she is under no sort of
obligation to give her wanderer of a brother a shelter, either
temporary or permanent, under her little roof."

"I hurried so after the show was over, Hugh, that I'm out of breath;
but I'm getting the same back now, and can soon tell you all about it.
In one way, it was as good as a circus, though it did make me grit
my teeth to see how that miserable sinner acted. Oh! I just wished
for a chance to give him a good kick or two. Why, honest, Hugh, I
believe I could willingly assist in tarring and feathering a scamp
like Brother Lu, who can settle down on his poor relative, and expect
to be waited on and fed and treated like an invalid the rest of his
life, while all the time he's as strong as anything, and as sleek
as a well-fed rat!" Hugh laughed outright at the comparison.

"Go to it, then, Thad, and relieve my curiosity. You've got me so
worked up by now that I'll surely burst if you don't spin the whole
story in a hurry."

"Well, it's this way," began the other, as he fanned his heated face
with a paper be picked up from Hugh's table. "I happened to know
that Ma and a couple of the other ladies who have been so kind to
Matilda during the last year had decided it was a duty they owed her
to pay her a visit, take a look for themselves at this Brother Lu,
to decide if he was really an object of pity, or a big fraud; and
also advise Mrs. Hosmer that she ought to give him his walking papers
right away.

"Hugh, I decided not to say anything to you about it, because I knew
you had laid out something you wanted to do at home this afternoon;
but I was resolved to be around the Hosmer shack when the ladies
called about three today, and try to learn just how the friendly
scheme came out.

"They showed up fine and dandy on time. I was hidden behind some
bushes close by, and no sooner had they passed inside, Mr. Hosmer
coming to the door to welcome them, than I found it convenient to
creep up still closer. The window was open, and I could hear the
chatter of women's tongues as they chatted away. Mr. Hosmer came
out and went downtown on some errand; I suspect that, like the wise
man he is, he smelled a rat and wanted to leave a clear field to
Ma and Mrs. Lund and Miss Carpenter. Perhaps Mr. Hosmer isn't just
as much in favor of entertaining Brother Lu the rest of his natural
life as he may have been in the start, for he must know deep down in
his man's soul that the fellow is only working his sister for his
keep.

"Well, anyway, I could hear them talking for a little while, after
which who should come out of the house but our former hobo, Brother
Lu. Say, he's actually wearing Mr. Hosmer's best suit, would you
believe it, and he seems to like to pose as a sort of retired gentleman;
it must be nice after getting such a precarious living walking the
railway ties, and begging or stealing as he went, to drop down here
in a snug nest where he has the best bed, is sure of three meals a
day, wears his brother-in-law's only Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, and
I guess smokes Andrew's little stock of tobacco in the bargain."

Thad certainly did manage to put considerable emphasis and scorn into
his vivid description of the contemptible actions of the reformed
tramp. Hugh was laughing to himself over his chum's righteous
indignation; nor did he have any doubt but that, given the
opportunity, Thad would most heartily have assisted in a little
operation calculated to furnish the said Brother Lu with a nice warm
coat of down from a pillow, plastered on with a liberal coating
of sticky black tar.

"Of course, after he came on the scene, I lost all interest in the
folks inside the cottage, and kept watching his antics," continued
Thad, after giving vent to his feelings as he did. "I couldn't make
out anything that was said, anyway, but it was easy to tell from the
way the voices dropped after he came out that the ladies were getting
in their work, and trying to show Matilda she had no business to add
to her burdens.

"Brother Lu, he acted like a sneak from the Start. I could see that
he was taking it for a big joke, because he was grinning like
everything. I guess he knew what a grip he'd managed to get on his
sister, and felt sure not even a dozen ladies of Scranton could cause
her to throw him out.

"What did he do but slide around the wall of the house, get down on
his hands and knees, and creep right under that open window, where
he could hear every word that was said. What do you think of that
for meanness, the skunk; now, it never occurred to me to try that
dodge, you know."


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Online LibraryDonald FergusonThe Chums of Scranton High out for the Pennant → online text (page 3 of 10)