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and when he read Jim's article about his being up here, he tumbled
to the game."

"Oh! it's rotten luck!" groaned Thad; "after all that beautiful
strategy we've fallen down flat. No use talking, Hugh. Jim, that
fellow is a sticker, and it begins to look as if he couldn't be
budged or pried loose with a crowbar. But I'm not the one to give
a thing up because I've failed once or twice; just wait till I get
my third wind, and I'll settle Brother Lu's hash for him!"

So they wandered back to town, sadder but wiser from their new
experience.




CHAPTER XII

SCRANTON FANS HAVE A PAINFUL SHOCK


The nine from Mechanicsburg showed up that afternoon on time. They
were a husky-looking lot of young chaps, accustomed to hard toil
in the mills, and with muscles that far outclassed the high-school
boys. But, as every one knows, it requires something more than mere
brawn to win baseball games; often a club that seems to be weak
develops an astonishing amount of skill with bat and ball, and easily
walks off with the victory.

Mechanicsburg was "out for blood" from the very start. They depended
a great deal on their slugging abilities, and declared that no pitcher
the Scranton players might offer could resist their terrific onslaught.

When the first inning was over at last it began to look as if their
boast might be made good, for the score stood five to one. Frazer
was in the box for Scranton, Hugh not wishing to use his star pitcher
unless it was absolutely necessary. He was a bit afraid that something
might happen to Tyree that would put him on the bench and thus they
would be terribly handicapped in their first game with Allandale
on the following Saturday.

Now, Frazer was a pretty dependable sort of a slab artist, and if the
Scranton boys had not had Alan Tyree they might have believed him a
Number One. But while Frazer had a number of good curves and drops,
and a pretty fair amount of speed, he seemed only able to deceive
those huskies from Mechanicsburg in spurts.

Between times they got at him for successive drives that netted two
and three bases each. Indeed, in that very first inning the fielders
of the home team were kept on the jump at a lively rate chasing
smashing blows. To tell the truth, all three outs were made on
enormous flies that seemed to go up almost to the very clouds, and
gave "K.K." out in the middle garden, and "Just" Smith, who had charge
of left field, a big run each time before they could get their hands
on and hold the ball.

In the second time at bat the visitors did not do as much. Perhaps
Frazer managed to tighten up, and pitch better ball. He was very
erratic, and could never be depended on to do consecutive good work.
In every other inning the heavies could not seem to gauge his work
at all, and he mowed them down. Then they would come at him again
like furies, and knock his offerings to every part of the field as
though he might be an amateur in the box.

Hugh watched the fluctuations of the game with more or less solicitude.
They could hardly afford to be beaten by a team like Mechanicsburg, he
figured, as he saw Frazer "fall down" for the third time, and a
catastrophe threaten.

It was the sixth inning.

Scranton had done more or less scoring on her side, so that the
figures were mounting rapidly, and it promised to be an old-fashioned
batting bee. It now stood nine to twelve in favor of the visitors;
and as they had started another of their rallies no one could say what
the result might be by the time Scranton once more came to bat.

There was a small but noisy delegation from the other town present,
and they kept things pretty lively most of the time, cheering their
fellows, and hooting the slightest opportunity when Scranton failed
to connect, or one of the high-school boys did not make a gilt-edged
pickup.

Nor were the Mechanicsburg rooters alone in this jeering. As usually
happens, there were a number of fellows in Scranton who entertained
feelings of jealousy toward the local nine, based on an idea that
they had been purposely overlooked when the choice of players was made.

Chief among these malcontents was the town bully, Nick Lang, whose
acquaintance the reader has already made in a previous volume, and
under exciting conditions. Nick at one time had a good chance of
making the nine, for he was a hustler when it came to playing ball,
and indeed, in nearly every sport; but as might be expected, he
managed to display his nasty temper in practice, and Coach Saunders,
who heartily disliked and distrusted the big fellow, speedily turned
him down.

Nick, as usual, had his two faithful henchmen along with him, Leon
Disney and Tip Slavin; and the trio led the hooting whenever a chance
came to rub it into Scranton. Some of the visitors hardly liked
this; it smacked too much of rank treachery to please them. It was
all very well for visitors to deride the home team in order to
"rattle" the pitcher; but for fellows living in Scranton to indulge
in this sort of thing did not seem right.

Hugh believed he had had quite enough of this see-saw business. If
Frazer was going to "jump" in that miserable fashion the game was
as good as gone. He disliked doing it the worst kind, but he saw
the appealing look Frazer shot in his direction on third when the
visitors once more started their bombardment. It meant Frazer had
lost all confidence in his ability to stop the threatened rally;
and that he was making signs for help.

So Hugh took him out.

It was Alan Tyree who stepped into the box, and began to toss a few
balls to the backstop, in order to limber up his arm; while the
visiting batsman waited the signal from the umpire to toe the home
plate, and get ready to strike.

Just three times did Alan send in one of his terrific shoots that
fairly sizzled as they shot past; three times the heavy batter cut
the thin air with his club, and then walked over to where his companions
sat in a clump, watching curiously to see how the change was going
to work.

Up came the next visitor on the list, who also made light with the
offering of poor Frazer. Did he start a batting bee all over again?
Well, not that any one could notice it. The best he could do was
to fan the air on two successive occasions, and then send up a twisting
foul that Thad Stevens managed to hold, after a pretty erratic chase
back and forth.

Now it was the loyal home fans who began to root long and hard. They
scented victory, and it seemed good after so much bitter humiliation
at the hands of this newly organized team, most of them strange to
their positions, and capable of many fielding errors, but able to
remedy this by their ability to bat.

The third out followed in quick succession. Scranton sighed with
relief, and the fielders had had a rest. They were really getting
tired of chasing wildly after all those terrific smashes, and of
seeing the big fellows running the bases at will.

Hugh led off in the next inning, and the renewed confidence put in
the whole team by the change of pitchers showed itself. When that
inning was over the locals had reduced the lead of Mechanicsburg
to one run; and they fully anticipated wiping that slight advantage
out in the next round.

Tyree still held them close. They knocked several fouls, and one
man actually went out through Juggins in far right, managing to
sprint fast enough to grapple with a soaring fly that came his way
across the foul line. The rest struck out, being almost like babies
in the hands of the wizard Tyree.

Well, the locals not only wiped that lead out but went two better,
so that it now began to look as though they had the game "sewed up,"
with Tyree pitching championship brand of ball, and every fellow
keyed up to playing his best. Wonderful infield work saved Alan
from having the first hit marked up against him in the eighth frame,
for several of the hard hitters were up again, and they managed to
swat the ball with a vim; but only to have Owen, or it might be
Morgan on third, intercept the speeding horsehide, and whip it over
to waiting Old Reliable Joe Danvers on first for an out.

The game really ended with that inning, for Scranton made five runs,
having a nice little batting bee of their own for a change. In the
ninth the visitors got a man on first through a juggle on the part
of Hobson on second, though Julius was really excusable, for the
ball came down to him with terrific speed, and though he knocked it
down he could not recover in time to get it across the infield so
as to cut off the speedy runner.

But when the visitor started to make for second Thad Stevens had him
caught by two yards, his throw down being as accurate as a bullet
fired from a new Government army rifle.

After all, the boys were satisfied to come out of the scrimmage as
well as they did, for those big Mechanicsburg chaps were terrors with
their bats; and equal to making a home run at any stage of the game.

It had been good practice for Scranton, every one admitted, though
some confessed that their blood had actually run cold when Frazer
gave such palpable signs of distress.

Hugh was worried more or less. He wondered what would happen if
Tyree could not play in the big game with Allandale. Frazer might
redeem himself, it is true, for the pitcher that goes to the well,
and is dented on one day, often comes back later on and does wonderful
work. Still, as the following week passed day by day, and Saturday
came closer, the field captain of the Scranton High team seemed to
feel a strange premonition that there was trouble in store for
them.

And his fears did not prove groundless, after all, as it turned out;
for there was trouble a-plenty waiting for the local team, spelled
with a capital T in the bargain.

The day came, and everything seemed all right as far as the weather
went. It was hot enough to make the players feel at their best
without causing them to wilt under the burning rays of the sun.
Clouds at times also promised relief, and the immense throng that
gathered on the open field where Scranton played, for there was no
high fence around it, believed they were due to witness a sterling
game, with the two teams well balanced.

Of course Allandale had beaten unlucky Belleville easily on the
preceding Saturday, while Scranton was "toying" with that aggregation
of sluggers from Mechanicsburg, and almost getting their fingers
burned while doing so. The "Champs," as the visitors delighted
to call themselves, seemed to have an air of confidence that impressed
many an anxious Scranton rooter, and made him wonder how Tyree would
stand up against that mighty slab artist, Big Ed Patterson. This
Allandale pitcher seemed capable of outwitting the smartest batter
by giving just what he wanted least of all, as if he knew every
fellow's weaknesses, and could take advantage of them at will.

Then the blow fell.

It cast gloom over the whole Scranton camp, as the horrible news was
quickly circulated through the various groups. Boys turned to look
at one another aghast, and the grins on their faces assumed a sickly
yellow hue.

Word had been brought to the anxious Hugh that Alan Tyree would be
utterly unable to be on the field that day, not to speak of pitching.
An unlucky accident after lunch had injured his left leg, and the
doctor absolutely forbade his getting into uniform, or even leaving
the house, under severe penalty for disobedience.

It was in the nature of a dreadful calamity, after the way Frazer
had been actually knocked out of the box by those crude players
from Mechanicsburg. Still the game must be played, or forfeited
to Allandale; and Scranton fellows are not in the habit of giving
anything up without the hardest kind of a struggle. So with a sigh,
and trying to appear calm, Hugh turned to his second-string pitcher.




CHAPTER XIII

HUGH TRIES HIS "FADE-AWAY" BALL


"Are you game, Frazer, for a desperate fight?" asked Hugh, smiling in
a way he hoped would inspire the other with confidence.

Frazer was a bit white, but he had his jaws set, and there was a
promising flash in his eyes that Hugh liked to see. His Scotch
blood was aroused, and he would do his level best to hold the Allandale
last-year champions down to few hits. That humiliation which Frazer
had suffered in asking to be taken out of the box on the preceding
Saturday had burned in his soul ever since; and he was in a fit frame
of mind to "pitch his head off" in order to redeem himself.

Hugh talked with him a short time. He told him all he knew about the
various players on the opposing team, and in this way Frazer might
be able to deceive some of the heavy batters when they came up.
Unfortunately Frazer could not vary his speed and drops and curves
with an occasional deceptive Matthewson "balloon ball," so called
because it seems to look as large as a toy hot-air balloon to the
batter, but is advanced so slowly that he strikes before it gets
within reach.

Hugh on his part had always practiced that sort of a ball, and indeed
he had nothing else beside fair speed and this "floater." But in
practice, when Hugh went into the box, he had been able to fool
many of his mates, and have them almost breaking their backs trying
to hit a ball that was still coming. As a last resort Hugh meant to
relieve Frazer, but only after the game was irrevocably lost; for
he wanted to give the other every chance possible to redeem his
former "fluke."

There was not any great amount of genuine enthusiasm shown by the
crowd of local rooters when Frazer walked out to take his place,
though many did give him a cheer, hoping to thus hearten the poor
fellow, and put some confidence in his soul.

If he had not been able to hold those boys from Mechanicsburg, who
were reckoned only "half-baked" players, as some of the Scranton fans
called it, what sort of a chance would Frazer have against the
Champs, who had toyed with Belleville just a week back, and looked
tremendously dangerous as they practiced now upon the local field,
so as to become a little accustomed to its peculiarities?

Ground rules were again in vogue, owing to the great crowd. This
gave Scranton a little advantage, since they were used to playing on
the home grounds, and would know just where to send the ball - -providing
they were able to come in contact with it, a matter in which one Big
Ed Patterson meant to have considerable to say, judging from his
confident manner, and the good-natured smile on his sun-burned face.

Scranton fought gamely, every one was agreed to that. They started
off well, for Frazer actually got through the first without a hit
being made, though twice the visitors met one of his offerings with
a vicious smack that sent the ball far out in center, where the
watchful and fleet-footed "K.K." managed to capture each fly after
a great run.

And in their half Scranton did a little hitting, though it was mostly
through good luck that they got one run - -a Texas leaguer that fell
among three players who got their signals crossed; then a poor throw
down to second allowing "Just" Smith to land there in safety; a bunt
that turned into a sacrifice on the part of Joe Danvers, followed
by a high fly that let the runner on third come trooping home, did
the business.

Owen struck out, and Hugh sent up a mighty foul over in right that
was caught in a dazzling fashion by the guardian of that patch.

As the two clubs faced each other they ranged after this fashion,
and it may be noticed that there was no change in Scranton's line-up
except in the pitcher's box. The batting order was not the same,
so it must be given as it came on either side:

Scranton High
Player Position
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Just" Smith Left Field
Joe Danvers First Base
Horatio Juggins Right Field
Owen Dugdale Short Stop
Hugh Morgan (capt.) Third Base
"K.K." (Ken Kinkaid) Center Field
Julius Hobson Second Base
Frazer Pitcher
Thad Stevens Catcher

Allandale High Player
Position
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Farmer Left Field
Gould First Base
Wright Right Field
Waterman Short Stop
Norris Third Base
Whipple Center Field
Brown Second Base
Patterson Pitcher
Keeler Catcher

As the game progressed it became evident that Frazer was "pitching
his arm off" in the endeavor to stem the tide of defeat that inning
after inning seemed bound to overtake the Scranton nine, despite
their most gallant uphill fight. Allandale proved to be all their
reputation had boasted, and they seemed able to work a man around
the circuit nearly every inning. Splendid fielding on the part of
Hugh and his mates kept the score down, but nevertheless it continued
to mount, in spite of all their efforts.

Frazer was beginning to show signs of exhaustion. He had tried
every trick he had in his list on the batters who faced him. They
had begun to solve his delivery more and more the oftener they came
up. And there was a very demoralizing way about their confident
attitude that no doubt added much to poor Frazer's distress. He
began to believe they were just playing with him, and at a given
time would fall upon his delivery, to knock the ball at will to
every part of the field.

Hugh knew it was coming, and he hardly felt able to go into the
box himself to stem the rising tide; but anything was better than
to have Frazer submerged under an avalanche of hits. "Big Ed" seemed
to be getting better the longer he pitched, and just the reverse
could be said of Frazer, who was on the verge of a total collapse.

"Better take me out before I go to the wall, Hugh," begged the other,
after the sixth frame showed the score to be six to two, with more
runs looming up in the "lucky seventh" in prospect. "I'm ashamed
to say I've lost my nerve. Those fellows mean to get at me in the
seventh and it will be a Waterloo. I just feel it in my bones they've
been waiting to lambast my offerings then, for I've seen them talking
together, and laughing, as though they had a game laid out. You go
in and feed them those teasers of yours. The boys will take a brace
in batting, if you can hold Allandale; and in the end it may not be
such a terrible calamity after all."

Hugh knew it must be. Frazer had gone to the wall, and would pitch
poorly if allowed to go in the box in the next inning.

"I hate to do it, Frazer," he told the other, feeling sorry for him;
"but any port in a storm; and it may be possible these sluggers will
trip up on that balloon ball of mine, though I haven't much else to
offer them."

That inning the locals did a little batting on their own account, with
the result that the score looked a shade better, for it was three
to six when once more Scranton went into the field.

When it was seen that Hugh walked to the box some of the local rooters
cheered lustily, for Hugh was a great favorite. Cat-calls also
greeted his appearance, coming principally from Nick Lang and his
followers; though they were frowned upon by a crowd of Scranton boys,
who threatened to hustle them off the grounds unless they mended
their ways.

As Hugh left third one of the substitutes, named Hastings, was placed
on that sack. Thad gave Hugh a queer look on discovering this, and
followed it with a peculiarly suggestive grin; so that Hugh understood
how his chum was thinking of another Hastings with whose name they
had taken undue liberties.

Allandale seemed pleased to know that there was to be a change of slab
artists.

"All pitchers look alike to us when we've got our batting clothes on!"
one of them sang out blithely, as he swung a couple of bats around,
being the next man up, and desirous of making himself feel that he
held a willow wand in his hands when throwing one aside and wielding
the other.

He was mistaken.

Hugh started in without delay feeding them some of what the boys were
pleased to denominate his "teasers." He soon had them hitting at
thin air with might and main, and looking surprised because they
failed to connect.

One man, then two, went out on strikes, and neither had touched the
elusive "fade-away" ball made famous by Christy Matthewson in his prime.

The crowd sat up and began to take notice. What did it mean? If Hugh
could only keep up his good work by varying his offerings, so as to
keep those slugging Allandale fellows guessing, and Scranton began
to knock the ball around a little on their own account, why, there
might be something like a good game yet.

The third man got a hit which should really have been an out, for
"K.K.," reliable "K.K.," out in deep center, misjudged the blow,
and started to run back, when he should have shot forward instantly.
He could have scooped it up three feet from the ground had he done
so; and while he did manage to keep the ball from getting past,
the batter gained first.

However, he died there, for Hugh deceived the next fellow as he
had done two previous batters, and the side was out. When the eighth
inning ended the score was four to six, not so very bad. The local
rooters got busy, and gave Hugh a round of hearty cheers when he toed
the mark in the box again.

Allandale did get a run in this frame, but still Hugh struck two men
out. And in their half of the eighth Scranton also tallied, making
the score read four to seven. Then came the last inning. Hugh
exerted himself to the utmost. One batter failed to connect, but
the next got in a blow that netted him two bases.

Hugh kept cool and managed to deceive the next one. Then came a
mighty heave and when Juggins in far right was seen running like mad
it looked as if Allandale had clinched another brace of runs then
and there. But Horatio proved himself to be a hero, for he gobbled
that drive, and the side was extinguished with no damage done.

Scranton tried with might and main to do something wonderful in their
last half of the final inning. Indeed, with two out and three on
bases it looked as if there might be a fair chance, since a wallop
would mean three runs to tie the score, and if Joe Danvers could
only get in one of his occasional "homers" it would break up the
game in favor of the local team.

Joe did connect and drove out a great hit, but alas! for the
eccentricities of baseball, Whipple over in right had seen fit to
play far back, and after quite a gallop he managed to clutch the
ball and hold it.

Of course that gave Allandale the game. The Scranton boys seemed
pretty "sore" over their first defeat, but considering the hard luck
that had been their portion, they felt that they had not done so
badly after all.

"Just wait!" they told the laughing Allandale fellows, "there's
another day coming when you'll have to face Alan Tyree; and the
chances are two to one you'll not find that boy such easy picking.
You're in great luck today, Allandale; so make the most of it. He
laughs longest who laughs last; and Scranton is wagering dollars to
doughnuts that it'll be our turn next!"




CHAPTER XIV

FARMER BERNARD COLLECTS HIS BILL


"Come and go along with me, Hugh," Thad Stevens was saying, some days
after the defeat suffered by Scranton High at the hands of the Champs,
as he bounced into his chum's den about four in the afternoon.

"Where to?" demanded the other, looking up with a smile; and then
noting the eager expression on Thad's face he hurriedly added: "But
I guess I can get pretty close to the mark without your telling me.
You're meaning to continue your campaign against our friend, Brother
Lu - -how about that for a guess, Thad?"

"Just what I'm up to, for a fact," asserted Thad, with his jaws
shutting in an energetic fashion. "You ought to know that I never
give over, once I'm worked up like that business got me. Day and
night I've been trying to plan a way of ridding poor deluded Matilda
and her sick husband from that sleek rascal who's fastened on them
for keeps."

"Well, what's new in the game, Thad?" continued Hugh, picking up his
cap, and in this way proclaiming his intention of joining his chum.

"Several things have happened," admitted Thad, "though honest to
goodness I can't say that they have advanced the cause a whit.
First of all Mom has capitulated, which word means she couldn't stand
the strain any longer, worrying so about Matilda going hungry for
lack of sewing to do to earn food for the three of them. So she and


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Online LibraryDonald FergusonThe Chums of Scranton High out for the Pennant → online text (page 6 of 10)