Wednesday, November 7, 2007



There was Delaney's red-haired trio--Red Gilbat,
left fielder; Reddy Clammer, right fielder, and
Reddie Ray, center fielder, composing the most
remarkable outfield ever developed in minor
league baseball. It was Delaney's pride, as it was
also his trouble.
Red Gilbat was nutty--and his batting average
was .371. Any student of baseball could weigh
these two facts against each other and understand
something of Delaney's trouble. It was not possible
to camp on Red Gilbat's trail. The man was
a jack-o'-lantern, a will-o'-the-wisp, a weird, longlegged,
long-armed, red-haired illusive phantom.
When the gong rang at the ball grounds there
were ten chances to one that Red would not be
present. He had been discovered with small boys
peeping through knotholes at the vacant left field
he was supposed to inhabit during play.
Of course what Red did off the ball grounds
was not so important as what he did on. And
there was absolutely no telling what under the sun
he might do then except once out of every three
times at bat he could be counted on to knock the
cover off the ball.
Reddy Clammer was a grand-stand player--the
kind all managers hated--and he was hitting .305.
He made circus catches, circus stops, circus
throws, circus steals--but particularly circus
catches. That is to say, he made easy plays
appear difficult. He was always strutting, posing,
talking, arguing, quarreling--when he was not
engaged in making a grand-stand play. Reddy
Clammer used every possible incident and artifice
to bring himself into the limelight.
Reddie Ray had been the intercollegiate
champion in the sprints and a famous college ball
player. After a few months of professional ball
he was hitting over .400 and leading the league
both at bat and on the bases. It was a beautiful
and a thrilling sight to see him run. He was so
quick to start, so marvelously swift, so keen of
judgment, that neither Delaney nor any player
could ever tell the hit that he was not going to
get. That was why Reddie Ray was a whole game
in himself.
Delaney's Rochester Stars and the Providence
Grays were tied for first place. Of the present
series each team had won a game. Rivalry had
always been keen, and as the teams were about
to enter the long homestretch for the pennant
there was battle in the New England air.
The September day was perfect. The stands
were half full and the bleachers packed with a
white-sleeved mass. And the field was beautifully
level and green. The Grays were practicing and
the Stars were on their bench.
``We're up against it,'' Delaney was saying.
``This new umpire, Fuller, hasn't got it in for us.
Oh, no, not at all! Believe me, he's a robber.
But Scott is pitchin' well. Won his last three
games. He'll bother 'em. And the three Reds
have broken loose. They're on the rampage.
They'll burn up this place today.''
Somebody noted the absence of Gilbat.
Delaney gave a sudden start. ``Why, Gil was
here,'' he said slowly. ``Lord!--he's about due
for a nutty stunt.''
Whereupon Delaney sent boys and players
scurrying about to find Gilbat, and Delaney went
himself to ask the Providence manager to hold
back the gong for a few minutes.
Presently somebody brought Delaney a telephone
message that Red Gilbat was playing ball
with some boys in a lot four blocks down the
street. When at length a couple of players
marched up to the bench with Red in tow Delaney
uttered an immense sigh of relief and then, after
a close scrutiny of Red's face, he whispered,
``Lock the gates!''
Then the gong rang. The Grays trooped in.
The Stars ran out, except Gilbat, who ambled like
a giraffe. The hum of conversation in the grand
stand quickened for a moment with the scraping
of chairs, and then grew quiet. The bleachers
sent up the rollicking cry of expectancy. The
umpire threw out a white ball with his stentorian
``Play!'' and Blake of the Grays strode to the
Hitting safely, he started the game with a rush.
With Dorr up, the Star infield played for a bunt.
Like clockwork Dorr dumped the first ball as
Blake got his flying start for second base. Morrissey
tore in for the ball, got it on the run and
snapped it underhand to Healy, beating the
runner by an inch. The fast Blake, with a long
slide, made third base. The stands stamped. The
bleachers howled. White, next man up, batted a
high fly to left field. This was a sun field and
the hardest to play in the league. Red Gilbat was
the only man who ever played it well. He judged
the fly, waited under it, took a step hack, then
forward, and deliberately caught the ball in his
gloved hand. A throw-in to catch the runner scoring
from third base would have been futile, but
it was not like Red Gilbat to fail to try. He tossed
the ball to O'Brien. And Blake scored amid
``What do you know about that?'' ejaculated
Delaney, wiping his moist face. ``I never
before saw our nutty Redhead pull off a play like
Some of the players yelled at Red, ``This is a
two-handed league, you bat!''
The first five players on the list for the Grays
were left-handed batters, and against a righthanded
pitcher whose most effective ball for them
was a high fast one over the outer corner they
would naturally hit toward left field. It was no
surprise to see Hanley bat a skyscraper out to left.
Red had to run to get under it. He braced himself
rather unusually for a fielder. He tried to
catch the ball in his bare right hand and muffed it,
Hanley got to second on the play while the audience
roared. When they got through there was
some roaring among the Rochester players. Scott
and Captain Healy roared at Red, and Red roared
back at them.
``It's all off. Red never did that before,'' cried
Delaney in despair. ``He's gone clean bughouse
Babcock was the next man up and he likewise
hit to left. It was a low, twisting ball--half fly,
half liner--and a difficult one to field. Gilbat ran
with great bounds, and though he might have got
two hands on the ball he did not try, but this time
caught it in his right, retiring the side.
The Stars trotted in, Scott and Healy and Kane,
all veterans, looking like thunderclouds. Red
ambled in the last and he seemed very nonchalant.
``By Gosh, I'd 'a' ketched that one I muffed
if I'd had time to change hands,'' he said with a
grin, and he exposed a handful of peanuts. He
had refused to drop the peanuts to make the
catch with two hands. That explained the
mystery. It was funny, yet nobody laughed. There
was that run chalked up against the Stars, and
this game had to be won.
``Red, I--I want to take the team home in the
lead,'' said Delaney, and it was plain that he
suppressed strong feeling. ``You didn't play the
game, you know.''
Red appeared mightily ashamed.
``Del, I'll git that run back,'' he said.
Then he strode to the plate, swinging his wagontongue
bat. For all his awkward position in the
box he looked what he was--a formidable hitter.
He seemed to tower over the pitcher--Red was
six feet one--and he scowled and shook his bat
at Wehying and called, ``Put one over--you
wienerwurst!'' Wehying was anything but redheaded,
and he wasted so many balls on Red that
it looked as if he might pass him. He would have
passed him, too, if Red had not stepped over on
the fourth ball and swung on it. White at second
base leaped high for the stinging hit, and failed
to reach it. The ball struck and bounded for the
fence. When Babcock fielded it in, Red was standing
on third base, and the bleachers groaned.
Whereupon Chesty Reddy Clammer proceeded
to draw attention to himself, and incidentally delay
the game, by assorting the bats as if the audience
and the game might gladly wait years to see
him make a choice.
``Git in the game!'' yelled Delaney.
``Aw, take my bat, Duke of the Abrubsky!''
sarcastically said Dump Kane. When the grouchy
Kane offered to lend his bat matters were critical
in the Star camp.
Other retorts followed, which Reddy Clammer
deigned not to notice. At last he got a bat that
suited him--and then, importantly, dramatically,
with his cap jauntily riding his red locks, he
marched to the plate.
Some wag in the bleachers yelled into the
silence, ``Oh, Maggie, your lover has come!''
Not improbably Clammer was thinking first of
his presence before the multitude, secondly of his
batting average and thirdly of the run to be
scored. In this instance he waited and feinted at
balls and fouled strikes at length to work his base.
When he got to first base suddenly he bolted for
second, and in the surprise of the unlooked-for
play he made it by a spread-eagle slide. It was a
circus steal.
Delaney snorted. Then the look of profound
disgust vanished in a flash of light. His huge face
Reddie Ray was striding to the plate.
There was something about Reddie Ray that
pleased all the senses. His lithe form seemed
instinct with life; any sudden movement was suggestive
of stored lightning. His position at the
plate was on the left side, and he stood perfectly
motionless, with just a hint of tense waiting
alertness. Dorr, Blake and Babcock, the outfielders
for the Grays, trotted round to the right of their
usual position. Delaney smiled derisively, as if
he knew how futile it was to tell what field Reddie
Ray might hit into. Wehying, the old fox, warily
eyed the youngster, and threw him a high curve,
close in. It grazed Reddie's shirt, but he never
moved a hair. Then Wehying, after the manner
of many veteran pitchers when trying out a new
and menacing batter, drove a straight fast ball at
Reddie's head. Reddie ducked, neither too slow
nor too quick, just right to show what an eye he
had, how hard it was to pitch to. The next was
a strike. And on the next he appeared to step
and swing in one action. There was a ringing
rap, and the ball shot toward right, curving down,
a vicious, headed hit. Mallory, at first base,
snatched at it and found only the air. Babcock
had only time to take a few sharp steps, and then
he plunged down, blocked the hit and fought the
twisting ball. Reddie turned first base, flitted on
toward second, went headlong in the dust, and
shot to the base before White got the throw-in
from Babcock. Then, as White wheeled and lined
the ball home to catch the scoring Clammer,
Reddie Ray leaped up, got his sprinter's start
and, like a rocket, was off for third. This time
he dove behind the base, sliding in a half circle,
and as Hanley caught Strickland's perfect throw
and whirled with the ball, Reddie's hand slid to
the bag.
Reddie got to his feet amid a rather breathless
silence. Even the coachers were quiet. There
was a moment of relaxation, then Wehying
received the ball from Hanley and faced the
This was Dump Kane. There was a sign of
some kind, almost imperceptible, between Kane
and Reddie. As Wehying half turned in his swing
to pitch, Reddie Ray bounded homeward. It was
not so much the boldness of his action as the
amazing swiftness of it that held the audience
spellbound. Like a thunderbolt Reddie came
down the line, almost beating Wehying's pitch to
the plate. But Kane's bat intercepted the ball,
laying it down, and Reddie scored without sliding.
Dorr, by sharp work, just managed to throw Kane
Three runs so quick it was hard to tell how they
had come. Not in the major league could there
have been faster work. And the ball had been
fielded perfectly and thrown perfectly.
``There you are,'' said Delaney, hoarsely.
``Can you beat it? If you've been wonderin' how
the cripped Stars won so many games just put
what you've seen in your pipe and smoke it. Red
Gilbat gets on--Reddy Clammer gets on--and
then Reddie Ray drives them home or chases them
The game went on, and though it did not exactly
drag it slowed down considerably. Morrissey and
Healy were retired on infield plays. And the sides
changed. For the Grays, O'Brien made a scratch
hit, went to second on Strickland's sacrifice, stole
third and scored on Mallory's infield out. Wehying
missed three strikes. In the Stars' turn the
three end players on the batting list were easily
disposed of. In the third inning the clever Blake,
aided by a base on balls and a hit following, tied
the score, and once more struck fire and brimstone
from the impatient bleachers. Providence was a
town that had to have its team win.
``Git at 'em, Reds!'' said Delaney gruffly.
``Batter up!'' called Umpire Fuller, sharply.
``Where's Red? Where's the bug? Where's
the nut? Delaney, did you lock the gates? Look
under the bench!'' These and other remarks, not
exactly elegant, attested to the mental processes
of some of the Stars. Red Gilbat did not appear
to be forthcoming. There was an anxious delay
Capt. Healy searched for the missing player.
Delaney did not say any more.
Suddenly a door under the grand stand opened
and Red Gilbat appeared. He hurried for his bat
and then up to the plate. And he never offered
to hit one of the balls Wehying shot over. When
Fuller had called the third strike Red hurried
back to the door and disappeared.
``Somethin' doin','' whispered Delaney.
Lord Chesterfield Clammer paraded to the
batter's box and, after gradually surveying the
field, as if picking out the exact place he meant to
drive the ball, he stepped to the plate. Then a
roar from the bleachers surprised him.
``Well, I'll be dog-goned!'' exclaimed Delaney.
``Red stole that sure as shootin'.''
Red Gilbat was pushing a brand-new baby carriage
toward the batter's box. There was a tittering
in the grand stand; another roar from the
bleachers. Clammer's face turned as red as his
hair. Gilbat shoved the baby carriage upon the
plate, spread wide his long arms, made a short
presentation speech and an elaborate bow, then
backed away.
All eyes were centered on Clammer. If he had
taken it right the incident might have passed without
undue hilarity. But Clammer became absolutely
wild with rage. It was well known that
he was unmarried. Equally well was it seen that
Gilbat had executed one of his famous tricks.
Ball players were inclined to be dignified about
the presentation of gifts upon the field, and
Clammer, the dude, the swell, the lady's man, the
favorite of the baseball gods--in his own estimation--
so far lost control of himself that he threw
his bat at his retreating tormentor. Red jumped
high and the bat skipped along the ground toward
the bench. The players sidestepped and leaped
and, of course, the bat cracked one of Delaney's
big shins. His eyes popped with pain, but he
could not stop laughing. One by one the players
lay down and rolled over and yelled. The
superior Clammer was not overliked by his coplayers.
From the grand stand floated the laughter of
ladies and gentlemen. And from the bleachers--
that throne of the biting, ironic, scornful fans--
pealed up a howl of delight. It lasted for a full
minute. Then, as quiet ensued, some boy blew a
blast of one of those infernal little instruments of
pipe and rubber balloon, and over the field wailed
out a shrill, high-keyed cry, an excellent imitation
of a baby. Whereupon the whole audience roared,
and in discomfiture Reddy Clammer went in
search of his bat.
To make his chagrin all the worse he ingloriously
struck out. And then he strode away under
the lea of the grand-stand wall toward right field.
Reddie Ray went to bat and, with the infield
playing deep and the outfield swung still farther
round to the right, he bunted a little teasing ball
down the third-base line. Like a flash of light
he had crossed first base before Hanley got his
hands on the ball. Then Kane hit into second
base, forcing Reddie out.
Again the game assumed less spectacular and
more ordinary play. Both Scott and Wehying
held the batters safely and allowed no runs. But
in the fifth inning, with the Stars at bat and two
out, Red Gilbat again electrified the field. He
sprang up from somewhere and walked to the
plate, his long shape enfolded in a full-length linen
duster. The color and style of this garment
might not have been especially striking, but upon
Red it had a weird and wonderful effect.
Evidently Red intended to bat while arrayed in his
long coat, for he stepped into the box and faced
the pitcher. Capt. Healy yelled for him to take
the duster off. Likewise did the Grays yell.
The bleachers shrieked their disapproval. To
say the least, Red Gilbat's crazy assurance was
dampening to the ardor of the most blindly confident
fans. At length Umpire Fuller waved his
hand, enjoining silence and calling time.
``Take it off or I'll fine you.''
From his lofty height Gilbat gazed down upon
the little umpire, and it was plain what he thought.
``What do I care for money!'' replied Red.
``That costs you twenty-five,'' said Fuller.
``Cigarette change!'' yelled Red.
``Costs you fifty.''
``Bah! Go to an eye doctor,'' roared Red.
``Seventy-five,'' added Fuller, imperturbably.
``Make it a hundred!''
``It's two hundred.''
``ROB-B-BER!'' bawled Red.
Fuller showed willingness to overlook Red's
back talk as well as costume, and he called,
There was a mounting sensation of prophetic
certainty. Old fox Wehying appeared nervous.
He wasted two balls on Red; then he put one over
the plate, and then he wasted another. Three
balls and one strike! That was a bad place for a
pitcher, and with Red Gilbat up it was worse.
Wehying swung longer and harder to get all his
left behind the throw and let drive. Red lunged
and cracked the ball. It went up and up and kept
going up and farther out, and as the murmuring
audience was slowly transfixed into late realization
the ball soared to its height and dropped
beyond the left-field fence. A home run!
Red Gilbat gathered up the tails of his duster,
after the manner of a neat woman crossing a
muddy street, and ambled down to first base and
on to second, making prodigious jumps upon the
bags, and round third, to come down the homestretch
wagging his red head. Then he stood on
the plate, and, as if to exact revenge from the
audience for the fun they made of him, he threw
back his shoulders and bellowed: ``HAW! HAW!
Not a handclap greeted him, but some mindless,
exceedingly adventurous fan yelled: ``Redhead!
Redhead! Redhead!''
That was the one thing calculated to rouse Red
Gilbat. He seemed to flare, to bristle, and he
paced for the bleachers.
Delaney looked as if he might have a stroke.
``Grab him! Soak him with a bat! Somebody
grab him!''
But none of the Stars was risking so much, and
Gilbat, to the howling derision of the gleeful fans,
reached the bleachers. He stretched his long
arms up to the fence and prepared to vault over.
``Where's the guy who called me redhead?'' he
That was heaping fuel on the fire. From all
over the bleachers, from everywhere, came the
obnoxious word. Red heaved himself over the
fence and piled into the fans. Then followed the
roar of many voices, the tramping of many feet,
the pressing forward of line after line of shirtsleeved
men and boys. That bleacher stand
suddenly assumed the maelstrom appearance of a
surging mob round an agitated center. In a
moment all the players rushed down the field, and
confusion reigned.
``Oh! Oh! Oh!'' moaned Delaney.
However, the game had to go on. Delaney, no
doubt, felt all was over. Nevertheless there were
games occasionally that seemed an unending
series of unprecedented events. This one had begun
admirably to break a record. And the Providence
fans, like all other fans, had cultivated an
appetite as the game proceeded. They were wild
to put the other redheads out of the field or at
least out for the inning, wild to tie the score, wild
to win and wilder than all for more excitement.
Clammer hit safely. But when Reddie Ray lined
to the second baseman, Clammer, having taken a
lead, was doubled up in the play.
Of course, the sixth inning opened with the
Stars playing only eight men. There was another
delay. Probably everybody except Delaney and
perhaps Healy had forgotten the Stars were short
a man. Fuller called time. The impatient bleachers
barked for action.
Capt. White came over to Delaney and courteously
offered to lend a player for the remaining
innings. Then a pompous individual came out of
the door leading from the press boxes--he was
a director Delaney disliked.
``Guess you'd better let Fuller call the game,''
he said brusquely.
``If you want to--as the score stands now in
our favor,'' replied Delaney.
``Not on your life! It'll be ours or else we'll
play it out and beat you to death.''
He departed in high dudgeon.
``Tell Reddie to swing over a little toward
left,'' was Delaney's order to Healy. Fire
gleamed in the manager's eye.
Fuller called play then, with Reddy Clammer
and Reddie Ray composing the Star outfield. And
the Grays evidently prepared to do great execution
through the wide lanes thus opened up. At
that stage it would not have been like matured
ball players to try to crop hits down into the
White sent a long fly back of Clammer. Reddy
had no time to loaf on this hit. It was all he could
do to reach it and he made a splendid catch, for
which the crowd roundly applauded him. That
applause was wine to Reddy Clammer. He began
to prance on his toes and sing out to Scott: ``Make
'em hit to me, old man! Make 'em hit to me!''
Whether Scott desired that or not was scarcely
possible to say; at any rate, Hanley pounded a
hit through the infield. And Clammer, prancing
high in the air like a check-reined horse, ran to
intercept the ball. He could have received it in
his hands, but that would never have served
Reddy Clammer. He timed the hit to a nicety,
went down with his old grand-stand play and
blocked the ball with his anatomy. Delaney
swore. And the bleachers, now warm toward the
gallant outfielder, lustily cheered him. Babcock
hit down the right-field foul line, giving Clammer
a long run. Hanley was scoring and Babcock was
sprinting for third base when Reddy got the ball.
He had a fine arm and he made a hard and
accurate throw, catching his man in a close play.
Perhaps even Delaney could not have found any
fault with that play. But the aftermath spoiled
the thing. Clammer now rode the air; he soared;
he was in the clouds; it was his inning and he had
utterly forgotten his team mates, except inasmuch
as they were performing mere little automatic
movements to direct the great machinery in his
direction for his sole achievement and glory.
There is fate in baseball as well as in other
walks of life. O'Brien was a strapping fellow and
he lifted another ball into Clammer's wide
territory. The hit was of the high and far-away
variety. Clammer started to run with it, not like
a grim outfielder, but like one thinking of himself,
his style, his opportunity, his inevitable
success. Certain it was that in thinking of himself
the outfielder forgot his surroundings. He ran
across the foul line, head up, hair flying, unheeding
the warning cry from Healy. And, reaching
up to make his crowning circus play, he smashed
face forward into the bleachers fence. Then,
limp as a rag, he dropped. The audience sent
forth a long groan of sympathy.
``That wasn't one of his stage falls,'' said
Delaney. ``I'll bet he's dead. . . . Poor Reddy!
And I want him to bust his face!''
Clammer was carried off the field into the dressing
room and a physician was summoned out of
the audience.
``Cap., what'd it--do to him?'' asked Delaney.
``Aw, spoiled his pretty mug, that's all,''
replied Healy, scornfully. ``Mebee he'll listen to
me now.''
Delaney's change was characteristic of the man.
``Well, if it didn't kill him I'm blamed glad he got
it. . . . Cap, we can trim 'em yet. Reddie Ray'll
play the whole outfield. Give Reddie a chance to
run! Tell the boy to cut loose. And all of you git
in the game. Win or lose, I won't forget it. I've
a hunch. Once in a while I can tell what's comin'
off. Some queer game this! And we're goin' to
win. Gilbat lost the game; Clammer throwed it
away again, and now Reddie Ray's due to win
it. . . . I'm all in, but I wouldn't miss the finish
to save my life.''
Delaney's deep presaging sense of baseball
events was never put to a greater test. And the
seven Stars, with the score tied, exhibited the
temper and timber of a championship team in the
last ditch. It was so splendid that almost
instantly it caught the antagonistic bleachers.
Wherever the tired Scott found renewed
strength and speed was a mystery. But he struck
out the hard-hitting Providence catcher and that
made the third out. The Stars could not score in
their half of the inning. Likewise the seventh
inning passed without a run for either side; only
the infield work of the Stars was something
superb. When the eighth inning ended, without a
tally for either team, the excitement grew tense.
There was Reddy Ray playing outfield alone, and
the Grays with all their desperate endeavors had
not lifted the ball out of the infield.
But in the ninth, Blake, the first man up, lined
low toward right center. The hit was safe and
looked good for three bases. No one looking, however,
had calculated on Reddie's Ray's fleetness.
He covered ground and dove for the bounding
ball and knocked it down. Blake did not get
beyond first base. The crowd cheered the play
equally with the prospect of a run. Dorr bunted
and beat the throw. White hit one of the high
fast balls Scott was serving and sent it close to
the left-field foul line. The running Reddie Ray
made on that play held White at second base. But
two runs had scored with no one out.
Hanley, the fourth left-handed hitter, came up
and Scott pitched to him as he had to the others
--high fast balls over the inside corner of the
plate. Reddy Ray's position was some fifty yards
behind deep short, and a little toward center field.
He stood sideways, facing two-thirds of that
vacant outfield. In spite of Scott's skill, Hanley
swung the ball far round into right field, but he
hit it high, and almost before he actually hit it the
great sprinter was speeding across the green.
The suspence grew almost unbearable as the
ball soared in its parabolic flight and the redhaired
runner streaked dark across the green.
The ball seemed never to be coming down. And
when it began to descend and reached a point
perhaps fifty feet above the ground there appeared
more distance between where it would alight and
where Reddie was than anything human could
cover. It dropped and dropped, and then dropped
into Reddie Ray's outstretched hands. He had
made the catch look easy. But the fact that White
scored from second base on the play showed what
the catch really was.
There was no movement or restlessness of the
audience such as usually indicated the beginning
of the exodus. Scott struck Babcock out. The
game still had fire. The Grays never let up a
moment on their coaching. And the hoarse voices
of the Stars were grimmer than ever. Reddie
Ray was the only one of the seven who kept silent.
And he crouched like a tiger.
The teams changed sides with the Grays three
runs in the lead. Morrissey, for the Stars, opened
with a clean drive to right. Then Healy slashed a
ground ball to Hanley and nearly knocked him
down. When old Burns, by a hard rap to short,
advanced the runners a base and made a desperate,
though unsuccessful, effort to reach first the
Providence crowd awoke to a strange and inspiring
appreciation. They began that most rare
feature in baseball audiences--a strong and
trenchant call for the visiting team to win.
The play had gone fast and furious. Wehying,
sweaty and disheveled, worked violently. All the
Grays were on uneasy tiptoes. And the Stars
were seven Indians on the warpath. Halloran
fouled down the right-field line; then he fouled
over the left-field fence. Wehying tried to make
him too anxious, but it was in vain. Halloran was
implacable. With two strikes and three balls he
hit straight down to white, and was out. The
ball had been so sharp that neither runner on base
had a chance to advance.
Two men out, two on base, Stars wanting three
runs to tie, Scott, a weak batter, at the plate!
The situation was disheartening. Yet there sat
Delaney, shot through and through with some
vital compelling force. He saw only victory. And
when the very first ball pitched to Scott hit him
on the leg, giving him his base, Delaney got to his
feet, unsteady and hoarse.
Bases full, Reddie Ray up, three runs to tie!
Delaney looked at Reddie. And Reddie looked
at Delaney. The manager's face was pale, intent,
with a little smile. The player had eyes of fire,
a lean, bulging jaw and the hands he reached for
his bat clutched like talons.
``Reddie, I knew it was waitin' for you,'' said
Delaney, his voice ringing. ``Break up the
After all this was only a baseball game, and
perhaps from the fans' viewpoint a poor game at
that. But the moment when that lithe, redhaired
athlete toed the plate was a beautiful one. The
long crash from the bleachers, the steady cheer
from the grand stand, proved that it was not so
much the game that mattered.
Wehying had shot his bolt; he was tired. Yet
he made ready for a final effort. It seemed that
passing Reddie Ray on balls would have been a
wise play at that juncture. But no pitcher, probably,
would have done it with the bases crowded
and chances, of course, against the batter.
Clean and swift, Reddie leaped at the first
pitched ball. Ping! For a second no one saw the
hit. Then it gleamed, a terrific drive, low along
the ground, like a bounding bullet, straight at
Babcock in right field. It struck his hands and
glanced viciously away to roll toward the fence.
Thunder broke loose from the stands. Reddie
Ray was turning first base. Beyond first base he
got into his wonderful stride. Some runners run
with a consistent speed, the best they can make
for a given distance. But this trained sprinter
gathered speed as he ran. He was no short-stepping
runner. His strides were long. They gave
an impression of strength combined with fleetness.
He had the speed of a race horse, but the
trimness, the raciness, the delicate legs were not
characteristic of him. Like the wind he turned
second, so powerful that his turn was short. All
at once there came a difference in his running. It
was no longer beautiful. The grace was gone. It
was now fierce, violent. His momentum was running
him off his legs. He whirled around third
base and came hurtling down the homestretch.
His face was convulsed, his eyes were wild. His
arms and legs worked in a marvelous muscular
velocity. He seemed a demon--a flying streak.
He overtook and ran down the laboring Scott, who
had almost reached the plate.
The park seemed full of shrill, piercing strife.
It swelled, reached a highest pitch, sustained that
for a long moment, and then declined.
``My Gawd!'' exclaimed Delaney, as he fell
back. ``Wasn't that a finish? Didn't I tell you
to watch them redheads!''
It was the most critical time I had yet
experienced in my career as a baseball manager.
And there was more than the usual reason why
I must pull the team out. A chance for a
business deal depended upon the good-will of the
stockholders of the Worcester club. On the
outskirts of the town was a little cottage that I
wanted to buy, and this depended upon the business
deal. My whole future happiness depended
upon the little girl I hoped to install in that
Coming to the Worcester Eastern League team,
I had found a strong aggregation and an
enthusiastic following. I really had a team with
pennant possibilities. Providence was a strong
rival, but I beat them three straight in the opening
series, set a fast pace, and likewise set Worcester
baseball mad. The Eastern League clubs
were pretty evenly matched; still I continued to
hold the lead until misfortune overtook me.
Gregg smashed an umpire and had to be laid
off. Mullaney got spiked while sliding and was
out of the game. Ashwell sprained his ankle and
Hirsch broke a finger. Radbourne, my great
pitcher, hurt his arm on a cold day and he could
not get up his old speed. Stringer, who had
batted three hundred and seventy-one and led the
league the year before, struck a bad spell and
could not hit a barn door handed up to him.
Then came the slump. The team suddenly let
down; went to pieces; played ball that would have
disgraced an amateur nine. It was a trying time.
Here was a great team, strong everywhere. A
little hard luck had dug up a slump--and now!
Day by day the team dropped in the race. When
we reached the second division the newspapers
flayed us. Worcester would never stand for a
second division team. Baseball admirers, reporters,
fans--especially the fans--are fickle. The
admirers quit, the reporters grilled us, and the
fans, though they stuck to the games with that
barnacle-like tenacity peculiar to them, made life
miserable for all of us. I saw the pennant slowly
fading, and the successful season, and the business
deal, and the cottage, and Milly----
But when I thought of her I just could not see
failure. Something must be done, but what? I
was at the end of my wits. When Jersey City
beat us that Saturday, eleven to two, shoving us
down to fifth place with only a few percentage
points above the Fall River team, I grew
desperate, and locking my players in the dressing
room I went after them. They had lain down on
me and needed a jar. I told them so straight and
flat, and being bitter, I did not pick and choose
my words.
``And fellows,'' I concluded, ``you've got to
brace. A little more of this and we can't pull out.
I tell you you're a championship team. We had
that pennant cinched. A few cuts and sprains
and hard luck--and you all quit! You lay down!
I've been patient. I've plugged for you. Never
a man have I fined or thrown down. But now I'm
at the end of my string. I'm out to fine you
now, and I'll release the first man who shows
the least yellow. I play no more substitutes.
Crippled or not, you guys have got to get in the
I waited to catch my breath and expected some
such outburst as managers usually get from criticized
players. But not a word! Then I addressed
some of them personally.
``Gregg, your lay-off ends today. You play
Monday. Mullaney, you've drawn your salary
for two weeks with that spiked foot. If you can't
run on it--well, all right, but I put it up to your
good faith. I've played the game and I know
it's hard to run on a sore foot. But you can do it.
Ashwell, your ankle is lame, I know--now, can
you run?''
``Sure I can. I'm not a quitter. I'm ready to
go in,'' replied Ashwell.
``Raddy, how about you?'' I said, turning to
my star twirler.
``Connelly, I've seen as fast a team in as bad a
rut and yet pull out,'' returned Radbourne.
``We're about due for the brace. When it comes
--look out! As for me, well, my arm isn't right,
but it's acting these warm days in a way that tells
me it will be soon. It's been worked too hard.
Can't you get another pitcher? I'm not knocking
Herne or Cairns. They're good for their turn,
but we need a new man to help out. And he must
be a crackerjack if we're to get back to the lead.''
``Where on earth can I find such a pitcher?'' I
shouted, almost distracted.
``Well, that's up to you,'' replied Radbourne.
Up to me it certainly was, and I cudgeled my
brains for inspiration. After I had given up in
hopelessness it came in the shape of a notice I
read in one of the papers. It was a brief mention
of an amateur Worcester ball team being shut
out in a game with a Rickettsville nine. Rickettsville
played Sunday ball, which gave me an opportunity
to look them over.
It took some train riding and then a journey
by coach to get to Rickettsville. I mingled with
the crowd of talking rustics. There was only one
little ``bleachers'' and this was loaded to the
danger point with the feminine adherents of the
teams. Most of the crowd centered alongside and
back of the catcher's box. I edged in and got a
position just behind the stone that served as home
Hunting up a player in this way was no new
thing to me. I was too wise to make myself
known before I had sized up the merits of my
man. So, before the players came upon the field
I amused myself watching the rustic fans and
listening to them. Then a roar announced the
appearance of the Rickettsville team and their
opponents, who wore the name of Spatsburg on
their Canton flannel shirts. The uniforms of these
country amateurs would have put a Philadelphia
Mummer's parade to the blush, at least for bright
colors. But after one amused glance I got down
to the stern business of the day, and that was to
discover a pitcher, and failing that, baseball talent
of any kind.
Never shall I forget my first glimpse of the
Rickettsville twirler. He was far over six feet
tall and as lean as a fence rail. He had a great
shock of light hair, a sunburned, sharp-featured
face, wide, sloping shoulders, and arms enormously
long. He was about as graceful and had
about as much of a baseball walk as a crippled cow.
``He's a rube!'' I ejaculated, in disgust and
But when I had seen him throw one ball to his
catcher I grew as keen as a fox on a scent. What
speed he had! I got round closer to him and
watched him with sharp, eager eyes. He was a
giant. To be sure, he was lean, rawboned as a
horse, but powerful. What won me at once was
his natural, easy swing. He got the ball away
with scarcely any effort. I wondered what he
could do when he brought the motion of his body
into play.
``Bub, what might be the pitcher's name?'' I
asked of a boy.
``Huh, mister, his name might be Dennis, but
it ain't. Huh!'' replied this country youngster.
Evidently my question had thrown some implication
upon this particular player.
``I reckon you be a stranger in these parts,''
said a pleasant old fellow. ``His name's Hurtle
--Whitaker Hurtle. Whit fer short. He hain't
lost a gol-darned game this summer. No sir-ee!
Never pitched any before, nuther.''
Hurtle! What a remarkably fitting name!
Rickettsville chose the field and the game began.
Hurtle swung with his easy motion. The ball shot
across like a white bullet. It was a strike, and so
was the next, and the one succeeding. He could
not throw anything but strikes, and it seemed the
Spatsburg players could not make even a foul.
Outside of Hurtle's work the game meant little
to me. And I was so fascinated by what I saw in
him that I could hardly contain myself. After
the first few innings I no longer tried to. I yelled
with the Rickettsville rooters. The man was a
wonder. A blind baseball manager could have
seen that. He had a straight ball, shoulder high,
level as a stretched string, and fast. He had a
jump ball, which he evidently worked by putting
on a little more steam, and it was the speediest
thing I ever saw in the way of a shoot. He had a
wide-sweeping outcurve, wide as the blade of a
mowing scythe. And he had a drop--an unhittable
drop. He did not use it often, for it made
his catcher dig too hard into the dirt. But whenever
he did I glowed all over. Once or twice he
used an underhand motion and sent in a ball that
fairly swooped up. It could not have been hit
with a board. And best of all, dearest to the
manager's heart, he had control. Every ball he threw
went over the plate. He could not miss it. To
him that plate was as big as a house.
What a find! Already I had visions of the longlooked-
for brace of my team, and of the pennant,
and the little cottage, and the happy light of a
pair of blue eyes. What he meant to me, that
country pitcher Hurtle! He shut out the Spatsburg
team without a run or a hit or even a scratch.
Then I went after him. I collared him and his
manager, and there, surrounded by the gaping
players, I bought him and signed him before any
of them knew exactly what I was about. I did
not haggle. I asked the manager what he wanted
and produced the cash; I asked Hurtle what he
wanted, doubled his ridiculously modest demand,
paid him in advance, and got his name to the
contract. Then I breathed a long, deep breath; the
first one for weeks. Something told me that with
Hurtle's signature in my pocket I had the Eastern
League pennant. Then I invited all concerned
down to the Rickettsville hotel.
We made connections at the railroad junction
and reached Worcester at midnight in time for a
good sleep. I took the silent and backward
pitcher to my hotel. In the morning we had
breakfast together. I showed him about Worcester
and then carried him off to the ball grounds.
I had ordered morning practice, and as morning
practice is not conducive to the cheerfulness
of ball players, I wanted to reach the dressing
room a little late. When we arrived, all the players
had dressed and were out on the field. I had
some difficulty in fitting Hurtle with a uniform,
and when I did get him dressed he resembled a
two-legged giraffe decked out in white shirt, gray
trousers and maroon stockings.
Spears, my veteran first baseman and captain
of the team, was the first to see us.
``Sufferin' umpires!'' yelled Spears. ``Here,
you Micks! Look at this Con's got with him!''
What a yell burst from that sore and
disgruntled bunch of ball tossers! My players were
a grouchy set in practice anyway, and today they
were in their meanest mood.
``Hey, beanpole!''
``Get on to the stilts!''
``Con, where did you find that?''
I cut short their chaffing with a sharp order for
batting practice.
``Regular line-up, now no monkey biz,'' I went
on. ``Take two cracks and a bunt. Here, Hurtle,''
I said, drawing him toward the pitcher's
box, ``don't pay any attention to their talk. That's
only the fun of ball players. Go in now and practice
a little. Lam a few over.''
Hurtle's big freckled hands closed nervously
over the ball. I thought it best not to say more
to him, for he had a rather wild look. I remembered
my own stage fright upon my first appearance
in fast company. Besides I knew what my
amiable players would say to him. I had a secret
hope and belief that presently they would yell
upon the other side of the fence.
McCall, my speedy little left fielder, led
off at bat. He was full of ginger, chipper as
a squirrel, sarcastic as only a tried ball player
can be.
``Put 'em over, Slats, put 'em over,'' he called,
viciously swinging his ash.
Hurtle stood stiff and awkward in the box and
seemed to be rolling something in his mouth.
Then he moved his arm. We all saw the ball
dart down straight--that is, all of us except
McCall, because if he had seen it he might have
jumped out of the way. Crack! The ball hit him
on the shin.
McCall shrieked. We all groaned. That crack
hurt all of us. Any baseball player knows how it
hurts to be hit on the shinbone. McCall waved
his bat madly.
``Rube! Rube! Rube!'' he yelled.
Then and there Hurtle got the name that was
to cling to him all his baseball days.
McCall went back to the plate, red in the face,
mad as a hornet, and he sidestepped every time
Rube pitched a ball. He never even ticked one
and retired in disgust, limping and swearing.
Ashwell was next. He did not show much alacrity.
On Rube's first pitch down went Ashwell flat
in the dust. The ball whipped the hair of his
head. Rube was wild and I began to get worried.
Ashwell hit a couple of measly punks, but when
he assayed a bunt the gang yelled derisively at
``What's he got?'' The old familiar cry of
batters when facing a new pitcher!
Stringer went up, bold and formidable. That
was what made him the great hitter he was. He
loved to bat; he would have faced anybody; he
would have faced even a cannon. New curves
were a fascination to him. And speed for him,
in his own words, was ``apple pie.'' In this
instance, surprise was in store for Stringer. Rube
shot up the straight one, then the wide curve, then
the drop. Stringer missed them all, struck out,
fell down ignominiously. It was the first time
he had fanned that season and he looked dazed.
We had to haul him away.
I called off the practice, somewhat worried
about Rube's showing, and undecided whether or
not to try him in the game that day. So I went
to Radbourne, who had quietly watched Rube
while on the field. Raddy was an old pitcher and
had seen the rise of a hundred stars. I told him
about the game at Rickettsville and what I thought
of Rube, and frankly asked his opinion.
``Con, you've made the find of your life,'' said
Raddy, quietly and deliberately.
This from Radbourne was not only comforting;
it was relief, hope, assurance. I avoided Spears,
for it would hardly be possible for him to regard
the Rube favorably, and I kept under cover until
time to show up at the grounds.
Buffalo was on the ticket for that afternoon,
and the Bisons were leading the race and playing
in topnotch form. I went into the dressing room
while the players were changing suits, because
there was a little unpleasantness that I wanted to
spring on them before we got on the field.
``Boys,'' I said, curtly, ``Hurtle works today.
Cut loose, now, and back him up.''
I had to grab a bat and pound on the wall to
stop the uproar.
``Did you mutts hear what I said? Well, it goes.
Not a word, now. I'm handling this team. We're
in bad, I know, but it's my judgment to pitch Hurtle,
rube or no rube, and it's up to you to back
us. That's the baseball of it.''
Grumbling and muttering, they passed out of
the dressing room. I knew ball players. If Hurtle
should happen to show good form they would
turn in a flash. Rube tagged reluctantly in their
rear. He looked like a man in a trance. I wanted
to speak encouragingly to him, but Raddy told me
to keep quiet.
It was inspiring to see my team practice that
afternoon. There had come a subtle change. I
foresaw one of those baseball climaxes that can
be felt and seen, but not explained. Whether it
was a hint of the hoped-for brace, or only another
flash of form before the final let-down, I had no
means to tell. But I was on edge.
Carter, the umpire, called out the batteries, and
I sent my team into the field. When that long,
lanky, awkward rustic started for the pitcher's
box, I thought the bleachers would make him drop
in his tracks. The fans were sore on any one
those days, and a new pitcher was bound to hear
from them.
``Where! Oh, where! Oh, where!''
``Connelly's found another dead one!''
``Look at his pants!''
``Pad his legs!''
Then the inning began, and things happened.
Rube had marvelous speed, but he could not find
the plate. He threw the ball the second he got
it; he hit men, walked men, and fell all over
himself trying to field bunts. The crowd stormed and
railed and hissed. The Bisons pranced round the
bases and yelled like Indians. Finally they retired
with eight runs.
Eight runs! Enough to win two games! I
could not have told how it happened. I was sick
and all but crushed. Still I had a blind, dogged
faith in the big rustic. I believed he had not got
started right. It was a trying situation. I called
Spears and Raddy to my side and talked fast.
``It's all off now. Let the dinged rube take his
medicine,'' growled Spears.
``Don't take him out,'' said Raddy. ``He's not
shown at all what's in him. The blamed hayseed
is up in the air. He's crazy. He doesn't
know what he's doing. I tell you, Con, he may be
scared to death, but he's dead in earnest.''
Suddenly I recalled the advice of the pleasant
old fellow at Rickettsville.
``Spears, you're the captain,'' I said, sharply.
``Go after the rube. Wake him up. Tell him he
can't pitch. Call him `Pogie!' That's a name
that stirs him up.''
``Well, I'll be dinged! He looks it,'' replied
Spears. ``Here, Rube, get off the bench. Come
Rube lurched toward us. He seemed to be
walking in his sleep. His breast was laboring and
he was dripping with sweat.
``Who ever told you that you could pitch?''
asked Spears genially. He was master at baseball
ridicule. I had never yet seen the youngster who
could stand his badinage. He said a few things,
then wound up with: ``Come now, you cross
between a hayrack and a wagon tongue, get sore and
do something. Pitch if you can. Show us! Do
you hear, you tow-headed Pogie!''
Rube jumped as if he had been struck. His face
flamed red and his little eyes turned black. He
shoved his big fist under Capt. Spears' nose.
``Mister, I'll lick you fer thet--after the game!
And I'll show you dog-goned well how I can
``Good!'' exclaimed Raddy; and I echoed his
word. Then I went to the bench and turned my
attention to the game. Some one told me that
McCall had made a couple of fouls, and after waiting
for two strikes and three balls had struck
out. Ashwell had beat out a bunt in his old swift
style, and Stringer was walking up to the plate
on the moment. It was interesting, even in a losing
game, to see Stringer go to bat. We all
watched him, as we had been watching him for
weeks, expecting him to break his slump with one
of the drives that had made him famous. Stringer
stood to the left side of the plate, and I could
see the bulge of his closely locked jaw. He swung
on the first pitched ball. With the solid rap we
all rose to watch that hit. The ball lined first,
then soared and did not begin to drop till it was
far beyond the right-field fence. For an instant
we were all still, so were the bleachers. Stringer
had broken his slump with the longest drive ever
made on the grounds. The crowd cheered as he
trotted around the bases behind Ashwell. Two
``Con, how'd you like that drive?'' he asked
me, with a bright gleam in his eyes.
``O-h-!--a beaut!'' I replied, incoherently. The
players on the bench were all as glad as I was.
Henley flew out to left. Mullaney smashed a twobagger
to right. Then Gregg hit safely, but Mullaney,
in trying to score on the play, was out at
the plate.
``Four hits! I tell you fellows, something's
coming off,'' said Raddy. ``Now, if only
What a difference there was in that long rustic!
He stalked into the box, unmindful of the hooting
crowd and grimly faced Schultz, the first batter
up for the Bisons. This time Rube was deliberate.
And where he had not swung before he now
got his body and arm into full motion. The ball
came in like a glint of light. Schultz looked
surprised. The umpire called ``Strike!''
``Wow!'' yelled the Buffalo coacher. Rube sped
up the sidewheeler and Schultz reached wide to
meet it and failed. The third was the lightning
drop, straight over the plate. The batter poked
weakly at it. Then Carl struck out and Manning
following, did likewise. Three of the best hitters
in the Eastern retired on nine strikes! That was
no fluke. I knew what it meant, and I sat there
hugging myself with the hum of something joyous
in my ears.
Gregg had a glow on his sweaty face. ``Oh, but
say, boys, take a tip from me! The Rube's a world
beater! Raddy knew it; he sized up that swing,
and now I know it. Get wise, you its!''
When old Spears pasted a single through shortstop,
the Buffalo manager took Clary out of the
box and put in Vane, their best pitcher. Bogart
advanced the runner to second, but was thrown
out on the play. Then Rube came up. He swung
a huge bat and loomed over the Bison's twirler.
Rube had the look of a hitter. He seemed to be
holding himself back from walking right into the
ball. And he hit one high and far away. The
fast Carl could not get under it, though he made
a valiant effort. Spears scored and Rube's long
strides carried him to third. The cold crowd in
the stands came to life; even the sore bleachers
opened up. McCall dumped a slow teaser down
the line, a hit that would easily have scored Rube,
but he ran a little way, then stopped, tried to get
back, and was easily touched out. Ashwell's hard
chance gave the Bison's shortstop an error, and
Stringer came up with two men on bases. Stringer
hit a foul over the right-field fence and the crowd
howled. Then he hit a hard long drive straight
into the centerfielder's hands.
``Con, I don't know what to think, but ding me
if we ain't hittin' the ball,'' said Spears. Then
to his players: ``A little more of that and we're
back in our old shape. All in a minute--at 'em
now! Rube, you dinged old Pogie, pitch!''
Rube toed the rubber, wrapped his long brown
fingers round the ball, stepped out as he swung
and--zing! That inning he unloosed a few more
kinks in his arm and he tried some new balls upon
the Bisons. But whatever he used and wherever
he put them the result was the same--they cut the
plate and the Bisons were powerless.
That inning marked the change in my team.
They had come hack. The hoodoo had vanished.
The championship Worcester team was itself
The Bisons were fighting, too, but Rube had
them helpless. When they did hit a ball one of
my infielders snapped it up. No chances went to
the outfield. I sat there listening to my men, and
reveled in a moment that I had long prayed for.
``Now you're pitching some, Rube. Another
strike! Get him a board!'' called Ashwell.
``Ding 'em, Rube, ding 'em!'' came from Capt.
``Speed? Oh-no!'' yelled Bogart at third
``It's all off, Rube! It's all off--all off!''
So, with the wonderful pitching of an angry
rube, the Worcester team came into its own
again. I sat through it all without another word;
without giving a signal. In a way I realized the
awakening of the bleachers, and heard the pound
of feet and the crash, but it was the spirit of my
team that thrilled me. Next to that the work of
my new find absorbed me. I gloated over his easy,
deceiving swing. I rose out of my seat when he
threw that straight fast ball, swift as a bullet,
true as a plumb line. And when those hard-hitting,
sure bunting Bisons chopped in vain at the
wonderful drop, I choked back a wild yell. For
Rube meant the world to me that day.
In the eighth the score was 8 to 6. The Bisons
had one scratch hit to their credit, but not a
runner had got beyond first base. Again Rube
held them safely, one man striking out, another
fouling out, and the third going out on a little fly.
Crash! Crash! Crash! Crash! The bleachers
were making up for many games in which
they could not express their riotous feelings.
``It's a cinch we'll win!'' yelled a fan with a
voice. Rube was the first man up in our half of
the ninth and his big bat lammed the first ball
safe over second base. The crowd, hungry for
victory, got to their feet and stayed upon their
feet, calling, cheering for runs. It was the moment
for me to get in the game, and I leaped up,
strung like a wire, and white hot with inspiration.
I sent Spears to the coaching box with
orders to make Rube run on the first ball. I
gripped McCall with hands that made him wince.
Then I dropped back on the bench spent and
panting. It was only a game, yet it meant so
much! Little McCall was dark as a thunder cloud,
and his fiery eyes snapped. He was the fastest
man in the league, and could have bunted an
arrow from a bow. The foxy Bison third baseman
edged in. Mac feinted to bunt toward him
then turned his bat inward and dumped a teasing
curving ball down the first base line. Rube ran
as if in seven-league boots. Mac's short legs
twinkled; he went like the wind; he leaped into
first base with his long slide, and beat the
The stands and bleachers seemed to be tumbling
down. For a moment the air was full of deafening
sound. Then came the pause, the dying away
of clatter and roar, the close waiting, suspended
quiet. Spears' clear voice, as he coached Rube, in
its keen note seemed inevitable of another run.
Ashwell took his stand. He was another lefthand
hitter, and against a right-hand pitcher, in
such circumstances as these, the most dangerous
of men. Vane knew it. Ellis, the Bison captain
knew it, as showed plainly in his signal to catch
Rube at second. But Spears' warning held or
frightened Rube on the bag.
Vane wasted a ball, then another. Ashwell
could not be coaxed. Wearily Vane swung; the
shortstop raced out to get in line for a possible
hit through the wide space to his right,
and the second baseman got on his toes as both
base runners started.
Crack! The old story of the hit and run game!
Ashwell's hit crossed sharply where a moment
before the shortstop had been standing. With
gigantic strides Rube rounded the corner and
scored. McCall flitted through second, and diving
into third with a cloud of dust, got the umpire's
decision. When Stringer hurried up with Mac
on third and Ash on first the whole field seemed
racked in a deafening storm. Again it subsided
quickly. The hopes of the Worcester fans had
been crushed too often of late for them to be fearless.
But I had no fear. I only wanted the suspense
ended. I was like a man clamped in a vise.
Stringer stood motionless. Mac bent low with the
sprinters' stoop; Ash watched the pitcher's arm
and slowly edged off first. Stringer waited for
one strike and two balls, then he hit the next. It
hugged the first base line, bounced fiercely past
the bag and skipped over the grass to bump hard
into the fence. McCall romped home, and lame
Ashwell beat any run he ever made to the plate.
Rolling, swelling, crashing roar of frenzied feet
could not down the high piercing sustained yell of
the fans. It was great. Three weeks of submerged
bottled baseball joy exploded in one mad
outburst! The fans, too, had come into their own
We scored no more. But the Bisons were
beaten. Their spirit was broken. This did not
make the Rube let up in their last half inning.
Grim and pale he faced them. At every long step
and swing he tossed his shock of light hair. At
the end he was even stronger than at the beginning.
He still had the glancing, floating airy
quality that baseball players call speed. And he
struck out the last three batters.
In the tumult that burst over my ears I sat
staring at the dots on my score card. Fourteen
strike outs! one scratch hit! No base on balls
since the first inning! That told the story which
deadened senses doubted. There was a roar in
my ears. Some one was pounding me. As I struggled
to get into the dressing room the crowd
mobbed me. But I did not hear what they yelled.
I had a kind of misty veil before my eyes, in
which I saw that lanky Rube magnified into a
glorious figure. I saw the pennant waving, and
the gleam of a white cottage through the trees,
and a trim figure waiting at the gate. Then I
rolled into the dressing room.
Somehow it seemed strange to me. Most of the
players were stretched out in peculiar convulsions.
Old Spears sat with drooping head. Then
a wild flaming-eyed giant swooped upon me. With
a voice of thunder he announced:
``I'm a-goin' to lick you, too!''
After that we never called him any name except
``Fellows, it's this way. You've got to win
today's game. It's the last of the season and
means the pennant for Worcester. One more
hard scrap and we're done! Of all the up-hill
fights any bunch ever made to land the flag, our
has been the best. You're the best team I ever
managed, the gamest gang of ball players that
ever stepped in spikes. We've played in the
hardest kind of luck all season, except that short
trip we called the Rube's Honeymoon. We got a
bad start, and sore arms and busted fingers, all
kinds of injuries, every accident calculated to hurt
a team's chances, came our way. But in spite of
it all we got the lead and we've held it, and today
we're still a few points ahead of Buffalo.''
I paused to catch my breath, and looked round
on the grim, tired faces of my players. They
made a stern group. The close of the season
found them almost played out. What a hard
chance it was, after their extraordinary efforts,
to bring the issue of the pennant down to this last
``If we lose today, Buffalo, with three games
more to play at home, will pull the bunting,'' I
went on. ``But they're not going to win! I'm
putting it up to you that way. I know Spears is
all in; Raddy's arm is gone; Ash is playing on
one leg; you're all crippled. But you've got one
more game in you, I know. These last few weeks
the Rube has been pitching out of turn and he's
about all in, too. He's kept us in the lead. If he
wins today it'll be Rube's Pennant. But that
might apply to all of you. Now, shall we talk
over the play today? Any tricks to pull off? Any
inside work?''
``Con, you're pretty much upset an' nervous,''
replied Spears, soberly. ``It ain't no wonder.
This has been one corker of a season. I want to
suggest that you let me run the team today. I've
talked over the play with the fellers. We ain't
goin' to lose this game, Con. Buffalo has been
comin' with a rush lately, an' they're confident.
But we've been holdin' in, restin' up as much as
we dared an' still keep our lead. Mebbee it'll
surprise you to know we've bet every dollar we could
get hold of on this game. Why, Buffalo money is
``All right, Spears, I'll turn the team over to
you. We've got the banner crowd of the year out
there right now, a great crowd to play before.
I'm more fussed up over this game than any I
remember. But I have a sort of blind faith in
my team. . . . I guess that's all I want to say.''
Spears led the silent players out of the dressing
room and I followed; and while they began to
toss balls to and fro, to limber up cold, dead arms,
I sat on the bench.
The Bisons were prancing about the diamond,
and their swaggering assurance was not conducive
to hope for the Worcesters. I wondered
how many of that vast, noisy audience, intent on
the day's sport, even had a thought of what pain
and toil it meant to my players. The Buffalo men
were in good shape; they had been lucky; they
were at the top of their stride, and that made all
the difference.
At any rate, there were a few faithful little
women in the grand stand--Milly and Nan and
Rose Stringer and Kate Bogart--who sat with
compressed lips and hoped and prayed for that
game to begin and end.
The gong called off the practice, and Spears,
taking the field, yelled gruff encouragement to his
men. Umpire Carter brushed off the plate and
tossed a white ball to Rube and called: ``Play!''
The bleachers set up an exultant, satisfied shout
and sat down to wait.
Schultz toed the plate and watched the Rube
pitch a couple. There seemed to be no diminution
of the great pitcher's speed and both balls cut the
plate. Schultz clipped the next one down the thirdbase
Line. Bogart trapped it close to the bag, and
got it away underhand, beating the speedy runner
by a nose. It was a pretty play to start with, and
the spectators were not close-mouthed in
appreciation. The short, stocky Carl ambled up to
bat, and I heard him call the Rube something. It
was not a friendly contest, this deciding game
between Buffalo and Worcester.
``Bing one close to his swelled nut!'' growled
Spears to the Rube.
Carl chopped a bouncing grounder through
short and Ash was after it like a tiger, but it was
a hit. The Buffalo contingent opened up. Then
Manning faced the Rube, and he, too, vented
sarcasm. It might not have been heard by the slow,
imperturbable pitcher for all the notice he took.
Carl edged off first, slid back twice, got a third
start, and on the Rube's pitch was off for second
base with the lead that always made him dangerous.
Manning swung vainly, and Gregg snapped
a throw to Mullaney. Ball and runner got to the
bag apparently simultaneously; the umpire called
Carl out, and the crowd uttered a quick roar of
The next pitch to Manning was a strike. Rube
was not wasting any balls, a point I noted with
mingled fear and satisfaction. For he might have
felt that he had no strength to spare that day and
so could not try to work the batters. Again he
swung, and Manning rapped a long line fly over
McCall. As the little left fielder turned at the
sound of the hit and sprinted out, his lameness
was certainly not in evidence. He was the swiftest
runner in the league and always when he got
going the crowd rose in wild clamor to watch him.
Mac took that fly right off the foul flag in deep
left, and the bleachers dinned their pleasure.
The teams changed positions. ``Fellers,'' said
Spears, savagely, ``we may be a bunged-up lot of
stiffs, but, say! We can hit! If you love your
old captain--sting the ball!''
Vane, the Bison pitcher, surely had his work
cut out for him. For one sympathetic moment I
saw his part through his eyes. My Worcester
veterans, long used to being under fire, were
relentlessly bent on taking that game. It showed
in many ways, particularly in their silence,
because they were seldom a silent team. McCall
hesitated a moment over his bats. Then, as he
picked up the lightest one, I saw his jaw set, and
I knew he intended to bunt. He was lame, yet he
meant to beat out an infield hit. He went up
Vane had an old head, and he had a varied
assortment of balls. For Mac he used an under
hand curve, rising at the plate and curving in to
the left-hander. Mac stepped back and let it go.
``That's the place, Bo,'' cried the Buffalo
infielders. ``Keep 'em close on the Crab.'' Eager and
fierce as McCall was, he let pitch after pitch go
by till he had three balls and two strikes. Still
the heady Vane sent up another pitch similar to
the others. Mac stepped forward in the box,
dropped his bat on the ball, and leaped down the
line toward first base. Vane came rushing in for
the bunt, got it and threw. But as the speeding
ball neared the baseman, Mac stretched out into
the air and shot for the bag. By a fraction of a
second he beat the ball. It was one of his demonslides.
He knew that the chances favored his being
crippled; we all knew that some day Mac
would slide recklessly once too often. But that,
too, is all in the game and in the spirit of a great
``We're on,'' said Spears; ``now keep with
By that the captain meant that Mac would go
down, and Ashwell would hit with the run.
When Vane pitched, little McCall was flitting
toward second. The Bison shortstop started for
the bag, and Ash hit square through his tracks.
A rolling cheer burst from the bleachers, and
swelled till McCall overran third base and was
thrown back by the coacher. Stringer hurried
forward with his big bat.
``Oh! My!'' yelled a fan, and he voiced my
sentiments exactly. Here we would score, and be
one run closer to that dearly bought pennant.
How well my men worked together! As the
pitcher let the ball go, Ash was digging for
second and Mac was shooting plateward. They
played on the chance of Stringer's hitting.
Stringer swung, the bat cracked, we heard a thud
somewhere, and then Manning, half knocked over,
was fumbling for the ball. He had knocked down
a terrific drive with his mitt, and he got the ball
in time to put Stringer out. But Mac scored and
Ash drew a throw to third base and beat it. He
had a bad ankle, but no one noticed it in that
daring run.
``Watch me paste one!'' said Captain Spears,
as he spat several yards. He batted out a fly so
long and high and far that, slow as he was, he had
nearly run to second base when Carl made the
catch. Ash easily scored on the throw-in. Then
Bogart sent one skipping over second, and Treadwell,
scooping it on the run, completed a play that
showed why he was considered the star of the
Bison infield.
``Two runs, fellers!'' said Spears. ``That's
some! Push 'em over, Rube.''
The second inning somewhat quickened the
pace. Even the Rube worked a little faster. Ellis
lined to Cairns in right; Treadwell fouled two
balls and had a called strike, and was out; McKnight
hit a low fly over short, then Bud Wiler
sent one between Spears and Mullaney. Spears
went for it while the Rube with giant strides ran
to cover first base. Between them they got Bud,
but it was only because he was heavy and slow
on his feet.
In our half of that inning Mullaney, Gregg and
Cairns went out in one, two, three order.
With Pannell up, I saw that the Rube held in
on his speed, or else he was tiring. Pannell hit
the second slow ball for two bases. Vane sacrificed,
and then the redoubtable Schultz came up.
He appeared to be in no hurry to bat. Then I
saw that the foxy Buffalo players were working
to tire the Rube. They had the situation figured.
But they were no wiser than old Spears.
``Make 'em hit, Rube. Push 'em straight over.
Never mind the corners. We don't care for a
few runs. We'll hit this game out.''
Shultz flied to Mac, who made a beautiful throw
to the plate too late to catch Pannell. Carl
deliberately bunted to the right of the Rube and it
cost the big pitcher strenuous effort to catch his
``We got the Rube waggin'!'' yelled a Buffalo
Manning tripled down the left foul line--a hit
the bleachers called a screamer. When Ellis
came up, it looked like a tie score, and when the
Rube pitched it was plain that he was tired. The
Bisons yelled their assurance of this and the
audience settled into quiet. Ellis batted a
scorcher that looked good for a hit. But the fast
Ashwell was moving with the ball, and he plunged
lengthwise to get it square in his glove. The hit
had been so sharp that he had time to get up and
make the throw to beat the runner. The bleachers
thundered at the play.
``You're up, Rube,'' called Spears. ``Lam one
out of the lot!''
The Rube was an uncertain batter. There was
never any telling what he might do, for he had
spells of good and bad hitting. But when he did
get his bat on the ball it meant a chase for some
fielder. He went up swinging his huge club, and
he hit a fly that would have been an easy home run
for a fast man. But the best Rube could do was
to reach third base. This was certainly good
enough, as the bleachers loudly proclaimed, and
another tally for us seemed sure.
McCall bunted toward third, another of his
teasers. The Rube would surely have scored had
he started with the ball, but he did not try and
missed a chance. Wiler, of course, held the ball,
and Mac got to first without special effort. He
went down on the first pitch. Then Ash lined to
Carl. The Rube waited till the ball was caught
and started for home. The crowd screamed, the
Rube ran for all he was worth and Carl's throw
to the plate shot in low and true. Ellis blocked
the Rube and tagged him out.
It looked to the bleachers as if Ellis had been
unnecessarily rough, and they hissed and stormed
disapproval. As for me, I knew the Bisons were
losing no chance to wear out my pitcher. Stringer
fouled out with Mac on third, and it made him so
angry that he threw his bat toward the bench,
making some of the boys skip lively.
The next three innings, as far as scoring was
concerned, were all for Buffalo. But the Worcester
infield played magnificent ball, holding their
opponents to one run each inning.
That made the score 4 to 2 in favor of Buffalo.
In the last half of the sixth, with Ash on first
base and two men out, old Spears hit another of
his lofty flies, and this one went over the fence
and tied the score. How the bleachers roared!
It was full two minutes before they quieted down.
To make it all the more exciting, Bogart hit
safely, ran like a deer to third on Mullaney's
grounder, which Wiler knocked down, and scored
on a passed ball. Gregg ended the inning by
striking out.
``Get at the Rube!'' boomed Ellis, the Bison
captain. ``We'll have him up in the air soon. Get
in the game now, you stickers!''
Before I knew what had happened, the Bisons
had again tied the score. They were indomitable.
They grew stronger all the time. A stroke of
good luck now would clinch the game for them.
The Rube was beginning to labor in the box; Ashwell
was limping; Spears looked as if he would
drop any moment; McCall could scarcely walk.
But if the ball came his way he could still run.
Nevertheless, I never saw any finer fielding than
these cripped players executed that inning.
``Ash--Mac--can you hold out?'' I asked, when
they limped in. I received glances of scorn for
my question. Spears, however, was not sanguine.
``I'll stick pretty much if somethin' doesn't
happen,'' he said; ``but I'm all in. I'll need a
runner if I get to first this time.''
Spears lumbered down to first base on an
infield hit and the heavy Manning gave him the hip.
Old Spears went down, and I for one knew he
was out in more ways than that signified by
Carter's sharp: ``Out!''
The old war-horse gathered himself up slowly
and painfully, and with his arms folded and his
jaw protruding, he limped toward the umpire.
``Did you call me out?'' he asked, in a voice
plainly audible to any one on the field.
``Yes,'' snapped Carter.
``What for? I beat the ball, an' Mannin'
played dirty with me--gave me the hip.''
``I called you out.''
``But I wasn't out!''
``Shut up now! Get off the diamond!'' ordered
Carter, peremptorily.
``What? Me? Say, I'm captain of this team.
Can't I question a decision?''
``Not mine. Spears, you're delaying the
``I tell you it was a rotten decision,'' yelled
Spears. The bleachers agreed with him.
Carter grew red in the face. He and Spears
had before then met in field squabbles, and he
showed it.
``Fifty dollars!''
``More! You cheap-skate you piker! More!''
``It's a hundred!''
``Put me out of the game!'' roared Spears.
``You bet! Hurry now--skedaddle!''
``Rob-b-ber!'' bawled Spears.
Then he labored slowly toward the bench, all
red, and yet with perspiration, his demeanor one
of outraged dignity. The great crowd, as one
man, stood up and yelled hoarsely at Carter, and
hissed and railed at him. When Spears got to
the bench he sat down beside me as if in pain, but
he was smiling.
``Con, I was all in, an' knowin' I couldn't play
any longer, thought I'd try to scare Carter. Say,
he was white in the face. If we play into a close
decision now, he'll give it to us.''
Bogart and Mullaney batted out in short order,
and once more the aggressive Bisons hurried in
for their turn. Spears sent Cairns to first base
and Jones to right. The Rube lobbed up his slow
ball. In that tight pinch he showed his splendid
nerve. Two Buffalo players, over-anxious,
popped up flies. The Rube kept on pitching the
slow curve until it was hit safely. Then heaving
his shoulders with all his might he got all
the motion possible into his swing and let drive.
He had almost all of his old speed, but it hurt
me to see him work with such desperate effort.
He struck Wiler out.
He came stooping into the bench, apparently
deaf to the stunning round of applause. Every
player on the team had a word for the Rube.
There was no quitting in that bunch, and if I ever
saw victory on the stern faces of ball players it
was in that moment.
``We haven't opened up yet. Mebbee this is
the innin'. If it ain't, the next is,'' said Spears.
With the weak end of the batting list up, there
seemed little hope of getting a run on Vane that
inning. He had so much confidence that he put
the ball over for Gregg, who hit out of the reach
of the infield. Again Vane sent up his straight
ball, no doubt expecting Cairns to hit into a
double play. But Cairns surprised Vane and
everybody else by poking a safety past first base.
The fans began to howl and pound and whistle.
The Rube strode to bat. The infield closed in
for a bunt, but the Rube had no orders for that
style of play. Spears had said nothing to him.
Vane lost his nonchalance and settled down. He
cut loose with all his speed. Rube stepped out,
suddenly whirled, then tried to dodge, but the ball
hit him fair in the back. Rube sagged in his
tracks, then straightened up, and walked slowly
to first base. Score 5 to 5, bases full, no outs,
McCall at bat. I sat dumb on the bench, thrilling
and shivering. McCall! Ashwell! Stringer to
``Play it safe! Hold the bags!'' yelled the
McCall fairly spouted defiance as he faced
``Pitch! It's all off! An' you know it!''
If Vane knew that, he showed no evidence of
it. His face was cold, unsmiling, rigid. He had
to pitch to McCall, the fastest man in the league;
to Ashwell, the best bunter; to Stringer, the
champion batter. It was a supreme test for a great
pitcher. There was only one kind of a ball that
McCall was not sure to hit, and that was a high
curve, in close. Vane threw it with all his power.
Carter called it a strike. Again Vane swung and
his arm fairly cracked. Mac fouled the ball. The
third was wide. Slowly, with lifting breast, Vane
got ready, whirled savagely and shot up the ball.
McCall struck out.
As the Buffalo players crowed and the audience
groaned it was worthy of note that little McCall
showed no temper. Yet he had failed to grasp a
great opportunity.
``Ash, I couldn't see 'em,'' he said, as he passed
to the bench. ``Speed, whew! look out for it.
He's been savin' up. Hit quick, an' you'll get
Ashwell bent over the plate and glowered at
``Pitch! It's all off! An' you know it!'' he
hissed, using Mac's words.
Ashwell, too, was left-handed; he, too, was
extremely hard to pitch to; and if he had a weakness
that any of us ever discovered, it was a slow
curve and change of pace. But I doubted if Vane
would dare to use slow balls to Ash at that critical
moment. I had yet to learn something of Vane.
He gave Ash a slow, wide-sweeping sidewheeler,
that curved round over the plate. Ash always
took a strike, so this did not matter. Then Vane
used his deceptive change of pace, sending up a
curve that just missed Ash's bat as he swung.
``Oh! A-h-h! hit!'' wailed the bleachers.
Vane doubled up like a contortionist, and shot
up a lightning-swift drop that fooled Ash
completely. Again the crowd groaned. Score tied,
bases full, two out, Stringer at bat!
``It's up to you, String,'' called Ash, stepping
Stringer did not call out to Vane. That was
not his way. He stood tense and alert, bat on his
shoulder, his powerful form braced, and he
waited. The outfielders trotted over toward right
field, and the infielders played deep, calling out
warnings and encouragement to the pitcher.
Stringer had no weakness, and Vane knew this.
Nevertheless he did not manifest any uneasiness,
and pitched the first ball without any extra
motion. Carter called it a strike. I saw Stringer
sink down slightly and grow tenser all over. I
believe that moment was longer for me than for
either the pitcher or the batter. Vane took his
time, watched the base runners, feinted to throw
to catch them, and then delivered the ball toward
the plate with the limit of his power.
Stringer hit the ball. As long as I live, I will
see that glancing low liner. Shultz, by a wonderful
play in deep center, blocked the ball and
thereby saved it from being a home run. But
when Stringer stopped on second base, all the
runners had scored.
A shrill, shrieking, high-pitched yell! The
bleachers threatened to destroy the stands and
also their throats in one long revel of baseball
Jones, batting in place of Spears, had gone
up and fouled out before the uproar had subsided.
``Fellers, I reckon I feel easier,'' said the Rube.
It was the only time I had ever heard him speak
to the players at such a stage
``Only six batters, Rube,'' called out Spears.
``Boys, it's a grand game, an' it's our'n!''
The Rube had enough that inning to dispose of
the lower half of the Buffalo list without any
alarming bids for a run. And in our half, Bogart
and Mullaney hit vicious ground balls that gave
Treadwell and Wiler opportunities for superb
plays. Carl, likewise, made a beautiful running
catch of Gregg's line fly. The Bisons were still
in the game, still capable of pulling it out at the
last moment.
When Shultz stalked up to the plate I shut my
eyes a moment, and so still was it that the field
and stands might have been empty. Yet, though
I tried, I could not keep my eyes closed. I opened
them to watch the Rube. I knew Spears felt the
same as I, for he was blowing like a porpoise and
muttering to himself: ``Mebee the Rube won't
last an' I've no one to put in!''
The Rube pitched with heavy, violent effort.
He had still enough speed to be dangerous. But
after the manner of ball players Shultz and the
coachers mocked him.
``Take all you can,'' called Ellis to Shultz.
Every pitch lessened the Rube's strength and
these wise opponents knew it. Likewise the Rube
himself knew, and never had he shown better head
work than in this inning. If he were to win, he
must be quick. So he wasted not a ball. The first
pitch and the second, delivered breast high and
fairly over the plate, beautiful balls to hit, Shultz
watched speed by. He swung hard on the third
and the crippled Ashwell dove for it in a cloud
of dust, got a hand in front of it, but uselessly,
for the hit was safe. The crowd cheered that
splendid effort.
Carl marched to bat, and he swung his club over
the plate as if he knew what to expect. ``Come
on, Rube!'' he shouted. Wearily, doggedly, the
Rube whirled, and whipped his arm. The ball
had all his old glancing speed and it was a strike.
The Rube was making a tremendous effort.
Again he got his body in convulsive motion--two
strikes! Shultz had made no move to run, nor
had Carl made any move to hit. These veterans
were waiting. The Rube had pitched five strikes
--could he last?
``Now, Carl!'' yelled Ellis, with startling
suddenness, as the Rube pitched again.
Crack! Carl placed that hit as safely through
short as if he had thrown it. McCall's little legs
twinkled as he dashed over the grass. He had to
head off that hit and he ran like a streak. Down
and forward he pitched, as if in one of his fierce
slides, and he got his body in front of the ball,
blocking it, and then he rolled over and over. But
he jumped up and lined the ball to Bogart, almost
catching Shultz at third-base. Then, as Mac tried
to walk, his lame leg buckled under him, and down
he went, and out.
``Call time,'' I called to Carter. ``McCall is
done. . . . Myers, you go to left an' for Lord's
sake play ball!''
Stringer and Bogart hurried to Mac and, lifting
him up and supporting him between them
with his arms around their shoulders, they led
him off amid cheers from the stands. Mac was
white with pain.
``Naw, I won't go off the field. Leave me on
the bench,'' he said. ``Fight 'em now. It's our
game. Never mind a couple of runs.''
The boys ran back to their positions and Carter
called play. Perhaps a little delay had been helpful
to the Rube. Slowly he stepped into the box
and watched Shultz at third and Carl at second.
There was not much probability of his throwing
to catch them off the base, but enough of a
possibility to make them careful, so he held them
The Rube pitched a strike to Manning, then
another. That made eight strikes square over the
plate that inning. What magnificent control! It
was equaled by the implacable patience of those
veteran Bisons. Manning hit the next ball as
hard as Carl had hit his. But Mullaney plunged
down, came up with the ball, feinted to fool Carl,
then let drive to Gregg to catch the fleeting Shultz.
The throw went wide, but Gregg got it, and, leaping
lengthwise, tagged Shultz out a yard from the
One out. Two runners on bases. The bleachers
rose and split their throats. Would the inning
never end?
Spears kept telling himself: ``They'll score,
but we'll win. It's our game!''
I had a sickening fear that the strange confidence
that obsessed the Worcester players had
been blind, unreasoning vanity.
``Carl will steal,'' muttered Spears. ``He
can't be stopped.''
Spears had called the play. The Rube tried to
hold the little base-stealer close to second, but,
after one attempt, wisely turned to his hard task
of making the Bisons hit and hit quickly. Ellis
let the ball pass; Gregg made a perfect throw to
third; Bogart caught the ball and moved like a
flash, but Carl slid under his hands to the bag.
Manning ran down to second. The Rube pitched
again, and this was his tenth ball over the plate.
Even the Buffalo players evinced eloquent appreciation
of the Rube's defence at this last stand.
Then Ellis sent a clean hit to right, scoring both
Carl and Manning. I breathed easier, for it
seemed with those two runners in, the Rube had a
better chance. Treadwell also took those two
runners in, the Rube had a way those Bisons
waited. They had their reward, for the Rube's
speed left him. When he pitched again the ball
had control, but no shoot. Treadwell hit it with
all his strength. Like a huge cat Ashwell pounced
upon it, ran over second base, forcing Ellis, and
his speedy snap to first almost caught Treadwell.
Score 8 to 7. Two out. Runner on first. One
run to tie.
In my hazy, dimmed vision I saw the Rube's
pennant waving from the flag-pole.
``It's our game!'' howled Spears in my ear,
for the noise from the stands was deafening.
``It's our pennant!''
The formidable batting strength of the Bisons
had been met, not without disaster, but without
defeat. McKnight came up for Buffalo and the
Rube took his weary swing. The batter made a
terrific lunge and hit the ball with a solid crack
It lined for center.
Suddenly electrified into action, I leaped up.
That hit! It froze me with horror. It was a
home-run. I saw Stringer fly toward left center.
He ran like something wild. I saw the heavy
Treadwell lumbering round the bases. I saw Ashwell
run out into center field.
``Ah-h!'' The whole audience relieved its
terror in that expulsion of suspended breath.
Stringer had leaped high to knock down the ball,
saving a sure home-run and the game. He recovered
himself, dashed back for the ball and shot
it to Ash.
When Ash turned toward the plate, Treadwell
was rounding third base. A tie score appeared
inevitable. I saw Ash's arm whip and the ball
shoot forward, leveled, glancing, beautiful in its
flight. The crowd saw it, and the silence broke
to a yell that rose and rose as the ball sped in.
That yell swelled to a splitting shriek, and
Treadwell slid in the dust, and the ball shot into
Gregg's hands all at the same instant.
Carter waved both arms upwards. It was the
umpire's action when his decision went against
the base-runner. The audience rolled up one great
stenorian cry.
I collapsed and sank back upon the bench. My
confused senses received a dull roar of pounding
feet and dinning voices as the herald of victory.
I felt myself thinking how pleased Milly would be.
I had a distinct picture in my mind of a white
cottage on a hill, no longer a dream, but a reality,
made possible for me by the Rube's winning of
the pennant,
``He's got a new manager. Watch him pitch
now!'' That was what Nan Brown said to me
about Rube Hurtle, my great pitcher, and I took
it as her way of announcing her engagement.
My baseball career held some proud moments,
but this one, wherein I realized the success of my
matchmaking plans, was certainly the proudest
one. So, entirely outside of the honest pleasure
I got out of the Rube's happiness, there was
reason for me to congratulate myself. He was a
transformed man, so absolutely renewed, so wild
with joy, that on the strength of it, I decided the
pennant for Worcester was a foregone conclusion,
and, sure of the money promised me by the
directors, Milly and I began to make plans for
the cottage upon the hill.
The Rube insisted on pitching Monday's game
against the Torontos, and although poor fielding
gave them a couple of runs, they never had a
chance. They could not see the ball. The Rube
wrapped it around their necks and between their
wrists and straight over the plate with such
incredible speed that they might just as well have
tried to bat rifle bullets.
That night I was happy. Spears, my veteran
captain, was one huge smile; Radbourne quietly
assured me that all was over now but the shouting;
all the boys were happy.
And the Rube was the happiest of all. At the
hotel he burst out with his exceeding good
fortune. He and Nan were to be married upon the
Fourth of July!
After the noisy congratulations were over and
the Rube had gone, Spears looked at me and I
looked at him.
``Con,'' said he soberly, ``we just can't let him
get married on the Fourth.''
``Why not? Sure we can. We'll help him get
married. I tell you it'll save the pennant for us.
Look how he pitched today! Nan Brown is our
``See here, Con, you've got softenin' of the
brain, too. Where's your baseball sense? We've
got a pennant to win. By July Fourth we'll be
close to the lead again, an' there's that three
weeks' trip on the road, the longest an' hardest
of the season. We've just got to break even on
that trip. You know what that means. If the
Rube marries Nan--what are we goin' to do? We
can't leave him behind. If he takes Nan with us
--why it'll be a honeymoon! An' half the gang
is stuck on Nan Brown! An' Nan Brown would
flirt in her bridal veil! . . . Why Con, we're up
against a worse proposition than ever.''
``Good Heavens! Cap. You're right,'' I
groaned. ``I never thought of that. We've got
to postpone the wedding. . . . How on earth can
we? I've heard her tell Milly that. She'll never
consent to it. Say, this'll drive me to drink.''
``All I got to say is this, Con. If the Rube
takes his wife on that trip it's goin' to be an allfired
hummer. Don't you forget that.''
``I'm not likely to. But, Spears, the point is
this--will the Rube win his games?''
``Figurin' from his work today, I'd gamble
he'll never lose another game. It ain't that. I'm
thinkin' of what the gang will do to him an' Nan
on the cars an' at the hotels. Oh! Lord, Con, it
ain't possible to stand for that honeymoon trip!
Just think!''
``If the worst comes to the worst, Cap, I don't
care for anything but the games. If we get in the
lead and stay there I'll stand for anything. . . .
Couldn't the gang be coaxed or bought off to let
the Rube and Nan alone?''
``Not on your life! There ain't enough love or
money on earth to stop them. It'll be awful.
Mind, I'm not responsible. Don't you go holdin'
me responsible. In all my years of baseball I
never went on a trip with a bride in the game.
That's new on me, an' I never heard of it. I'd be
bad enough if he wasn't a rube an' if she wasn't
a crazy girl-fan an' a flirt to boot, an' with half
the boys in love with her, but as it is----''
Spears gave up and, gravely shaking his head,
he left me. I spent a little while in sober reflection,
and finally came to the conclusion that, in my
desperate ambition to win the pennant, I would
have taken half a dozen rube pitchers and their
baseball-made brides on the trip, if by so doing
I could increase the percentage of games won.
Nevertheless, I wanted to postpone the Rube's
wedding if it was possible, and I went out to see
Milly and asked her to help us. But for once in
her life Milly turned traitor.
``Connie, you don't want to postpone it. Why,
how perfectly lovely! . . . Mrs. Stringer will go
on that trip and Mrs. Bogart. . . . Connie, I'm
going too!''
She actually jumped up and down in glee. That
was the woman in her. It takes a wedding to get
a woman. I remonstrated and pleaded and commanded,
all to no purpose. Milly intended to go
on that trip to see the games, and the fun, and the
She coaxed so hard that I yielded. Thereupon
she called up Mrs. Stringer on the telephone, and
of course found that young woman just as eager
as she was. For my part, I threw anxiety and
care to the four winds, and decided to be as happy
as any of them. The pennant was mine! Something
kept ringing that in my ears. With the
Rube working his iron arm for the edification of
his proud Nancy Brown, there was extreme likelihood
of divers shut-outs and humiliating defeats
for some Eastern League teams.
How well I calculated became a matter of
baseball history during that last week of June. We
won six straight games, three of which fell to the
Rube's credit. His opponents scored four runs
in the three games, against the nineteen we made.
Upon July 1, Radbourne beat Providence and
Cairns won the second game. We now had a
string of eight victories. Sunday we rested, and
Monday was the Fourth, with morning and afternoon
games with Buffalo.
Upon the morning of the Fourth, I looked for
the Rube at the hotel, but could not find him. He
did not show up at the grounds when the other
boys did, and I began to worry. It was the Rube's
turn to pitch and we were neck and neck with Buffalo
for first place. If we won both games we
would go ahead of our rivals. So I was all on
edge, and kept going to the dressing-room to see
if the Rube had arrived. He came, finally, when
all the boys were dressed, and about to go out for
practice. He had on a new suit, a tailor-made suit
at that, and he looked fine. There was about him
a kind of strange radiance. He stated simply
that he had arrived late because he had just been
married. Before congratulations were out of our
mouths, he turned to me.
``Con, I want to pitch both games today,'' he
``What! Say, Whit, Buffalo is on the card
today and we are only three points behind them.
If we win both we'll be leading the league once
more. I don't know about pitching you both
``I reckon we'll be in the lead tonight then,''
he replied, ``for I'll win them both.''
I was about to reply when Dave, the groundkeeper,
called me to the door, saying there was a
man to see me. I went out, and there stood Morrisey,
manager of the Chicago American League
team. We knew each other well and exchanged
``Con, I dropped off to see you about this new
pitcher of yours, the one they call the Rube. I
want to see him work. I've heard he's pretty
fast. How about it?''
``Wait--till you see him pitch,'' I replied. I
could scarcely get that much out, for Morrisey's
presence meant a great deal and I did not want
to betray my elation.
``Any strings on him?'' queried the big league
manager, sharply.
``Well, Morrisey, not exactly. I can give you
the first call. You'll have to bid high, though.
Just wait till you see him work.''
``I'm glad to hear that. My scout was over
here watching him pitch and says he's a wonder.''
What luck it was that Morrisey should have
come upon this day! I could hardly contain myself.
Almost I began to spend the money I would
get for selling the Rube to the big league manager.
We took seats in the grand stand, as Morrisey
did not want to be seen by any players, and
I stayed there with him until the gong sounded.
There was a big attendance. I looked all over
the stand for Nan, but she was lost in the gay
crowd. But when I went down to the bench I
saw her up in my private box with Milly. It took
no second glance to see that Nan Brown was a
bride and glorying in the fact.
Then, in the absorption of the game, I became
oblivious to Milly and Nan; the noisy crowd; the
giant fire-crackers and the smoke; to the presence
of Morrisey; to all except the Rube and my team
and their opponents. Fortunately for my hopes,
the game opened with characteristic Worcester
dash. Little McCall doubled, Ashwell drew his
base on four wide pitches, and Stringer drove the
ball over the right-field fence--three runs!
Three runs were enough to win that game. Of
all the exhibitions of pitching with which the Rube
had favored us, this one was the finest. It was
perhaps not so much his marvelous speed and
unhittable curves that made the game one memorable
in the annals of pitching; it was his perfect
control in the placing of balls, in the cutting
of corners; in his absolute implacable mastery of
the situation. Buffalo was unable to find him at
all. The game was swift short, decisive, with
the score 5 to 0 in our favor. But the score did
not tell all of the Rube's work that morning. He
shut out Buffalo without a hit, or a scratch, the
first no-hit, no-run game of the year. He gave
no base on balls; not a Buffalo player got to first
base; only one fly went to the outfield.
For once I forgot Milly after a game, and I
hurried to find Morrisey, and carried him off to
have dinner with me.
``Your rube is a wonder, and that's a fact,'' he
said to me several times. ``Where on earth did
you get him? Connelly, he's my meat. Do you
understand? Can you let me have him right
``No, Morrisey, I've got the pennant to win
first. Then I'll sell him.''
``How much? Do you hear? How much?''
Morrisey hammered the table with his fist and
his eyes gleamed.
Carried away as I was by his vehemence, I was
yet able to calculate shrewdly, and I decided to
name a very high price, from which I could come
down and still make a splendid deal.
``How much?'' demanded Morrisey.
``Five thousand dollars,'' I replied, and gulped
when I got the words out.
Morrisey never batted an eye.
``Waiter, quick, pen and ink and paper!''
Presently my hand, none too firm, was signing
my name to a contract whereby I was to sell my
pitcher for five thousand dollars at the close of
the current season. I never saw a man look so
pleased as Morrisey when he folded that contract
and put it in his pocket. He bade me good-bye
and hurried off to catch a train, and he never
knew the Rube had pitched the great game on his
wedding day.
That afternoon before a crowd that had to be
roped off the diamond, I put the Rube against
the Bisons. How well he showed the baseball
knowledge he had assimilated! He changed his
style in that second game. He used a slow ball
and wide curves and took things easy. He made
Buffalo hit the ball and when runners got on
bases once more let out his speed and held them
down. He relied upon the players behind him
and they were equal to the occasion.
It was a totally different game from that of
the morning, and perhaps one more suited to the
pleasure of the audience. There was plenty of
hard hitting, sharp fielding and good base
running, and the game was close and exciting up to
the eighth, when Mullaney's triple gave us two
runs, and a lead that was not headed. To the
deafening roar of the bleachers the Rube walked
off the field, having pitched Worcester into first
place in the pennant race.
That night the boys planned their first job on
the Rube. We had ordered a special Pullman
for travel to Toronto, and when I got to the depot
in the morning, the Pullman was a white fluttering
mass of satin ribbons. Also, there was a
brass band, and thousands of baseball fans, and
barrels of old foot-gear. The Rube and Nan
arrived in a cab and were immediately mobbed.
The crowd roared, the band played, the engine
whistled, the bell clanged; and the air was full
of confetti and slippers, and showers of rice like
hail pattered everywhere. A somewhat dishevelled
bride and groom boarded the Pullman and
breathlessly hid in a state room. The train
started, and the crowd gave one last rousing
cheer. Old Spears yelled from the back platform:
``Fellers, an' fans, you needn't worry none
about leavin' the Rube an' his bride to the tender
mercies of the gang. A hundred years from now
people will talk about this honeymoon baseball
trip. Wait till we come back--an' say, jest to put
you wise, no matter what else happens, we're
comin' back in first place!''
It was surely a merry party in that Pullman.
The bridal couple emerged from their hiding place
and held a sort of reception in which the Rube
appeared shy and frightened, and Nan resembled
a joyous, fluttering bird in gray. I did not see
if she kissed every man on the team, but she kissed
me as if she had been wanting to do it for ages.
Milly kissed the Rube, and so did the other women,
to his infinite embarrassment. Nan's effect upon
that crowd was most singular. She was sweetness
and caprice and joy personified.
We settled down presently to something
approaching order, and I, for one, with very keen
ears and alert eyes, because I did not want to
miss anything.
``I see the lambs a-gambolin','' observed McCall,
in a voice louder than was necessary to convey
his meaning to Mullaney, his partner in the
``Yes, it do seem as if there was joy aboundin'
hereabouts,'' replied Mul with fervor.
``It's more spring-time than summer,'' said
Ashwell, ``an' everything in nature is runnin' in
pairs. There are the sheep an' the cattle an' the
birds. I see two kingfishers fishin' over here.
An' there's a couple of honey-bees makin' honey.
Oh, honey, an' by George, if there ain't two
butterflies foldin' their wings round each other. See
the dandelions kissin' in the field!''
Then the staid Captain Spears spoke up with
an appearance of sincerity and a tone that was
nothing short of remarkable.
``Reggie, see the sunshine asleep upon yon
bank. Ain't it lovely? An' that white cloud
sailin' thither amid the blue--how spontaneous!
Joy is a-broad o'er all this boo-tiful land today
--Oh, yes! An' love's wings hover o 'er the little
lambs an' the bullfrogs in the pond an' the dicky
birds in the trees. What sweetness to lie in the
grass, the lap of bounteous earth, eatin' apples in
the Garden of Eden, an' chasin' away the snakes
an' dreamin' of Thee, Sweet-h-e-a-r-t----''
Spears was singing when he got so far and
there was no telling what he might have done if
Mullaney, unable to stand the agony, had not
jabbed a pin in him. But that only made way for
the efforts of the other boys, each of whom tried
to outdo the other in poking fun at the Rube and
Nan. The big pitcher was too gloriously happy
to note much of what went on around him, but
when it dawned upon him he grew red and white
by turns.
Nan, however, was more than equal to the
occasion. Presently she smiled at Spears, such a
smile! The captain looked as if he had just partaken
of an intoxicating wine. With a heightened
color in her cheeks and a dangerous flash in her
roguish eyes, Nan favored McCall with a look,
which was as much as to say that she remembered
him with a dear sadness. She made eyes at every
fellow in the car, and then bringing back her gaze
to the Rube, as if glorying in comparison, she
nestled her curly black head on his shoulder. He
gently tried to move her; but it was not possible.
Nan knew how to meet the ridicule of half a dozen
old lovers. One by one they buried themselves
in newspapers, and finally McCall, for once utterly
beaten, showed a white feather, and sank back
out of sight behind his seat.
The boys did not recover from that shock until
late in the afternoon. As it was a physical
impossibility for Nan to rest her head all day upon
her husband's broad shoulder, the boys toward
dinner time came out of their jealous trance. I
heard them plotting something. When dinner
was called, about half of my party, including the
bride and groom, went at once into the dining-car.
Time there flew by swiftly. And later, when we
were once more in our Pullman, and I had gotten
interested in a game of cards with Milly and
Stringer and his wife, the Rube came marching
up to me with a very red face.
``Con, I reckon some of the boys have stolen
my--our grips,'' said he.
``What?'' I asked, blankly.
He explained that during his absence in the
dining-car someone had entered his stateroom
and stolen his grip and Nan's. I hastened at once
to aid the Rube in his search. The boys swore
by everything under and beyond the sun they had
not seen the grips; they appeared very much
grieved at the loss and pretended to help in
searching the Pullman. At last, with the assistance
of a porter, we discovered the missing grips
in an upper berth. The Rube carried them off to
his stateroom and we knew soon from his
uncomplimentary remarks that the contents of the
suitcases had been mixed and manhandled. But he
did not hunt for the jokers.
We arrived at Toronto before daylight next
morning, and remained in the Pullman until seven
o'clock. When we got out, it was discovered that
the Rube and Nan had stolen a march upon us.
We traced them to the hotel, and found them at
breakfast. After breakfast we formed a merry
sight-seeing party and rode all over the city.
That afternoon, when Raddy let Toronto down
with three hits and the boys played a magnificent
game behind him, and we won 7 to 2, I knew at
last and for certain that the Worcester team had
come into its own again. Then next day Cairns
won a close, exciting game, and following that, on
the third day, the matchless Rube toyed with the
Torontos. Eleven straight games won! I was in
the clouds, and never had I seen so beautiful a
light as shone in Milly's eyes.
From that day The Honeymoon Trip of the
Worcester Baseball Club, as the newspapers
heralded it--was a triumphant march. We won
two out of three games at Montreal, broke even
with the hard-fighting Bisons, took three straight
from Rochester, and won one and tied one out of
three with Hartford. It would have been wonderful
ball playing for a team to play on home
grounds and we were doing the full circuit of
the league.
Spears had called the turn when he said the
trip would be a hummer. Nan Hurtle had brought
us wonderful luck.
But the tricks they played on Whit and his girlfan
Ashwell, who was a capital actor, disguised
himself as a conductor and pretended to try to
eject Whit and Nan from the train, urging that
love-making was not permitted. Some of the
team hired a clever young woman to hunt the
Rube up at the hotel, and claim old acquaintance
with him. Poor Whit almost collapsed when the
young woman threw her arms about his neck just
as Nan entered the parlor. Upon the instant Nan
became wild as a little tigress, and it took much
explanation and eloquence to reinstate Whit in
her affections.
Another time Spears, the wily old fox, succeeded
in detaining Nan on the way to the station,
and the two missed the train. At first the Rube
laughed with the others, but when Stringer
remarked that he had noticed a growing attachment
between Nan and Spears, my great pitcher
experienced the first pangs of the green-eyed
monster. We had to hold him to keep him from
jumping from the train, and it took Milly and Mrs.
Stringer to soothe him. I had to wire back to
Rochester for a special train for Spears and Nan,
and even then we had to play half a game without
the services of our captain.
So far upon our trip I had been fortunate in
securing comfortable rooms and the best of
transportation for my party. At Hartford, however,
I encountered difficulties. I could not get a special
Pullman, and the sleeper we entered already
had a number of occupants. After the ladies of
my party had been assigned to berths, it was
necessary for some of the boys to sleep double in
upper berths.
It was late when we got aboard, the berths were
already made up, and soon we had all retired.
In the morning very early I was awakened by a
disturbance. It sounded like a squeal. I heard
an astonished exclamation, another squeal, the
pattering of little feet, then hoarse uproar of
laughter from the ball players in the upper berths.
Following that came low, excited conversation
between the porter and somebody, then an angry
snort from the Rube and the thud of his heavy
feet in the aisle. What took place after that was
guess-work for me. But I gathered from the
roars and bawls that the Rube was after some of
the boys. I poked my head between the curtains
and saw him digging into the berths.
``Where's McCall?'' he yelled.
Mac was nowhere in that sleeper, judging from
the vehement denials. But the Rube kept on digging
and prodding in the upper berths.
``I'm a-goin' to lick you, Mac, so I reckon you'd
better show up,'' shouted the Rube.
The big fellow was mad as a hornet. When he
got to me he grasped me with his great fencerail
splitting hands and I cried out with pain.
``Say! Whit, let up! Mac's not here. . . .
What's wrong?''
``I'll show you when I find him.'' And the
Rube stalked on down the aisle, a tragically comic
figure in his pajamas. In his search for Mac he
pried into several upper berths that contained
occupants who were not ball players, and these
protested in affright. Then the Rube began to
investigate the lower berths. A row of heads
protruded in a bobbing line from between the
curtains of the upper berths.
``Here, you Indian! Don't you look in there!
That's my wife's berth!'' yelled Stringer.
Bogart, too, evinced great excitement.
``Hurtle, keep out of lower eight or I'll kill
you,'' he shouted.
What the Rube might have done there was no
telling, but as he grasped a curtain, he was
interrupted by a shriek from some woman assuredly
not of our party.
``Get out! you horrid wretch! Help! Porter!
Help! Conductor!''
Instantly there was a deafening tumult in the
car. When it had subsided somewhat, and I considered
I would be safe, I descended from my
berth and made my way to the dressing room.
Sprawled over the leather seat was the Rube
pommelling McCall with hearty good will. I would
have interfered, had it not been for Mac's
demeanor. He was half frightened, half angry, and
utterly unable to defend himself or even resist,
because he was laughing, too.
``Dog-gone it! Whit--I didn't--do it! I swear
it was Spears! Stop thumpin' me now--or I'll
get sore. . . . You hear me! It wasn't me, I tell
you. Cheese it!''
For all his protesting Mac received a good
thumping, and I doubted not in the least that he
deserved it. The wonder of the affair, however,
was the fact that no one appeared to know what
had made the Rube so furious. The porter would
not tell, and Mac was strangely reticent, though
his smile was one to make a fellow exceedingly
sure something out of the ordinary had befallen.
It was not until I was having breakfast in
Providence that I learned the true cause of Rube's
conduct, and Milly confided it to me, insisting
on strict confidence.
``I promised not to tell,'' she said. ``Now you
promise you'll never tell.''
``Well, Connie,'' went on Milly, when I had
promised, ``it was the funniest thing yet, but it
was horrid of McCall. You see, the Rube had
upper seven and Nan had lower seven. Early
this morning, about daylight, Nan awoke very
thirsty and got up to get a drink. During her
absence, probably, but any way some time last
night, McCall changed the number on her
curtain, and when Nan came back to number
seven of course she almost got in the wrong
``No wonder the Rube punched him!'' I declared.
``I wish we were safe home. Something'll
happen yet on this trip.''
I was faithful to my promise to Milly, but the
secret leaked out somewhere; perhaps Mac told
it, and before the game that day all the players
knew it. The Rube, having recovered his good
humor, minded it not in the least. He could not
have felt ill-will for any length of time. Everything
seemed to get back into smooth running
order, and the Honeymoon Trip bade fair to wind
up beautifully.
But, somehow or other, and about something
unknown to the rest of us, the Rube and Nan
quarreled. It was their first quarrel. Milly and
I tried to patch it up but failed.
We lost the first game to Providence and won
the second. The next day, a Saturday, was the
last game of the trip, and it was Rube's turn to
pitch. Several times during the first two days
the Rube and Nan about half made up their
quarrel, only in the end to fall deeper into it.
Then the last straw came in a foolish move on the
part of wilful Nan. She happened to meet Henderson,
her former admirer, and in a flash she
took up her flirtation with him where she had left
``Don't go to the game with him, Nan,'' I
pleaded. ``It's a silly thing for you to do. Of
course you don't mean anything, except to torment
Whit. But cut it out. The gang will make
him miserable and we'll lose the game. There's
no telling what might happen.''
``I'm supremely indifferent to what happens,''
she replied, with a rebellious toss of her black
head. ``I hope Whit gets beaten.''
She went to the game with Henderson and sat
in the grand stand, and the boys spied them out
and told the Rube. He did not believe it at first,
but finally saw them, looked deeply hurt and
offended, and then grew angry. But the gong,
sounding at that moment, drew his attention to
his business of the day, to pitch.
His work that day reminded me of the first
game he ever pitched for me, upon which occasion
Captain Spears got the best out of him by
making him angry. For several innings Providence
was helpless before his delivery. Then
something happened that showed me a crisis was
near. A wag of a fan yelled from the bleachers.
``Honeymoon Rube!''
This cry was taken up by the delighted fans
and it rolled around the field. But the Rube
pitched on, harder than ever. Then the knowing
bleacherite who had started the cry changed it
``Nanny's Rube!'' he yelled.
This, too, went the rounds, and still the Rube,
though red in the face, preserved his temper and
his pitching control. All would have been well
if Bud Wiler, comedian of the Providence team,
had not hit upon a way to rattle Rube.
``Nanny's Goat!'' he shouted from the coaching
lines. Every Providence player took it
The Rube was not proof against that. He
yelled so fiercely at them, and glared so furiously,
and towered so formidably, that they ceased for
the moment. Then he let drive with his fast
straight ball and hit the first Providence batter
in the ribs. His comrades had to help him to the
bench. The Rube hit the next batter on the leg,
and judging from the crack of the ball, I fancied
that player would walk lame for several days.
The Rube tried to hit the next batter and sent
him to first on balls. Thereafter it became a
dodging contest with honors about equal between
pitcher and batters. The Providence players
stormed and the bleachers roared. But I would
not take the Rube out and the game went on with
the Rube forcing in runs.
With the score a tie, and three men on bases
one of the players on the bench again yelled
``Nanny's Goat!''
Straight as a string the Rube shot the ball at
this fellow and bounded after it. The crowd rose
in an uproar. The base runners began to score.
I left my bench and ran across the space, but not
in time to catch the Rube. I saw him hit two or
three of the Providence men. Then the policemen
got to him, and a real fight brought the big
audience into the stamping melee. Before the
Rube was collared I saw at least four blue-coats
on the grass.
The game broke up, and the crowd spilled itself
in streams over the field. Excitement ran
high. I tried to force my way into the mass to
get at the Rube and the officers, but this was
impossible. I feared the Rube would be taken from
the officers and treated with violence, so I waited
with the surging crowd, endeavoring to get
nearer. Soon we were in the street, and it seemed
as if all the stands had emptied their yelling occupants.
A trolley car came along down the street,
splitting the mass of people and driving them back.
A dozen policemen summarily bundled the Rube
upon the rear end of the car. Some of these
officers boarded the car, and some remained in
the street to beat off the vengeful fans.
I saw some one thrust forward a frantic young
woman. The officers stopped her, then suddenly
helped her on the car, just as I started. I
recognized Nan. She gripped the Rube with both
hands and turned a white, fearful face upon the
angry crowd.
The Rube stood in the grasp of his wife and
the policemen, and he looked like a ruffled lion.
He shook his big fist and bawled in far-reaching
``I can lick you all!''
To my infinite relief, the trolley gathered
momentum and safely passed out of danger. The
last thing I made out was Nan pressing close to
the Rube's side. That moment saw their reconciliation
and my joy that it was the end of the
Rube's Honeymoon.
It was about the sixth inning that I suspected
the Rube of weakening. For that matter he had
not pitched anything resembling his usual brand
of baseball. But the Rube had developed into
such a wonder in the box that it took time for
his let-down to dawn upon me. Also it took a tip
from Raddy, who sat with me on the bench.
``Con, the Rube isn't himself today,'' said
Radbourne. ``His mind's not on the game. He seems
hurried and flustered, too. If he doesn't explode
presently, I'm a dub at callin' the turn.''
Raddy was the best judge of a pitcher's condition,
physical or mental, in the Eastern League.
It was a Saturday and we were on the road and
finishing up a series with the Rochesters. Each
team had won and lost a game, and, as I was
climbing close to the leaders in the pennant race,
I wanted the third and deciding game of that
Rochester series. The usual big Saturday crowd
was in attendance, noisy, demonstrative and
In this sixth inning the first man up for
Rochester had flied to McCall. Then had come
the two plays significant of Rube's weakening.
He had hit one batter and walked another. This
was sufficient, considering the score was three
to one in our favor, to bring the audience to its
feet with a howling, stamping demand for runs.
``Spears is wise all right,'' said Raddy.
I watched the foxy old captain walk over to the
Rube and talk to him while he rested, a reassuring
hand on the pitcher's shoulder. The crowd yelled
its disapproval and Umpire Bates called out
``Spears, get back to the bag!''
``Now, Mister Umpire, ain't I hurrin' all I
can?'' queried Spears as he leisurely ambled back
to first.
The Rube tossed a long, damp welt of hair back
from his big brow and nervously toed the rubber.
I noted that he seemed to forget the runners on
bases and delivered the ball without glancing at
either bag. Of course this resulted in a double
steal. The ball went wild--almost a wild pitch.
``Steady up, old man,'' called Gregg between
the yells of the bleachers. He held his mitt square
over the plate for the Rube to pitch to. Again
the long twirler took his swing, and again the
ball went wild. Clancy had the Rube in the hole
now and the situation began to grow serious.
The Rube did not take half his usual deliberation,
and of the next two pitches one of them was a
ball and the other a strike by grace of the
umpire's generosity. Clancy rapped the next one,
an absurdly slow pitch for the Rube to use, and
both runners scored to the shrill tune of the happy
I saw Spears shake his head and look toward
the bench. It was plain what that meant.
``Raddy, I ought to take the Rube out,'' I said,
``but whom can I put in? You worked yesterday--
Cairns' arm is sore. It's got to be nursed.
And Henderson, that ladies' man I just signed, is
not in uniform.''
``I'll go in,'' replied Raddy, instantly.
``Not on your life.'' I had as hard a time
keeping Radbourne from overworking as I had in
getting enough work out of some other players.
``I guess I'll let the Rube take his medicine. I
hate to lose this game, but if we have to, we can
stand it. I'm curious, anyway, to see what's the
matter with the Rube. Maybe he'll settle down
I made no sign that I had noticed Spears'
appeal to the bench. And my aggressive players,
no doubt seeing the situation as I saw it, sang out
their various calls of cheer to the Rube and of
defiance to their antagonists. Clancy stole off
first base so far that the Rube, catching
somebody's warning too late, made a balk and the
umpire sent the runner on to second. The Rube
now plainly showed painful evidences of being
He could not locate the plate without slowing
up and when he did that a Rochester player walloped
the ball. Pretty soon he pitched as if he
did not care, and but for the fast fielding of the
team behind him the Rochesters would have
scored more than the eight runs it got. When the
Rube came in to the bench I asked him if he was
sick and at first he said he was and then that
he was not. So I let him pitch the remaining
innings, as the game was lost anyhow, and we
walked off the field a badly beaten team.
That night we had to hurry from the hotel to
catch a train for Worcester and we had dinner
in the dining-car. Several of my players' wives
had come over from Worcester to meet us, and
were in the dining-car when I entered. I observed
a pretty girl sitting at one of the tables with
my new pitcher, Henderson.
``Say, Mac,'' I said to McCall, who was with
me, ``is Henderson married?''
``Naw, but he looks like he wanted to be. He
was in the grand stand today with that girl.''
``Who is she? Oh! a little peach!''
A second glance at Henderson's companion
brought this compliment from me involuntarily.
``Con, you'll get it as bad as the rest of this
mushy bunch of ball players. We're all stuck on
that kid. But since Henderson came she's been
a frost to all of us. An' it's put the Rube in the
``Who's the girl?''
``That's Nan Brown. She lives in Worcester
an' is the craziest girl fan I ever seen. Flirt!
Well, she's got them all beat. Somebody introduced
the Rube to her. He has been mooney ever
That was enough to whet my curiosity, and I
favored Miss Brown with more than one glance
during dinner. When we returned to the parlor
car I took advantage of the opportunity and
remarked to Henderson that he might introduce
his manager. He complied, but not with amiable
So I chatted with Nan Brown, and studied her.
She was a pretty, laughing, coquettish little minx
and quite baseball mad. I had met many girl
fans, but none so enthusiastic as Nan. But she
was wholesome and sincere, and I liked her.
Before turning in I sat down beside the Rube.
He was very quiet and his face did not encourage
company. But that did not stop me.
``Hello, Whit; have a smoke before you go to
bed?'' I asked cheerfully.
He scarcely heard me and made no move to
take the proffered cigar. All at once it struck
me that the rustic simplicity which had characterized
him had vanished.
``Whit, old fellow, what was wrong today?''
I asked, quietly, with my hand on his arm.
``Mr. Connelly, I want my release, I want to
go back to Rickettsville,'' he replied hurriedly.
For the space of a few seconds I did some tall
thinking. The situation suddenly became grave.
I saw the pennant for the Worcesters fading, dimming.
``You want to go home?'' I began slowly.
``Why, Whit, I can't keep you. I wouldn't try if
you didn't want to stay. But I'll tell you
confidentially, if you leave me at this stage I'm
``How's that?'' he inquired, keenly looking at
``Well, I can't win the pennant without you. If
I do win it there's a big bonus for me. I can
buy the house I want and get married this fall
if I capture the flag. You've met Milly. You can
imagine what your pitching means to me this
year. That's all.''
He averted his face and looked out of the window.
His big jaw quivered.
``If it's that--why, I'll stay, I reckon,'' he
said huskily.
That moment bound Whit Hurtle and Frank
Connelly into a far closer relation than the one
between player and manager. I sat silent for a
while, listening to the drowsy talk of the other
players and the rush and roar of the train as it
sped on into the night.
``Thank you, old chap,'' I replied. ``It wouldn't
have been like you to throw me down at this
stage. Whit, you're in trouble?''
``Can I help you--in any way?'''
``I reckon not.''
``Don't be too sure of that. I'm a pretty wise
guy, if I do say it myself. I might be able to do
as much for you as you're going to do for me.''
The sight of his face convinced me that I had
taken a wrong tack. It also showed me how deep
Whit's trouble really was. I bade him good
night and went to my berth, where sleep did not
soon visit me. A saucy, sparkling-eyed woman
barred Whit Hurtle's baseball career at its
Women are just as fatal to ball players as to
men in any other walk of life. I had seen a strong
athlete grow palsied just at a scornful slight. It's
a great world, and the women run it. So I lay
awake racking my brains to outwit a pretty
disorganizer; and I plotted for her sake. Married,
she would be out of mischief. For Whit's sake,
for Milly's sake, for mine, all of which collectively
meant for the sake of the pennant, this would be
the solution of the problem.
I decided to take Milly into my confidence, and
finally on the strength of that I got to sleep. In
he morning I went to my hotel, had breakfast,
attended to my mail, and then boarded a car to go
out to Milly's house. She was waiting for me on
the porch, dressed as I liked to see her, in blue
and white, and she wore violets that matched the
color of her eyes.
``Hello, Connie. I haven't seen a morning
paper, but I know from your face that you lost
the Rochester series,'' said Milly, with a gay
``I guess yes. The Rube blew up, and if we
don't play a pretty smooth game, young lady,
he'll never come down.''
Then I told her.
``Why, Connie, I knew long ago. Haven't you
seen the change in him before this?''
``What change?'' I asked blankly.
``You are a man. Well, he was a gawky,
slouchy, shy farmer boy when he came to us. Of
course the city life and popularity began to
influence him. Then he met Nan. She made the
Rube a worshipper. I first noticed a change in
his clothes. He blossomed out in a new suit,
white negligee, neat tie and a stylish straw hat.
Then it was evident he was making heroic struggles
to overcome his awkwardness. It was plain
he was studying and copying the other boys.
He's wonderfully improved, but still shy. He'll
always be shy. Connie, Whit's a fine fellow, too
good for Nan Brown.''
``But, Milly,'' I interrupted, ``the Rube's hard
hit. Why is he too good for her?''
``Nan is a natural-born flirt,'' Milly replied.
``She can't help it. I'm afraid Whit has a slim
chance. Nan may not see deep enough to learn
his fine qualities. I fancy Nan tired quickly of
him, though the one time I saw them together
she appeared to like him very well. This new
pitcher of yours, Henderson, is a handsome fellow
and smooth. Whit is losing to him. Nan likes
flash, flattery, excitement.''
``McCall told me the Rube had been down in
the mouth ever since Henderson joined the team.
Milly, I don't like Henderson a whole lot. He's
not in the Rube's class as a pitcher. What am I
going to do? Lose the pennant and a big slice
of purse money just for a pretty little flirt?''
``Oh, Connie, it's not so bad as that. Whit will
come around all right.''
``He won't unless we can pull some wires. I've
got to help him win Nan Brown. What do you
think of that for a manager's job? I guess maybe
winning pennants doesn't call for diplomatic
genius and cunning! But I'll hand them a few
tricks before I lose. My first move will be to give
Henderson his release.
I left Milly, as always, once more able to make
light of discouragements and difficulties.
Monday I gave Henderson his unconditional
release. He celebrated the occasion by verifying
certain rumors I had heard from other managers.
He got drunk. But he did not leave town, and I
heard that he was negotiating with Providence
for a place on that team.
Radbourne pitched one of his gilt-edged games
that afternoon against Hartford and we won.
And Milly sat in the grand stand, having contrived
by cleverness to get a seat next to Nan
Brown. Milly and I were playing a vastly deeper
game than baseball--a game with hearts. But we
were playing it with honest motive, for the good
of all concerned, we believed, and on the square.
I sneaked a look now and then up into the grand
stand. Milly and Nan appeared to be getting on
famously. It was certain that Nan was flushed
and excited, no doubt consciously proud of being
seen with my affianced. After the game I chanced
to meet them on their way out. Milly winked at
me, which was her sign that all was working
I hunted up the Rube and bundled him off to
the hotel to take dinner with me. At first he was
glum, but after a while he brightened up somewhat
to my persistent cheer and friendliness.
Then we went out on the hotel balcony to
smoke, and there I made my play.
``Whit, I'm pulling a stroke for you. Now listen
and don't be offended. I know what's put you off
your feed, because I was the same way when Milly
had me guessing. You've lost your head over
Nan Brown. That's not so terrible, though I
daresay you think it's a catastrophe. Because
you've quit. You've shown a yellow streak.
You've lain down.
``My boy, that isn't the way to win a girl.
You've got to scrap. Milly told me yesterday
how she had watched your love affairs with Nan,
and how she thought you had given up just when
things might have come your way. Nan is a little
flirt, but she's all right. What's more, she was
getting fond of you. Nan is meanest to the man
she likes best. The way to handle her, Whit, is
to master her. Play high and mighty. Get
tragical. Then grab her up in your arms. I tell
you, Whit, it'll all come your way if you only
keep your nerve. I'm your friend and so is Milly.
We're going out to her house presently--and Nan
will be there.''
The Rube drew a long, deep breath and held out
his hand. I sensed another stage in the evolution
of Whit Hurtle.
``I reckon I've taken baseball coachin','' he said
presently, ``an' I don't see why I can't take some
other kind. I'm only a rube, an' things come hard
for me, but I'm a-learnin'.''
It was about dark when we arrived at the house.
``Hello, Connie. You're late. Good evening,
Mr. Hurtle. Come right in. You've met Miss
Nan Brown? Oh, of course; how stupid of me!''
It was a trying moment for Milly and me. A
little pallor showed under the Rube's tan, but he
was more composed than I had expected. Nan
got up from the piano. She was all in white and
deliciously pretty. She gave a quick, glad start
of surprise. What a relief that was to my
troubled mind! Everything had depended upon
a real honest liking for Whit, and she had it.
More than once I had been proud of Milly's
cleverness, but this night as hostess and an
accomplice she won my everlasting admiration.
She contrived to give the impression that Whit
was a frequent visitor at her home and very
welcome. She brought out his best points, and in her
skillful hands he lost embarrassment and awkwardness.
Before the evening was over Nan regarded
Whit with different eyes, and she never
dreamed that everything had not come about
naturally. Then Milly somehow got me out on
the porch, leaving Nan and Whit together.
``Milly, you're a marvel, the best and sweetest
ever,'' I whispered. ``We're going to win. It's
a cinch.''
``Well, Connie, not that--exactly,'' she
whispered back demurely. ``But it looks hopeful.''
I could not help hearing what was said in the
``Now I can roast you,'' Nan was saying, archly.
She had switched back to her favorite baseball
vernacular. ``You pitched a swell game last
Saturday in Rochester, didn't you? Not! You
had no steam, no control, and you couldn't have
curved a saucer.''
``Nan, what could you expect?'' was the cool
reply. ``You sat up in the stand with your handsome
friend. I reckon I couldn't pitch. I just
gave the game away.''
Then I whispered to Milly that it might be
discreet for us to move a little way from the vicinity.
It was on the second day afterward that I got
a chance to talk to Nan. She reached the grounds
early, before Milly arrived, and I found her in the
grand stand. The Rube was down on the card to
pitch and when he started to warm up Nan said
confidently that he would shut out Hartford that
``I'm sorry, Nan, but you're way off. We'd do
well to win at all, let alone get a shutout.''
``You're a fine manager!'' she retorted, hotly.
``Why won't we win?''
``Well, the Rube's not in good form. The
``Stop calling him that horrid name.''
``Whit's not in shape. He's not right. He's
ill or something is wrong. I'm worried sick about
``Why--Mr. Connelly!'' exclaimed Nan. She
turned quickly toward me.
I crowded on full canvas of gloom to my already
long face.
``I 'm serious, Nan. The lad's off, somehow.
He's in magnificent physical trim, but he can't
keep his mind on the game. He has lost his head.
I've talked with him, reasoned with him, all to no
good. He only goes down deeper in the dumps.
Something is terribly wrong with him, and if he
doesn't brace, I'll have to release----''
Miss Nan Brown suddenly lost a little of her
rich bloom. ``Oh! you wouldn't--you couldn't
release him!''
``I'll have to if he doesn't brace. It means a
lot to me, Nan, for of course I can't win the pennant
this year without Whit being in shape. But
I believe I wouldn't mind the loss of that any
more than to see him fall down. The boy is a
magnificent pitcher. If he can only be brought
around he'll go to the big league next year and
develop into one of the greatest pitchers the game
has ever produced. But somehow or other he has
lost heart. He's quit. And I've done my best
for him. He's beyond me now. What a shame
it is! For he's the making of such a splendid
man outside of baseball. Milly thinks the world
of him. Well, well; there are disappointments--
we can't help them. There goes the gong. I must
leave you. Nan, I'll bet you a box of candy Whit
loses today. Is it a go?''
``It is,'' replied Nan, with fire in her eyes.
``You go to Whit Hurtle and tell him I said if
he wins today's game I'll kiss him!''
I nearly broke my neck over benches and bats
getting to Whit with that message. He gulped
Then he tightened his belt and shut out Hartford
with two scratch singles. It was a great
exhibition of pitching. I had no means to tell
whether or not the Rube got his reward that
night, but I was so happy that I hugged Milly
within an inch of her life.
But it turned out that I had been a little
premature in my elation. In two days the Rube went
down into the depths again, this time clear to
China, and Nan was sitting in the grand stand
with Henderson. The Rube lost his next game,
pitching like a schoolboy scared out of his wits.
Henderson followed Nan like a shadow, so that I
had no chance to talk to her. The Rube lost his
next game and then another. We were pushed
out of second place.
If we kept up that losing streak a little longer,
our hopes for the pennant were gone. I had
begun to despair of the Rube. For some occult
reason he scarcely spoke to me. Nan flirted worse
than ever. It seemed to me she flaunted her
conquest of Henderson in poor Whit's face.
The Providence ball team came to town and
promptly signed Henderson and announced him
for Saturday's game. Cairns won the first of the
series and Radbourne lost the second. It was
Rube's turn to pitch the Saturday game and I
resolved to make one more effort to put the lovesick
swain in something like his old fettle. So I
called upon Nan.
She was surprised to see me, but received me
graciously. I fancied her face was not quite so
glowing as usual. I came bluntly out with my
mission. She tried to freeze me but I would not
freeze. I was out to win or lose and not to be
lightly laughed aside or coldly denied. I played
to make her angry, knowing the real truth of her
feelings would show under stress.
For once in my life I became a knocker and said
some unpleasant things--albeit they were true--
about Henderson. She championed Henderson
royally, and when, as a last card, I compared
Whit's fine record with Henderson's, not only as
a ball player, but as a man, particularly in his
reverence for women, she flashed at me:
``What do you know about it? Mr. Henderson
asked me to marry him. Can a man do more to
show his respect? Your friend never so much
as hinted such honorable intentions. What's
more--he insulted me!'' The blaze in Nan's black
eyes softened with a film of tears. She looked
hurt. Her pride had encountered a fall.
``Oh, no, Nan, Whit couldn't insult a lady,'' I
``Couldn't he? That's all you know about him.
You know I--I promised to kiss him if he beat
Hartford that day. So when he came I--I did.
Then the big savage began to rave and he grabbed
me up in his arms. He smothered me; almost
crushed the life out of me. He frightened me
terribly. When I got away from him--the monster
stood there and coolly said I belonged to him. I
ran out of the room and wouldn't see him any
more. At first I might have forgiven him if he
had apologized--said he was sorry, but never a
word. Now I never will forgive him.''
I had to make a strenuous effort to conceal my
agitation. The Rube had most carefully taken
my fool advice in the matter of wooing a woman.
When I had got a hold upon myself, I turned
to Nan white-hot with eloquence. Now I was talking
not wholly for myself or the pennant, but for
this boy and girl who were at odds in that
strangest game of life--love.
What I said I never knew, but Nan lost her
resentment, and then her scorn and indifference.
Slowly she thawed and warmed to my reason,
praise, whatever it was, and when I stopped she
was again the radiant bewildering Nan of old.
``Take another message to Whit for me,'' she
said, audaciously. ``Tell him I adore ball players,
especially pitchers. Tell him I'm going to
the game today to choose the best one. If he loses
the game----''
She left the sentence unfinished. In my state
of mind I doubted not in the least that she meant
to marry the pitcher who won the game, and so
I told the Rube. He made one wild upheaval of
his arms and shoulders, like an erupting volcano,
which proved to me that he believed it, too.
When I got to the bench that afternoon I was
tired. There was a big crowd to see the game;
the weather was perfect; Milly sat up in the box
and waved her score card at me; Raddy and
Spears declared we had the game; the Rube
stalked to and fro like an implacable Indian chief
--but I was not happy in mind. Calamity
breathed in the very air.
The game began. McCall beat out a bunt; Ashwell
sacrificed and Stringer laced one of his beautiful
triples against the fence. Then he scored
on a high fly. Two runs! Worcester trotted out
into the field. The Rube was white with determination;
he had the speed of a bullet and perfect
control of his jump ball and drop. But Providence
hit and had the luck. Ashwell fumbled,
Gregg threw wild. Providence tied the score.
The game progressed, growing more and more
of a nightmare to me. It was not Worcester's
day. The umpire could not see straight; the boys
grumbled and fought among themselves; Spears
roasted the umpire and was sent to the bench;
Bogart tripped, hurting his sore ankle, and had
to be taken out. Henderson's slow, easy ball
baffled my players, and when he used speed they
lined it straight at a Providence fielder.
In the sixth, after a desperate rally, we crowded
the bases with only one out. Then Mullaney's
hard rap to left, seemingly good for three bases,
was pulled down by Stone with one hand. It was
a wonderful catch and he doubled up a runner at
second. Again in the seventh we had a chance
to score, only to fail on another double play, this
time by the infield.
When the Providence players were at bat their
luck not only held good but trebled and
quadrupled. The little Texas-league hits dropped
safely just out of reach of the infielders. My boys
had an off day in fielding. What horror that of
all days in a season this should be the one for
them to make errors!
But they were game, and the Rube was the
gamest of all. He did not seem to know what
hard luck was, or discouragement, or poor support.
He kept everlastingly hammering the ball
at those lucky Providence hitters. What speed he
had! The ball streaked in, and somebody would
shut his eyes and make a safety. But the Rube
pitched, on, tireless, irresistibly, hopeful, not
forgetting to call a word of cheer to his fielders.
It was one of those strange games that could
not be bettered by any labor or daring or skill.
I saw it was lost from the second inning, yet so
deeply was I concerned, so tantalizingly did the
plays reel themselves off, that I groveled there
on the bench unable to abide by my baseball sense.
The ninth inning proved beyond a shadow of
doubt how baseball fate, in common with other
fates, loved to balance the chances, to lift up one,
then the other, to lend a deceitful hope only to
dash it away.
Providence had almost three times enough to
win. The team let up in that inning or grew overconfident
or careless, and before we knew what
had happened some scratch hits, and bases on
balls, and errors, gave us three runs and left two
runners on bases. The disgusted bleachers came
out of their gloom and began to whistle and
thump. The Rube hit safely, sending another run
over the plate. McCall worked his old trick,
beating out a slow bunt.
Bases full, three runs to tie! With Ashwell up
and one out, the noise in the bleachers mounted
to a high-pitched, shrill, continuous sound. I got
up and yelled with all my might and could not
hear my voice. Ashwell was a dangerous man in
a pinch. The game was not lost yet. A hit,
anything to get Ash to first--and then Stringer!
Ash laughed at Henderson, taunted him, shook
his bat at him and dared him to put one over.
Henderson did not stand under fire. The ball he
pitched had no steam. Ash cracked it--square on
the line into the shortstop's hands. The bleachers
ceased yelling.
Then Stringer strode grimly to the plate. It
was a hundred to one, in that instance, that he
would lose the ball. The bleachers let out one
deafening roar, then hushed. I would rather have
had Stringer at the bat than any other player in
the world, and I thought of the Rube and Nan
and Milly--and hope would not die.
Stringer swung mightily on the first pitch and
struck the ball with a sharp, solid bing! It shot
toward center, low, level, exceedingly swift, and
like a dark streak went straight into the fielder's
hands. A rod to right or left would have made
it a home run. The crowd strangled a victorious
yell. I came out of my trance, for the game was
over and lost. It was the Rube's Waterloo.
I hurried him into the dressing room and kept
close to him. He looked like a man who had lost
the one thing worth while in his life. I turned a
deaf ear to my players, to everybody, and hustled
the Rube out and to the hotel. I wanted to be
near him that night.
To my amaze we met Milly and Nan as we
entered the lobby. Milly wore a sweet,
sympathetic smile. Nan shone more radiant than ever.
I simply stared. It was Milly who got us all
through the corridor into the parlor. I heard Nan
``Whit, you pitched a bad game but--'' there
was the old teasing, arch, coquettishness--``but
you are the best pitcher!''
They may say baseball is the same in the minor
leagues that it is in the big leagues, but any old
ball player or manager knows better. Where the
difference comes in, however, is in the greater
excellence and unity of the major players, a speed,
a daring, a finish that can be acquired only in
competition with one another.
I thought of this when I led my party into
Morrisey's private box in the grand stand of the
Chicago American League grounds. We had
come to see the Rube's break into fast company.
My great pitcher, Whittaker Hurtle, the Rube,
as we called him, had won the Eastern League
Pennant for me that season, and Morrisey, the
Chicago magnate, had bought him. Milly, my
affianced, was with me, looking as happy as she
was pretty, and she was chaperoned by her
mother, Mrs. Nelson.
With me, also, were two veterans of my team,
McCall and Spears, who lived in Chicago, and
who would have traveled a few miles to see the
Rube pitch. And the other member of my party
was Mrs. Hurtle, the Rube's wife, as saucy and
as sparkling-eyed as when she had been Nan
Brown. Today she wore a new tailor-made gown,
new bonnet, new gloves--she said she had decorated
herself in a manner befitting the wife of a
major league pitcher.
Morrisey's box was very comfortable, and, as
I was pleased to note, so situated that we had a
fine view of the field and stands, and yet were
comparatively secluded. The bleachers were filling.
Some of the Chicago players were on the
field tossing and batting balls; the Rube,
however, had not yet appeared.
A moment later a metallic sound was heard on
the stairs leading up into the box. I knew it for
baseball spiked shoes clanking on the wood.
The Rube, looking enormous in his uniform,
stalked into the box, knocking over two chairs as
he entered. He carried a fielder's glove in one
huge freckled hand, and a big black bat in the
Nan, with much dignity and a very manifest
pride, introduced him to Mrs. Nelson.
There was a little chatting, and then, upon the
arrival of Manager Morrisey, we men retired to
the back of the box to talk baseball.
Chicago was in fourth place in the league race,
and had a fighting chance to beat Detroit out for
the third position. Philadelphia was scheduled
for that day, and Philadelphia had a great team.
It was leading the race, and almost beyond all
question would land the flag. In truth, only one
more victory was needed to clinch the pennant.
The team had three games to play in Chicago and
it was to wind up the season with three in
Washington. Six games to play and only one
imperatively important to win! But baseball is
uncertain, and until the Philadelphians won that game
they would be a band of fiends.
``Well, Whit, this is where you break in,'' I
said. ``Now, tip us straight. You've had more
than a week's rest. How's that arm?''
``Grand, Con, grand!'' replied the Rube with
his frank smile. ``I was a little anxious till I
warmed up. But say! I've got more up my sleeve
today than I ever had.''
``That'll do for me,'' said Morrisey, rubbing
his hands. ``I'll spring something on these
swelled Quakers today. Now, Connelly, give Hurtle
one of your old talks--the last one--and then
I'll ring the gong.''
I added some words of encouragement, not
forgetting my old ruse to incite the Rube by rousing
his temper. And then, as the gong rang and the
Rube was departing, Nan stepped forward for
her say. There was a little white under the tan on
her cheek, and her eyes had a darkling flash.
``Whit, it's a magnificent sight--that beautiful
green field and the stands. What a crowd of
fans! Why, I never saw a real baseball crowd
before. There are twenty thousand here. And
there's a difference in the feeling. It's sharper
--new to me. It's big league baseball. Not a soul
in that crowd ever heard of you, but, I believe,
tomorrow the whole baseball world will have heard
of you. Mr. Morrisey knows. I saw it in his
face. Captain Spears knows. Connie knows. I
Then she lifted her face and, pulling him down
within reach, she kissed him. Nan took her husband's
work in dead earnest; she gloried in it,
and perhaps she had as much to do with making
him a great pitcher as any of us.
The Rube left the box, and I found a seat
between Nan and Milly. The field was a splendid
sight. Those bleachers made me glow with managerial
satisfaction. On the field both teams
pranced and danced and bounced around in practice.
In spite of the absolutely last degree of egotism
manifested by the Philadelphia players, I could
not but admire such a splendid body of men.
``So these are the champions of last season and
of this season, too,'' commented Milly. ``I don't
wonder. How swiftly and cleanly they play!
They appear not to exert themselves, yet they
always get the ball in perfect time. It all reminds
me of--of the rhythm of music. And that champion
batter and runner--that Lane in center--
isn't he just beautiful? He walks and runs like a
blue-ribbon winner at the horse show. I tell you
one thing, Connie, these Quakers are on dress
``Oh, these Quakers hate themselves, I don't
think!'' retorted Nan. Being a rabid girl-fan it
was, of course, impossible for Nan to speak baseball
convictions or gossip without characteristic
baseball slang. ``Stuck on themselves! I never
saw the like in my life. That fellow Lane is so
swelled that he can't get down off his toes. But
he's a wonder, I must admit that. They're a
bunch of stars. Easy, fast, trained--they're
machines, and I'll bet they're Indians to fight. I can
see it sticking out all over them. This will
certainly be some game with Whit handing up that
jump ball of his to this gang of champs. But,
Connie, I'll go you Whit beats them.''
I laughed and refused to gamble.
The gong rang; the crowd seemed to hum and
rustle softly to quiet attention; Umpire McClung
called the names of the batteries; then the
familiar ``Play!''
There was the usual applause from the grand
stand and welcome cheers from the bleachers.
The Rube was the last player to go out.
Morrisey was a manager who always played to the
stands, and no doubt he held the Rube back for
effect. If so, he ought to have been gratified.
That moment reminded me of my own team and
audience upon the occasion of the Rube's debut.
It was the same only here it happened in the
big league, before a championship team and
twenty thousand fans.
The roar that went up from the bleachers might
well have scared an unseasoned pitcher out of his
wits. And the Quakers lined up before their
bench and gazed at this newcomer who had the
nerve to walk out there to the box. Cogswell
stood on the coaching line, looked at the Rube and
then held up both arms and turned toward the
Chicago bench as if to ask Morrisey: ``Where
did you get that?''
Nan, quick as a flash to catch a point, leaned
over the box-rail and looked at the champions
with fire in her eye. ``Oh, you just wait! wait!''
she bit out between her teeth.
Certain it was that there was no one who knew
the Rube as well as I; and I knew beyond the
shadow of a doubt that the hour before me would
see brightening of a great star pitcher on the big
league horizon. It was bound to be a full hour
for me. I had much reason to be grateful to Whit
Hurtle. He had pulled my team out of a rut and
won me the pennant, and the five thousand dollars
I got for his release bought the little cottage on
the hill for Milly and me. Then there was my
pride in having developed him. And all that I
needed to calm me, settle me down into assurance
and keen criticism of the game, was to see the
Rube pitch a few balls with his old incomparable
speed and control.
Berne, first batter for the Quakers, walked up
to the plate. He was another Billy Hamilton,
built like a wedge. I saw him laugh at the long
Whit swayed back, coiled and uncoiled. Something
thin, white, glancing, shot at Berne. He
ducked, escaping the ball by a smaller margin
than appeared good for his confidence. He spoke
low to the Rube, and what he said was probably
not flavored with the milk of friendly sweetness.
``Wild! What'd you look for?'' called out
Cogswell scornfully. ``He's from the woods!''
The Rube swung his enormously long arm, took
an enormous stride toward third base, and pitched
again. It was one of his queer deliveries. The
ball cut the plate.
``Ho! Ho!'' yelled the Quakers.
The Rube's next one was his out curve. It
broke toward the corner of the plate and would
have been a strike had not Berne popped it up.
Callopy, the second hitter, faced the Rube, and
he, too, after the manner of ball players, made
some remark meant only for the Rube's ears.
Callopy was a famous waiter. He drove more
pitchers mad with his implacable patience than
any hitter in the league. The first one of the
Rube's he waited on crossed the in-corner; the
second crossed the out-corner and the third was
Rube's wide, slow, tantalizing ``stitch-ball,'' as
we call it, for the reason that it came so slow a
batter could count the stitches. I believe Callopy
waited on that curve, decided to hit it, changed
his mind and waited some more, and finally the
ball maddened him and he had to poke at it, the
result being a weak grounder.
Then the graceful, powerful Lane, champion
batter, champion base runner, stepped to the
plate. How a baseball crowd, any crowd, anywhere,
loves the champion batter! The ovation
Lane received made me wonder, with this impressive
reception in a hostile camp, what could be
the manner of it on his home field? Any boy ballplayer
from the lots seeing Lane knock the dirt
out of his spikes and step into position would have
known he was a 400 hitter.
I was curious to see what the Rube would pitch
Lane. It must have been a new and significant
moment for Hurtle. Some pitchers actually wilt
when facing a hitter of Lane's reputation. But
he, on his baseball side, was peculiarly unemotional.
Undoubtedly he could get furious, but that
only increased his effectiveness. To my amazement
the Rube pitched Lane a little easy ball, not
in any sense like his floater or stitch-ball, but just
a little toss that any youngster might have tossed.
Of all possible balls, Lane was not expecting such
as that, and he let it go. If the nerve of it amazed
me, what did it not do to Lane? I saw his face
go fiery red. The grand stand murmured; let out
one short yelp of pleasure; the Quaker players
chaffed Lane.
The pitch was a strike. I was gripping my
chair now, and for the next pitch I prophesied the
Rube's wonderful jump ball, which he had not yet
used. He swung long, and at the end of his swing
seemed to jerk tensely. I scarcely saw the ball.
It had marvelous speed. Lane did not offer to hit
it, and it was a strike. He looked at the Rube,
then at Cogswell. That veteran appeared amused.
The bleachers, happy and surprised to be able to
yell at Lane, yelled heartily.
Again I took it upon myself to interpret the
Rube's pitching mind. He had another ball that
he had not used, a drop, an unhittable drop. I
thought he would use that next. He did, and
though Lane reached it with the bat, the hit was
a feeble one. He had been fooled and the side
was out.
Poole, the best of the Quaker's pitching staff,
walked out to the slab. He was a left-hander,
and Chicago, having so many players who batted
left-handed, always found a southpaw a hard
nut to crack. Cogswell, field manager and
captain of the Quakers, kicked up the dust around
first base and yelled to his men: ``Git in the
Staats hit Poole's speed ball into deep short
and was out; Mitchell flew out to Berne; Rand
grounded to second.
While the teams again changed sides the fans
cheered, and then indulged in the first stretch of
the game. I calculated that they would be stretching
their necks presently, trying to keep track of
the Rube's work. Nan leaned on the railing
absorbed in her own hope and faith. Milly chattered
about this and that, people in the boxes, and
the chances of the game.
My own interest, while it did not wholly
preclude the fortunes of the Chicago players at the
bat, was mostly concerned with the Rube's fortunes
in the field.
In the Rube's half inning he retired Bannister
and Blandy on feeble infield grounders, and
worked Cogswell into hitting a wide curve high
in the air.
Poole meant to win for the Quakers if his good
arm and cunning did not fail him, and his pitching
was masterly. McCloskey fanned, Hutchinson
fouled out, Brewster got a short safe fly just
out of reach, and Hoffner hit to second, forcing
With Dugan up for the Quakers in the third
inning, Cogswell and Bannister, from the coaching
lines, began to talk to the Rube. My ears,
keen from long practice, caught some of the
remarks in spite of the noisy bleachers.
``Say, busher, you 've lasted longer'n we
expected, but you don't know it!''
``Gol darn you city ball tossers! Now you jest
let me alone!''
``We're comin' through the rye!''
``My top-heavy rustic friend, you'll need an
airship presently, when you go up!''
All the badinage was good-natured, which was
sure proof that the Quakers had not arrived at
anything like real appreciation of the Rube. They
were accustomed to observe the trying out of
many youngsters, of whom ninety-nine out of a
hundred failed to make good.
Dugan chopped at three strikes and slammed
his bat down. Hucker hit a slow fly to Hoffer.
Three men out on five pitched balls! Cogswell,
old war horse that he was, stood a full moment
and watched the Rube as he walked in to the
bench. An idea had penetrated Cogswell's brain,
and I would have given something to know what
it was. Cogswell was a great baseball general,
and though he had a preference for matured ballplayers
he could, when pressed, see the quality
in a youngster. He picked up his mitt and took
his position at first with a gruff word to his
Rand for Chicago opened with a hit, and the
bleachers, ready to strike fire, began to cheer and
stamp. When McCloskey, in an attempt to sacrifice,
beat out his bunt the crowd roared. Rand,
eing slow on his feet, had not attempted to make
third on the play. Hutchinson sacrificed, neatly
advancing the runners. Then the bleachers
played the long rolling drum of clattering feet
with shrill whistling accompaniment. Brewster
batted a wicked ground ball to Blandy. He dove
into the dust, came up with the ball, and feinting
to throw home he wheeled and shot the ball to
Cogswell, who in turn shot it to the plate to head
Rand. Runner and ball got there apparently
together, but Umpire McClung's decision went
against Rand. It was fine, fast work, but how
the bleachers stormed at McClung!
Again the head of the Quakers' formidable list
was up. I knew from the way that Cogswell
paced the coaching box that the word had gone
out to look the Rube over seriously. There were
possibilities even in rubes.
Berne carefully stepped into the batter's box,
as if he wanted to be certain to the breadth of a
hair how close he was to the plate. He was there
this time to watch the Rube pitch, to work him
out, to see what was what. He crouched low, and
it would have been extremely hard to guess what
he was up to. His great play, however, was his
ability to dump the ball and beat out the throw
to first. It developed presently, that this was
now his intention and that the Rube knew it and
pitched him the one ball which is almost impossible
to bunt--a high incurve, over the inside corner.
There was no mistaking the Rube's magnificent
control. True as a plumb line he shot up
the ball--once, twice, and Berne fouled both--two
strikes. Grudgingly he waited on the next, but it,
too, was over the corner, and Berne went out on
strikes. The great crowd did not, of course, grasp
the finesse of the play, but Berne had struck out
--that was enough for them.
Callopy, the famous spiker, who had put many
a player out of the game for weeks at a time,
strode into the batter's place, and he, too, was not
at the moment making any funny remarks. The
Rube delivered a ball that all but hit Callopy fair
on the head. It was the second narrow escape
for him, and the roar he let out showed how he
resented being threatened with a little of his own
medicine. As might have been expected, and
very likely as the Rube intended, Callopy hit the
next ball, a sweeping curve, up over the infield.
I was trying to see all the intricate details of
the motive and action on the field, and it was not
easy to watch several players at once. But while
Berne and Callopy were having their troubles
with the Rube, I kept the tail of my eye on
Cogswell. He was prowling up and down the thirdbase
He was missing no signs, no indications, no
probabilities, no possibilities. But he was in
doubt. Like a hawk he was watching the Rube,
and, as well, the crafty batters. The inning might
not tell the truth as to the Rube's luck, though it
would test his control. The Rube's speed and
curves, without any head work, would have made
him a pitcher of no mean ability, but was this
remarkable placing of balls just accident? That
was the question.
When Berne walked to the bench I distinctly
heard him say: ``Come out of it, you dubs. I say
you can't work him or wait him. He's peggin'
'em out of a gun!''
Several of the Quakers were standing out from
the bench, all intent on the Rube. He had stirred
them up. First it was humor; then ridicule,
curiosity, suspicion, doubt. And I knew it would grow
to wonder and certainty, then fierce attack from
both tongues and bats, and lastly--for ball players
are generous--unstinted admiration.
Somehow, not only the first climaxes of a game
but the decisions, the convictions, the reputations
of pitchers and fielders evolve around the great
hitter. Plain it was that the vast throng of
spectators, eager to believe in a new find, wild to
welcome a new star, yet loath to trust to their own
impulsive judgments, held themselves in check
until once more the great Lane had faced the
The field grew tolerably quiet just then. The
Rube did not exert himself. The critical stage
had no concern for him. He pitched Lane a high
curve, over the plate, but in close, a ball meant
to be hit and a ball hard to hit safely. Lane knew
that as well as any hitter in the world, so he let
two of the curves go by--two strikes. Again the
Rube relentlessly gave him the same ball; and
Lane, hitting viciously, spitefully, because he did
not want to hit that kind of a ball, sent up a fly
that Rand easily captured.
``Oh, I don't know! Pretty fair, I guess!''
yelled a tenor-voiced fan; and he struck the keynote.
And the bleachers rose to their feet and
gave the Rube the rousing cheer of the brotherhood
of fans.
Hoffer walked to first on a base on balls.
Sweeney advanced him. The Rube sent up a giant
fly to Callopy. Then Staats hit safely, scoring
the first run of the game. Hoffer crossed the
plate amid vociferous applause. Mitchell ended
the inning with a fly to Blandy.
What a change had come over the spirit of that
Quaker aggregation! It was something to make
a man thrill with admiration and, if he happened
to favor Chicago, to fire all his fighting blood.
The players poured upon the Rube a continuous
stream of scathing abuse. They would have made
a raging devil of a mild-mannered clergyman.
Some of them were skilled in caustic wit, most of
them were possessed of forked tongues; and Cogswell,
he of a thousand baseball battles, had a
genius for inflaming anyone he tormented. This
was mostly beyond the ken of the audience, and
behind the back of the umpire, but it was perfectly
plain to me. The Quakers were trying to rattle
the Rube, a trick of the game as fair for one side
as for the other. I sat there tight in my seat,
grimly glorying in the way the Rube refused to
be disturbed. But the lion in him was rampant.
Fortunately, it was his strange gift to pitch better
the angrier he got; and the more the Quakers
flayed him, the more he let himself out to their
crushing humiliation.
The innings swiftly passed to the eighth with
Chicago failing to score again, with Philadelphia
failing to score at all. One scratch hit and a single,
gifts to the weak end of the batting list, were
all the lank pitcher allowed them. Long since the
bleachers had crowned the Rube. He was theirs
and they were his; and their voices had the
peculiar strangled hoarseness due to over-exertion.
The grand stand, slower to understand and
approve, arrived later; but it got there about the
seventh, and ladies' gloves and men's hats were
In the eighth the Quakers reluctantly yielded
their meed of praise, showing it by a cessation of
their savage wordy attacks on the Rube. It was
a kind of sullen respect, wrung from the bosom of
great foes.
Then the ninth inning was at hand. As the
sides changed I remembered to look at the
feminine group in our box. Milly was in a most
beautiful glow of happiness and excitement. Nan
sat rigid, leaning over the rail, her face white
and drawn, and she kept saying in a low voice:
``Will it never end? Will it never end?'' Mrs.
Nelson stared wearily.
It was the Quakers' last stand. They faced it
as a team that had won many a game in the ninth
with two men out. Dugan could do nothing with
the Rube's unhittable drop, for a drop curve was
his weakness, and he struck out. Hucker hit to
Hoffer, who fumbled, making the first error of
the game. Poole dumped the ball, as evidently
the Rube desired, for he handed up a straight one,
but the bunt rolled teasingly and the Rube, being
big and tall, failed to field it in time.
Suddenly the whole field grew quiet. For the
first time Cogswell's coaching was clearly heard.
``One out! Take a lead! Take a lead! Go
through this time. Go through!''
Could it be possible, I wondered, that after such
a wonderful exhibition of pitching the Rube would
lose out in the ninth?
There were two Quakers on base, one out, and
two of the best hitters in the league on deck, with a
chance of Lane getting up.
``Oh! Oh! Oh!'' moaned Nan.
I put my hand on hers. ``Don't quit, Nan.
You'll never forgive yourself if you quit. Take
it from me, Whit will pull out of this hole!''
What a hole that was for the Rube on the day
of his break into fast company! I measured it
by his remarkable deliberation. He took a long
time to get ready to pitch to Berne, and when he
let drive it was as if he had been trifling all before
in that game. I could think of no way to figure
it except that when the ball left him there was
scarcely any appreciable interval of time before
it cracked in Sweeney's mitt. It was the Rube's
drop, which I believed unhittable. Berne let it
go by, shaking his head as McClung called it a
strike. Another followed, which Berne chopped
at vainly. Then with the same upheaval of his
giant frame, the same flinging of long arms and
lunging forward, the Rube delivered a third drop.
And Berne failed to hit it.
The voiceless bleachers stamped on the benches
and the grand stand likewise thundered.
Callopy showed his craft by stepping back and
lining Rube's high pitch to left. Hoffer leaped
across and plunged down, getting his gloved hand
in front of the ball. The hit was safe, but Hoffer's
valiant effort saved a tie score.
Lane up! Three men on bases! Two out!
Not improbably there were many thousand
spectators of that thrilling moment who pitied
the Rube for the fate which placed Lane at the
bat then. But I was not one of them. Nevertheless
my throat was clogged, my mouth dry, and
my ears full of bells. I could have done something
terrible to Hurtle for his deliberation, yet I knew
he was proving himself what I had always tried
to train him to be.
Then he swung, stepped out, and threw his body
with the ball. This was his rarely used pitch, his
last resort, his fast rise ball that jumped up a
little at the plate. Lane struck under it. How
significant on the instant to see old Cogswell's
hands go up! Again the Rube pitched, and this
time Lane watched the ball go by. Two strikes!
That whole audience leaped to its feet,
whispering, yelling, screaming, roaring, bawling.
The Rube received the ball from Sweeney and
quick as lightning he sped it plateward. The great
Lane struck out! The game was over--Chicago,
1; Philadelphia, 0.
In that whirling moment when the crowd went
mad and Milly was hugging me, and Nan pounding
holes in my hat, I had a queer sort of blankness,
a section of time when my sensations were
``Oh! Connie, look!'' cried Nan. I saw Lane
and Cogswell warmly shaking hands with the
Rube. Then the hungry clamoring fans tumbled
upon the field and swarmed about the players.
Wereupon Nan kissed me and Milly, and then
kissed Mrs. Nelson. In that radiant moment Nan
was all sweetness.
``It is the Rube's break into fast company,'' she
``Yes, Carroll, I got my notice. Maybe it's no
surprise to you. And there's one more thing I want
to say. You're `it' on this team. You're the
topnotch catcher in the Western League and one
of the best ball players in the game--but you're
a knocker!''
Madge Ellston heard young Sheldon speak.
She saw the flash in his gray eyes and the heat
of his bronzed face as he looked intently at the
big catcher.
``Fade away, sonny. Back to the bush-league
for yours!'' replied Carroll, derisively. ``You're
not fast enough for Kansas City. You look pretty
good in a uniform and you're swift on your feet,
but you can't hit. You've got a glass arm and
you run bases like an ostrich trying to side. That
notice was coming to you. Go learn the game!''
Then a crowd of players trooped noisily out of
the hotel lobby and swept Sheldon and Carroll
down the porch steps toward the waiting omnibus.
Madge's uncle owned the Kansas City club.
She had lived most of her nineteen years in a
baseball atmosphere, but accustomed as she was
to baseball talk and the peculiar banterings and
bickerings of the players, there were times when
it seemed all Greek. If a player got his ``notice''
it meant he would be released in ten days. A
``knocker'' was a ball player who spoke ill of
his fellow players. This scrap of conversation,
however, had an unusual interest because Carroll
had paid court to her for a year, and Sheldon,
coming to the team that spring, had fallen
desperately in love with her. She liked Sheldon
pretty well, but Carroll fascinated her. She began
to wonder if there were bad feelings between the
rivals--to compare them--to get away from herself
and judge them impersonally.
When Pat Donahue, the veteran manager of
the team came out, Madge greeted him with a
smile. She had always gotten on famously with
Pat, notwithstanding her imperious desire to
handle the managerial reins herself upon occasions.
Pat beamed all over his round ruddy face.
``Miss Madge, you weren't to the park yesterday
an' we lost without our pretty mascot. We
shure needed you. Denver's playin' at a fast
``I'm coming out today,'' replied Miss Ellston,
thoughtfully. ``Pat, what's a knocker?''
``Now, Miss Madge, are you askin' me that
after I've been coachin' you in baseball for
years?'' questioned Pat, in distress.
``I know what a knocker is, as everybody else
does. But I want to know the real meaning, the
inside-ball of it, to use your favorite saying.''
Studying her grave face with shrewd eyes Donahue
slowly lost his smile.
``The inside-ball of it, eh? Come, let's sit over
here a bit--the sun's shure warm today. . . .
Miss Madge, a knocker is the strangest man
known in the game, the hardest to deal with an'
what every baseball manager hates most.''
Donahue told her that he believed the term
``knocker'' came originally from baseball; that in
general it typified the player who strengthened
his own standing by belittling the ability of his
team-mates, and by enlarging upon his own
superior qualities. But there were many phases of
this peculiar type. Some players were natural
born knockers; others acquired the name in their
later years in the game when younger men threatened
to win their places. Some of the best
players ever produced by baseball had the habit
in its most violent form. There were players
of ridiculously poor ability who held their jobs
on the strength of this one trait. It was a
mystery how they misled magnates and managers
alike; how for months they held their places,
weakening a team, often keeping a good team
down in the race; all from sheer bold suggestion
of their own worth and other players' worthlessness.
Strangest of all was the knockers' power
to disorganize; to engender a bad spirit between
management and team and among the players.
The team which was without one of the parasites
of the game generally stood well up in the race
for the pennant, though there had been championship
teams noted for great knockers as well
as great players.
``It's shure strange, Miss Madge,'' said Pat in
conclusion, shaking his gray head. ``I've played
hundreds of knockers, an' released them, too.
Knockers always get it in the end, but they go on
foolin' me and workin' me just the same as if I
was a youngster with my first team. They're
part an' parcel of the game.''
``Do you like these men off the field--outside
of baseball, I mean?''
``No, I shure don't, an' I never seen one yet
that wasn't the same off the field as he was on.''
``Thank you, Pat. I think I understand now.
And--oh, yes, there's another thing I want to
ask you. What's the matter with Billie Sheldon?
Uncle George said he was falling off in his game.
Then I've read the papers. Billie started out
well in the spring.''
``Didn't he? I was sure thinkin' I had a find
in Billie. Well, he's lost his nerve. He's in a
bad slump. It's worried me for days. I'm goin'
to release Billie. The team needs a shake-up.
That's where Billie gets the worst of it, for he's
really the makin' of a star; but he's slumped, an'
now knockin' has made him let down. There, Miss
Madge, that's an example of what I've just been
tellin' you. An' you can see that a manager has
his troubles. These hulkin' athletes are a lot of
spoiled babies an' I often get sick of my job.''
That afternoon Miss Ellston was in a brown
study all the way out to the baseball park. She
arrived rather earlier than usual to find the grandstand
empty. The Denver team had just come
upon the field, and the Kansas City players were
practising batting at the left of the diamond.
Madge walked down the aisle of the grand stand
and out along the reporters' boxes. She asked
one of the youngsters on the field to tell Mr.
Sheldon that she would like to speak with him a
Billie eagerly hurried from the players' bench
with a look of surprise and expectancy on his suntanned
face. Madge experienced for the first
time a sudden sense of shyness at his coming. His
lithe form and his nimble step somehow gave
her a pleasure that seemed old yet was new.
When he neared her, and, lifting his cap,
spoke her name, the shade of gloom in his
eyes and lines of trouble on his face dispelled her
``Billie, Pat tells me he's given you ten days'
notice,'' she said.
``It's true.''
``What's wrong with you, Billie?''
``Oh, I've struck a bad streak--can't hit or
``Are you a quitter?''
``No, I'm not,'' he answered quickly, flushing
a dark red.
``You started off this spring with a rush. You
played brilliantly and for a while led the team
in batting. Uncle George thought so well of you.
Then came this spell of bad form. But, Billie, it's
only a slump; you can brace.''
``I don't know,'' he replied, despondently.
``Awhile back I got my mind off the game. Then
--people who don't like me have taken advantage
of my slump to----''
``To knock,'' interrupted Miss Ellston.
``I'm not saying that,'' he said, looking away
from her.
``But I'm saying it. See here, Billie Sheldon,
my uncle owns this team and Pat Donahue is manager.
I think they both like me a little. Now I
don't want to see you lose your place. Perhaps----''
``Madge, that's fine of you--but I think--I guess
it'd be best for me to leave Kansas City.''
``Why? ''
``You know,'' he said huskily. ``I've lost my
head--I'm in love--I can't think of baseball--
I'm crazy about you.''
Miss Ellston's sweet face grew rosy, clear to
the tips of her ears.
``Billie Sheldon,'' she replied, spiritedly.
``You're talking nonsense. Even if you were
were that way, it'd be no reason to play poor
ball. Don't throw the game, as Pat would say.
Make a brace! Get up on your toes! Tear
things! Rip the boards off the fence! Don't
She exhausted her vocabulary of baseball
language if not her enthusiasm, and paused in blushing
``Will you brace up?''
``Will I--will I!'' he exclaimed, breathlessly.
Madge murmured a hurried good-bye and, turning
away, went up the stairs. Her uncle's private
box was upon the top of the grand stand and she
reached it in a somewhat bewildered state of
mind. She had a confused sense of having
appeared to encourage Billie, and did not know
whether she felt happy or guilty. The flame in
his eyes had warmed all her blood. Then, as she
glanced over the railing to see the powerful Burns
Carroll, there rose in her breast a panic at strange
variance with her other feelings.
Many times had Madge Ellston viewed the field
and stands and the outlying country from this
high vantage point; but never with the same
mingling emotions, nor had the sunshine ever
been so golden, the woods and meadows so green,
the diamond so smooth and velvety, the whole
scene so gaily bright.
Denver had always been a good drawing card,
and having won the first game of the present
series, bade fair to draw a record attendance.
The long lines of bleachers, already packed with
the familiar mottled crowd, sent forth a merry,
rattling hum. Soon a steady stream of welldressed
men and women poured in the gates and
up the grand-stand stairs. The soft murmur of
many voices in light conversation and laughter
filled the air. The peanut venders and score-card
sellers kept up their insistent shrill cries. The
baseball park was alive now and restless; the
atmosphere seemed charged with freedom and
pleasure. The players romped like skittish colts,
the fans shrieked their witticisms--all sound and
movements suggested play.
Madge Ellston was somehow relieved to see
her uncle sitting in one of the lower boxes. During
this game she wanted to be alone, and she
believed she would be, for the President of the
League and directors of the Kansas City team
were with her uncle. When the bell rang to call
the Denver team in from practice the stands could
hold no more, and the roped-off side lines were
filling up with noisy men and boys. From her
seat Madge could see right down upon the
players' bench, and when she caught both Sheldon
and Carroll gazing upward she drew back
with sharply contrasted thrills.
Then the bell rang again, the bleachers rolled
out their welcoming acclaim, and play was called
with Kansas City at the bat.
Right off the reel Hunt hit a short fly safely
over second. The ten thousand spectators burst
into a roar. A good start liberated applause and
marked the feeling for the day.
Madge was surprised and glad to see Billie
Sheldon start next for the plate. All season, until
lately, he had been the second batter. During his
slump he had been relegated to the last place on
the batting list. Perhaps he had asked Pat to try
him once more at the top. The bleachers voiced
their unstinted appreciation of this return, showing
that Billie still had a strong hold on their
As for Madge, her breast heaved and she had
difficulty in breathing. This was going to be a
hard game for her. The intensity of her desire
to see Billie brace up to his old form amazed her.
And Carroll's rude words beat thick in her ears.
Never before had Billie appeared so instinct with
life, so intent and strung as when he faced Keene,
the Denver pitcher. That worthy tied himself up
in a knot, and then, unlimbering a long arm,
delivered the brand new ball.
Billie seemed to leap forward and throw his
bat at it. There was a sharp ringing crack--and
the ball was like a white string marvelously stretching
out over the players, over the green field
beyond, and then, sailing, soaring, over the rightfield
fence. For a moment the stands, even the
bleachers, were stone quiet. No player had ever
hit a ball over that fence. It had been deemed
impossible, as was attested to by the many painted
``ads'' offering prizes for such a feat. Suddenly
the far end of the bleachers exploded and the
swelling roar rolled up to engulf the grand stand
in thunder. Billie ran round the bases to applause
never before vented on that field. But he gave no
sign that it affected him; he did not even doff
his cap. White-faced and stern, he hurried to the
bench, where Pat fell all over him and many of
the players grasped his hands.
Up in her box Madge was crushing her scorecard
and whispering: ``Oh! Billie, I could hug
you for that!''
Two runs on two pitched balls! That was an
opening to stir an exacting audience to the highest
pitch of enthusiasm. The Denver manager
peremptorily called Keene off the diamond and
sent in Steele, a south-paw, who had always
bothered Pat's left-handed hitters. That move
showed his astute judgment, for Steele struck out
McReady and retired Curtis and Mahew on easy
It was Dalgren's turn to pitch and though he
had shown promise in several games he had not
yet been tried out on a team of Denver's strength.
The bleachers gave him a good cheering as he
walked into the box, but for all that they whistled
their wonder at Pat's assurance in putting him
against the Cowboys in an important game.
The lad was visibly nervous and the hard-hitting
and loud-coaching Denver players went after
him as if they meant to drive him out of the
game. Crane stung one to left center for a base,
Moody was out on a liner to short, almost doubling
up Crane; the fleet-footed Bluett bunted and beat
the throw to first; Langly drove to left for what
seemed a three-bagger, but Curtis, after a hard
run, caught the ball almost off the left-field
bleachers. Crane and Bluett advanced a base on the
throw-in. Then Kane batted up a high foul-fly.
Burns Carroll, the Kansas City catcher, had the
reputation of being a fiend for chasing foul flies,
and he dashed at this one with a speed that
threatened a hard fall over the players' bench or
a collision with the fence. Carroll caught the ball
and crashed against the grand stand, but leaped
back with an agility that showed that if there was
any harm done it had not been to him.
Thus the sharp inning ended with a magnificent
play. It electrified the spectators into a fierce
energy of applause. With one accord, by baseball
instinct, the stands and bleachers and ropedin-
sidelines realized it was to be a game of games
and they answered to the stimulus with a savage
enthusiasm that inspired ballplayers to great
In the first half of the second inning, Steele's
will to do and his arm to execute were very like
his name. Kansas City could not score. In their
half the Denver team made one run by clean
Then the closely fought advantage see-sawed
from one team to the other. It was not a pitchers'
battle, though both men worked to the limit of
skill and endurance. They were hit hard. Dazzling
plays kept the score down and the innings
short. Over the fields hung the portent of
something to come, every player, every spectator felt
the subtle baseball chance; each inning seemed
to lead closer and more thrillingly up to the
climax. But at the end of the seventh, with the
score tied six and six, with daring steals, hard
hits and splendid plays, enough to have made
memorable several games, it seemed that the great
portentous moment was still in abeyance.
The head of the batting list for Kansas City was
up. Hunt caught the first pitched ball squarely
on the end of his bat. It was a mighty drive and
as the ball soared and soared over the center-field
Hunt raced down the base line, and the wingedfooted
Crane sped outward, the bleachers split
their throats. The hit looked good for a home
run, but Crane leaped up and caught the ball in
his gloved hand. The sudden silence and then
the long groan which racked the bleachers was
greater tribute to Crane's play than any applause.
Billie Sheldon then faced Steele. The fans
roared hoarsely, for Billie had hit safely three
times out of four. Steele used his curve ball, but
he could not get the batter to go after it. When
he had wasted three balls, the never-despairing
bleachers howled: ``Now, Billie, in your groove!
Sting the next one!'' But Billie waited. One
strike! Two strikes! Steele cut the plate. That
was a test which proved Sheldon's caliber.
With seven innings of exciting play passed,
with both teams on edge, with the bleachers wild
and the grand stands keyed up to the breaking
point, with everything making deliberation almost
impossible, Billie Sheldon had remorselessly
waited for three balls and two strikes.
``Now! . . . Now! . . . Now!'' shrieked the
Steele had not tired nor lost his cunning. With
hands before him he grimly studied Billie, then
whirling hard to get more weight into his motion,
he threw the ball.
Billie swung perfectly and cut a curving liner
between the first baseman and the base. Like a
shot it skipped over the grass out along the foulline
into right field. Amid tremendous uproar
Billie stretched the hit into a triple, and when he
got up out of the dust after his slide into third
the noise seemed to be the crashing down of the
bleachers. It died out with the choking gurgling
yell of the most leather-lunged fan.
McReady marched up and promptly hit a long
fly to the redoubtable Crane. Billie crouched in
a sprinter's position with his eye on the graceful
fielder, waiting confidently for the ball to drop.
As if there had not already been sufficient heartrending
moments, the chance that governed baseball
meted out this play; one of the keenest, most
trying known to the game. Players waited,
spectators waited, and the instant of that dropping
ball was interminably long. Everybody knew
Crane would catch it; everybody thought of the
wonderful throwing arm that had made him
famous. Was it possible for Billie Sheldon to
beat the throw to the plate?
Crane made the catch and got the ball away at
the same instant Sheldon leaped from the base
and dashed for home. Then all eyes were on the
ball. It seemed incredible that a ball thrown by
human strength could speed plateward so low, so
straight, so swift. But it lost its force and slanted
down to bound into the catcher's hands just as
Billie slid over the plate.
By the time the bleachers had stopped stamping
and bawling, Curtis ended the inning with a difficult
grounder to the infield.
Once more the Kansas City players took the
field and Burns Carroll sang out in his lusty voice:
``Keep lively, boys! Play hard! Dig 'em up an'
get 'em!'' Indeed the big catcher was the mainstay
of the home team. The bulk of the work fell
upon his shoulders. Dalgren was wild and kept
his catcher continually blocking low pitches and
wide curves and poorly controlled high fast balls.
But they were all alike to Carroll. Despite his
weight, he was as nimble on his feet as a goat,
and if he once got his hands on the ball he never
missed it. It was his encouragement that steadied
Dalgren; his judgment of hitters that carried the
young pitcher through dangerous places; his
lightning swift grasp of points that directed the
machine-like work of his team.
In this inning Carroll exhibited another of his
demon chases after a foul fly; he threw the basestealing
Crane out at second, and by a remarkable
leap and stop of McReady's throw, he blocked a
runner who would have tied the score.
The Cowboys blanked their opponents in the
first half of the ninth, and trotted in for their
turn needing one run to tie, two runs to win.
There had scarcely been a breathing spell for
the onlookers in this rapid-fire game. Every
inning had held them, one moment breathless, the
next wildly clamorous, and another waiting in
numb fear. What did these last few moments
hold in store? The only answer to that was the
dogged plugging optimism of the Denver players.
To listen to them, to watch them, was to gather
the impression that baseball fortune always favored
them in the end.
``Only three more, Dal. Steady boys, it's our
game,'' rolled out Carroll's deep bass. How
virile he was! What a tower of strength to the
weakening pitcher!
But valiantly as Dalgren tried to respond, he
failed. The grind--the strain had been too severe.
When he finally did locate the plate Bluett hit
safely. Langley bunted along the base line and
beat the ball.
A blank, dead quiet settled down over the
bleachers and stands. Something fearful threatened.
What might not come to pass, even at the
last moment of this nerve-racking game? There
was a runner on first and a runner on second.
That was bad. Exceedingly bad was it that these
runners were on base with nobody out. Worst
of all was the fact that Kane was up. Kane, the
best bunter, the fastest man to first, the hardest
hitter in the league! That he would fail to
advance those two runners was scarcely worth
consideration. Once advanced, a fly to the outfield,
a scratch, anything almost, would tie the score.
So this was the climax presaged so many times
earlier in the game. Dalgren seemed to wilt under
Kane swung his ash viciously and called on
Dalgren to put one over. Dalgren looked in
toward the bench as if he wanted and expected to
be taken out. But Pat Donahue made no sign.
Pat had trained many a pitcher by forcing him
to take his medicine. Then Carroll, mask under
his arm, rolling his big hand in his mitt, sauntered
down to the pitcher's box. The sharp order of
the umpire in no wise disconcerted him. He said
something to Dalgren, vehemently nodding his
head the while. Players and audience alike
supposed he was trying to put a little heart into
Dalgren, and liked him the better, notwithstanding
the opposition to the umpire.
Carroll sauntered back to his position. He
adjusted his breast protector, and put on his mask,
deliberately taking his time. Then he stepped
behind the plate, and after signing for the pitch, he
slowly moved his right hand up to his mask.
Dalgren wound up, took his swing, and let drive.
Even as he delivered the ball Carroll bounded
away from his position, flinging off the mask as
he jumped. For a single fleeting instant, the
catcher's position was vacated. But that instant
was long enough to make the audience gasp. Kane
bunted beautifully down the third base line, and
there Carroll stood, fifteen feet from the plate,
agile as a huge monkey. He whipped the ball to
Mahew at third. Mahew wheeled quick as thought
and lined the ball to second. Sheldon came tearing
for the bag, caught the ball on the run, and
with a violent stop and wrench threw it like a
bullet to first base. Fast as Kane was, the ball
beat him ten feet. A triple play!
The players of both teams cheered, but the
audience, slower to grasp the complex and
intricate points, needed a long moment to realize
what had happened. They needed another to
divine that Carroll had anticipated Kane's intention
to bunt, had left his position as the ball was
pitched, had planned all, risked all, played all on
Kane's sure eye; and so he had retired the side
and won the game by creating and executing the
rarest play in baseball.
Then the audience rose in a body to greet the
great catcher. What a hoarse thundering roar
shook the stands and waved in a blast over the
field! Carroll stood bowing his acknowledgment,
and then swaggered a little with the sun shining
on his handsome heated face. Like a conqueror
conscious of full blown power he stalked away to
the clubhouse.
Madge Ellston came out of her trance and
viewed the ragged score-card, her torn parasol,
her battered gloves and flying hair, her generally
disheveled state with a little start of dismay, but
when she got into the thick and press of the moving
crowd she found all the women more or less
disheveled. And they seemed all the prettier and
friendlier for that. It was a happy crowd and
voices were conspicuously hoarse.
When Madge entered the hotel parlor that
evening she found her uncle with guests and
among them was Burns Carroll. The presence
of the handsome giant affected Madge more
impellingly than ever before, yet in some
inexplicably different way. She found herself
trembling; she sensed a crisis in her feelings for this
man and it frightened her. She became conscious
suddenly that she had always been afraid of him.
Watching Carroll receive the congratulations of
many of those present, she saw that he dominated
them as he had her. His magnetism was overpowering;
his great stature seemed to fill the
room; his easy careless assurance emanated from
superior strength. When he spoke lightly of the
game, of Crane's marvelous catch, of Dalgren's
pitching and of his own triple play, it seemed these
looming features retreated in perspective--somehow
lost their vital significance because he slighted
In the light of Carroll's illuminating talk, in the
remembrance of Sheldon's bitter denunciation, in
the knowledge of Pat Donahue's estimate of a
peculiar type of ball-player, Madge Ellston found
herself judging the man--bravely trying to resist
his charm, to be fair to him and to herself.
Carroll soon made his way to her side and
greeted her with his old familiar manner of
possession. However irritating it might be to Madge
when alone, now it held her bound.
Carroll possessed the elemental attributes of a
conqueror. When with him Madge whimsically
feared that he would snatch her up in his arms
and carry her bodily off, as the warriors of old
did with the women they wanted. But she began
to believe that the fascination he exercised upon
her was merely physical. That gave her pause.
Not only was Burns Carroll on trial, but also a
very foolish fluttering little moth--herself. It
was time enough, however, to be stern with herself
after she had tried him.
``Wasn't that a splendid catch of Crane's
today?'' she asked.
``A lucky stab! Crane has a habit of running
round like an ostrich and sticking out a hand to
catch a ball. It's a grand-stand play. Why, a
good outfielder would have been waiting under
that fly.''
``Dalgren did fine work in the box, don't you
``Oh, the kid's all right with an old head back
of the plate. He's wild, though, and will never
make good in fast company. I won his game today.
He wouldn't have lasted an inning without
me. It was dead wrong for Pat to pitch him.
Dalgren simply can't pitch and he hasn't sand
enough to learn.''
A hot retort trembled upon Madge Ellston's
lips, but she withheld it and quietly watched
Carroll. How complacent he was, how utterly selfcontained!
``And Billie Sheldon--wasn't it good to see him
brace? What hitting! . . . That home
``Sheldon flashed up today. That's the worst
of such players. This talk of his slump is all rot.
When he joined the team he made some lucky hits
and the papers lauded him as a comer, but he
soon got down to his real form. Why, to break
into a game now and then, to shut his eyes and
hit a couple on the nose--that's not baseball.
Pat's given him ten days' notice, and his release
will be a good move for the team. Sheldon's not
fast enough for this league.''
``I'm sorry. He seemed so promising,'' replied
Madge. ``I liked Billy--pretty well.''
``Yes, that was evident,'' said Carroll, firing
up. ``I never could understand what you saw in
him. Why, Sheldon's no good. He----''
Madge turned a white face that silenced
Carroll. She excused herself and returned to the
parlor, where she had last seen her uncle. Not
finding him there, she went into the long corridor
and met Sheldon, Dalgren and two more of the
players. Madge congratulated the young pitcher
and the other players on their brilliant work; and
they, not to be outdone, gallantly attributed the
day's victory to her presence at the game. Then,
without knowing in the least how it came about,
she presently found herself alone with Billy, and
they were strolling into the music-room.
``Madge, did I brace up?''
The girl risked one quick look at him. How
boyish he seemed, how eager! What an altogether
different Billie! But was the difference
all in him! Somehow, despite a conscious shyness
in the moment she felt natural and free, without
the uncertainty and restraint that had always
troubled her while with him.
``Oh, Billie, that glorious home run!''
``Madge, wasn't that hit a dandy? How I made
it is a mystery, but the bat felt like a feather. I
thought of you. Tell me-- what did you think
when I hit that ball over the fence?''
``Billie, I'll never, never tell you.''
``Yes--please--I want to know. Didn't you
think something--nice of me?''
The pink spots in Madge's cheeks widened to
crimson flames.
``Billie, are you still--crazy about me? Now,
don't come so close. Can't you behave yourself?
And don't break my fingers with you terrible
baseball hands. . . . Well, when you made that
hit I just collapsed and I said----''
``Say it! Say it!'' implored Billie.
She lowered her face and then bravely raised
``I said, `Billie, I could hug you for that!' . . .
Billie, let me go! Oh, you mustn't!--please!''
Quite a little while afterward Madge remembered
to tell Billie that she had been seeking her
uncle. They met him and Pat Donahue, coming
out of the parlor.
``Where have you been all evening?'' demanded
Mr. Ellston.
``Shure it looks as if she's signed a new
manager,'' said Pat, his shrewd eyes twinkling.
The soft glow in Madge's cheeks deepened into
tell-tale scarlet; Billie resembled a schoolboy
stricken in guilt.
``Aha! so that's it?'' queried her uncle.
``Ellston,'' said Pat. ``Billie's home-run drive
today recalled his notice an' if I don't miss guess
it won him another game--the best game in life.''
``By George!'' exclaimed Mr. Ellston. ``I was
afraid it was Carroll!''
He led Madge away and Pat followed with
``Shure, it was good to see you brace, Billie,''
said the manager, with a kindly hand on the young
man's arm. ``I'm tickled to death. That ten
days' notice doesn't go. See? I've had to shake
up the team but your job is good. I released
McReady outright an' traded Carroll to Denver
for a catcher and a fielder. Some of the directors
hollered murder, an' I expect the fans will roar,
but I'm running this team, I'll have harmony
among my players. Carroll is a great catcher,
but he's a knocker.''
One day in July our Rochester club, leader in
the Eastern League, had returned to the hotel
after winning a double-header from the Syracuse
club. For some occult reason there was to be a
lay-off next day and then on the following another
double-header. These double-headers we hated
next to exhibition games. Still a lay-off for
twenty-four hours, at that stage of the race, was a
Godsend, and we received the news with exclamations
of pleasure.
After dinner we were all sitting and smoking
comfortably in front of the hotel when our
manager, Merritt, came hurriedly out of the lobby.
It struck me that he appeared a little flustered.
``Say, you fellars,'' he said brusquely. ``Pack
your suits and be ready for the bus at seventhirty.''
For a moment there was a blank, ominous
silence, while we assimilated the meaning of his
terse speech.
``I've got a good thing on for tomorrow,''
continued the manager. ``Sixty per cent gate
receipts if we win. That Guelph team is hot stuff,
``Guelph!'' exclaimed some of the players
suspiciously. ``Where's Guelph?''
``It's in Canada. We'll take the night express
an' get there tomorrow in time for the game.
An' we'll hev to hustle.''
Upon Merritt then rained a multiplicity of
excuses. Gillinger was not well, and ought to have
that day's rest. Snead's eyes would profit by a
lay-off. Deerfoot Browning was leading the
league in base running, and as his legs were all
bruised and scraped by sliding, a manager who
was not an idiot would have a care of such
valuable runmakers for his team. Lake had ``Charleyhorse.''
Hathaway's arm was sore. Bane's
stomach threatened gastritis. Spike Doran's
finger needed a chance to heal. I was stale, and
the other players, three pitchers, swore their
arms should be in the hospital.
``Cut it out!'' said Merritt, getting exasperated.
``You'd all lay down on me--now, wouldn't
you? Well, listen to this: McDougal pitched today;
he doesn't go. Blake works Friday, he
doesn't go. But the rest of you puffed-up, highsalaried
stiffs pack your grips quick. See? It'll
cost any fresh fellar fifty for missin' the train.''
So that was how eleven of the Rochester team
found themselves moodily boarding a Pullman en
route for Buffalo and Canada. We went to bed
early and arose late.
Guelph lay somewhere in the interior of
Canada, and we did not expect to get there until 1
As it turned out, the train was late; we had to
dress hurriedly in the smoking room, pack our
citizen clothes in our grips and leave the train
to go direct to the ball grounds without time for
It was a tired, dusty-eyed, peevish crowd of
ball players that climbed into a waiting bus at the
little station.
We had never heard of Guelph; we did not care
anything about Rube baseball teams. Baseball
was not play to us; it was the hardest kind of
work, and of all things an exhibition game was an
The Guelph players, strapping lads, met us with
every mark of respect and courtesy and escorted
us to the field with a brass band that was loud in
welcome, if not harmonious in tune.
Some 500 men and boys trotted curiously along
with us, for all the world as if the bus were a
circus parade cage filled with striped tigers.
What a rustic, motley crowd massed about in and
on that ball ground. There must have been 10,000.
The audience was strange to us. The Indians,
half-breeds, French-Canadians; the huge, hulking,
bearded farmers or traders, or trappers, whatever
they were, were new to our baseball experience.
The players themselves, however, earned the
largest share of our attention. By the time they
had practiced a few moments we looked at Merritt
and Merritt looked at us.
These long, powerful, big-handed lads evidently
did not know the difference between lacrosse and
baseball; but they were quick as cats on their feet,
and they scooped up the ball in a way wonderful
to see. And throw!--it made a professional's
heart swell just to see them line the ball across
the diamond.
``Lord! what whips these lads have!'' exclaimed
Merritt. ``Hope we're not up against it.
If this team should beat us we wouldn't draw a
handful at Toronto. We can't afford to be beaten.
Jump around and cinch the game quick. If we
get in a bad place, I'll sneak in the `rabbit.' ''
The ``rabbit'' was a baseball similar in appearance
to the ordinary league ball; under its horsehide
cover, however, it was remarkably different.
An ingenious fan, a friend of Merritt, had
removed the covers from a number of league balls
and sewed them on rubber balls of his own making.
They could not be distinguished from the
regular article, not even by an experienced
professional--until they were hit. Then! The fact
that after every bounce one of these rubber balls
bounded swifter and higher had given it the name
of the ``rabbit.''
Many a game had the ``rabbit'' won for us at
critical stages. Of course it was against the rules
of the league, and of course every player in the
league knew about it; still, when it was judiciously
and cleverly brought into a close game, the ``rabbit''
would be in play, and very probably over
the fence, before the opposing captain could learn
of it, let alone appeal to the umpire.
``Fellars, look at that guy who's goin' to pitch,''
suddenly spoke up one of the team.
Many as were the country players whom we
seasoned and traveled professionals had run
across, this twirler outclassed them for remarkable
appearance. Moreover, what put an entirely
different tinge to our momentary humor was the
discovery that he was as wild as a March hare
and could throw a ball so fast that it resembled a
pea shot from a boy's air gun.
Deerfoot led our batting list, and after the first
pitched ball, which he did not see, and the second,
which ticked his shirt as it shot past, he turned to
us with an expression that made us groan inwardly.
When Deerfoot looked that way it meant the
pitcher was dangerous. Deerfoot made no effort
to swing at the next ball, and was promptly called
out on strikes.
I was second at bat, and went up with some
reluctance. I happened to be leading the league in
both long distance and safe hitting, and I doted
on speed. But having stopped many mean inshoots
with various parts of my anatomy, I was
rather squeamish about facing backwoods yaps
who had no control.
When I had watched a couple of his pitches,
which the umpire called strikes, I gave him credit
for as much speed as Rusie. These balls were as
straight as a string, singularly without curve,
jump, or variation of any kind. I lined the next
one so hard at the shortstop that it cracked like
a pistol as it struck his hands and whirled him
half off his feet. Still he hung to the ball and
gave opportunity for the first crash of applause.
``Boys, he's a trifle wild,'' I said to my teammates,
``but he has the most beautiful ball to hit
you ever saw. I don't believe he uses a curve,
and when we once time that speed we'll kill it.''
Next inning, after old man Hathaway had
baffled the Canadians with his wide, tantalizing
curves, my predictions began to be verified. Snead
rapped one high and far to deep right field. To
our infinite surprise, however, the right fielder
ran with fleetness that made our own Deerfoot
seem slow, and he got under the ball and caught
Doran sent a sizzling grasscutter down toward
left. The lanky third baseman darted over, dived
down, and, coming up with the ball, exhibited the
power of a throwing arm that made as all green
with envy.
Then, when the catcher chased a foul fly
somewhere back in the crowd and caught it, we began
to take notice.
``Lucky stabs!'' said Merritt cheerfully. ``They
can't keep that up. We'll drive him to the woods
next time.''
But they did keep it up; moreover, they became
more brilliant as the game progressed. What
with Hathaway's heady pitching we soon disposed
of them when at the bat; our turns, however,
owing to the wonderful fielding of these backwoodsmen,
were also fruitless.
Merritt, with his mind ever on the slice of gate
money coming if we won, began to fidget and fume
and find fault.
``You're a swell lot of champions, now, ain't
you?'' he observed between innings.
All baseball players like to bat, and nothing
pleases them so much as base hits; on the other
hand, nothing is quite so painful as to send out
hard liners only to see them caught. And it
seemed as if every man on our team connected
with that lanky twirler's fast high ball and hit
with the force that made the bat spring only to
have one of these rubes get his big hands upon
Considering that we were in no angelic frame
of mind before the game started, and in view of
Merritt's persistently increasing ill humor, this
failure of ours to hit a ball safely gradually
worked us into a kind of frenzy. From indifference
we passed to determination, and from that
to sheer passionate purpose.
Luck appeared to be turning in the sixth inning.
With one out, Lake hit a beauty to right. Doran
beat an infield grounder and reached first. Hathaway
struck out.
With Browning up and me next, the situation
looked rather precarious for the Canadians.
``Say, Deerfoot,'' whispered Merritt, ``dump
one down the third-base line. He's playin' deep.
It's a pipe. Then the bases will be full an' Reddy'll
clean up.''
In a stage like that Browning was a man
absolutely to depend upon. He placed a slow bunt
in the grass toward third and sprinted for first.
The third baseman fielded the ball, but, being
confused, did not know where to throw it.
``Stick it in your basket,'' yelled Merritt, in a
delight that showed how hard he was pulling for
the gate money, and his beaming smile as he
turned to me was inspiring. ``Now, Reddy, it's
up to you! I'm not worrying about what's happened
so far. I know, with you at bat in a pinch,
it's all off!''
Merritt's compliment was pleasing, but it did
not augment my purpose, for that already had
reached the highest mark. Love of hitting, if no
other thing, gave me the thrilling fire to arise to
the opportunity. Selecting my light bat, I went
up and faced the rustic twirler and softly said
things to him.
He delivered the ball, and I could have yelled
aloud, so fast, so straight, so true it sped toward
me. Then I hit it harder than I had ever hit a
ball in my life. The bat sprung, as if it were
whalebone. And the ball took a bullet course
between center and left. So beautiful a hit was it
that I watched as I ran.
Out of the tail of my eye I saw the center
fielder running. When I rounded first base I got
a good look at this fielder, and though I had seen
the greatest outfielders the game ever produced,
I never saw one that covered ground so swiftly
as he.
On the ball soared, and began to drop; on the
fielder sped, and began to disappear over a little
hill back of his position. Then he reached up with
a long arm and marvelously caught the ball in
one hand. He went out of sight as I touched
second base, and the heterogeneous crowd knew
about a great play to make more noise than a herd
of charging buffalo.
In the next half inning our opponents, by clean
drives, scored two runs and we in our turn again
went out ignominiously. When the first of the
eighth came we were desperate and clamored for
the ``rabbit.''
``I've sneaked it in,'' said Merritt, with a low
voice. ``Got it to the umpire on the last passed
ball. See, the pitcher's got it now. Boys, it's all
off but the fireworks! Now, break loose!''
A peculiarity about the ``rabbit'' was the fact
that though it felt as light as the regulation league
ball it could not be thrown with the same speed
and to curve it was an impossibility.
Bane hit the first delivery from our hoosier
stumbling block. The ball struck the ground and
began to bound toward short. With every bound
it went swifter, longer and higher, and it bounced
clear over the shortstop's head. Lake chopped
one in front of the plate, and it rebounded from
the ground straight up so high that both runners
were safe before it came down.
Doran hit to the pitcher. The ball caromed
his leg, scooted fiendishly at the second baseman,
and tried to run up all over him like a tame
squirrel. Bases full!
Hathaway got a safe fly over the infield and two
runs tallied. The pitcher, in spite of the help of
the umpire, could not locate the plate for Balknap,
and gave him a base on balls. Bases full
Deerfoot slammed a hot liner straight at the
second baseman, which, striking squarely in his
hands, recoiled as sharply as if it had struck a
wall. Doran scored, and still the bases were filled.
The laboring pitcher began to get rattled; he
could not find his usual speed; he knew it, but
evidently could not account for it.
When I came to bat, indications were not wanting
that the Canadian team would soon be up in
the air. The long pitcher delivered the ``rabbit,''
and got it low down by my knees, which
was an unfortunate thing for him. I swung on
that one, and trotted round the bases behind the
runners while the center and left fielders chased
the ball.
Gillinger weighed nearly two hundred pounds,
and he got all his weight under the ``rabbit.'' It
went so high that we could scarcely see it. All
the infielders rushed in, and after staggering
around, with heads bent back, one of them, the
shortstop, managed to get under it. The ``rabbit''
bounded forty feet out of his hands!
When Snead's grounder nearly tore the third
baseman's leg off; when Bane's hit proved as
elusive as a flitting shadow; when Lake's liner
knocked the pitcher flat, and Doran's fly leaped
high out of the center fielder's glove--then those
earnest, simple, country ballplayers realized
something was wrong. But they imagined it was
in themselves, and after a short spell of rattles,
they steadied up and tried harder than ever. The
motions they went through trying to stop that
jumping jackrabbit of a ball were ludicrous in
the extreme.
Finally, through a foul, a short fly, and a scratch
hit to first, they retired the side and we went into
the field with the score 14 to 2 in our favor.
But Merritt had not found it possible to get the
``rabbit'' out of play!
We spent a fatefully anxious few moments
squabbling with the umpire and captain over the
``rabbit.'' At the idea of letting those herculean
railsplitters have a chance to hit the rubber ball
we felt our blood run cold.
``But this ball has a rip in it,'' blustered
Gillinger. He lied atrociously. A microscope could
not have discovered as much as a scratch in that
smooth leather.
``Sure it has,'' supplemented Merritt, in the
suave tones of a stage villain. ``We're used to
playing with good balls.''
``Why did you ring this one in on us?'' asked
the captain. ``We never threw out this ball. We
want a chance to hit it.''
That was just the one thing we did not want
them to have. But fate played against us.
``Get up on your toes, now an' dust,'' said
Merritt. ``Take your medicine, you lazy sit-in-frontof-
the-hotel stiffs! Think of pay day!''
Not improbably we all entertained the identical
thought that old man Hathaway was the last
pitcher under the sun calculated to be effective
with the ``rabbit.'' He never relied on speed;
in fact, Merritt often scornfully accused him of
being unable to break a pane of glass; he used
principally what we called floaters and a change
of pace. Both styles were absolutely impractical
with the ``rabbit.''
``It's comin' to us, all right, all right!'' yelled
Deerfoot to me, across the intervening grass. I
was of the opinion that it did not take any genius
to make Deerfoot's ominous prophecy.
Old man Hathaway gazed at Merritt on the
bench as if he wished the manager could hear
what he was calling him and then at his fellowplayers
as if both to warn and beseech them.
Then he pitched the ``rabbit.''
The big lumbering Canadian rapped the ball
at Crab Bane. I did not see it, because it went
so fast, but I gathered from Crab's actions that
it must have been hit in his direction. At any
rate, one of his legs flopped out sidewise as if
it had been suddenly jerked, and he fell in a heap.
The ball, a veritable ``rabbit'' in its wild jumps,
headed on for Deerfoot, who contrived to stop it
with his knees.
The next batter resembled the first one, and
the hit likewise, only it leaped wickedly at Doran
and went through his hands as if they had been
paper. The third man batted up a very high fly
to Gillinger. He clutched at it with his huge
shovel hands, but he could not hold it. The way
he pounced upon the ball, dug it out of the grass,
and hurled it at Hathaway, showed his anger.
Obviously Hathaway had to stop the throw,
for he could not get out of the road, and he spoke
to his captain in what I knew were no complimentary
Thus began retribution. Those husky lads
continued to hammer the ``rabbit'' at the infielders
and as it bounced harder at every bounce so they
batted harder at every bat.
Another singular feature about the ``rabbit''
was the seeming impossibility for professionals
to hold it. Their familiarity with it, their
understanding of its vagaries and inconsistencies, their
mortal dread made fielding it a much more difficult
thing than for their opponents.
By way of variety, the lambasting Canadians
commenced to lambast a few over the hills and
far away, which chased Deerfoot and me until
our tongues lolled out.
Every time a run crossed the plate the motley
crowd howled, roared, danced and threw up their
hats. The members of the batting team pranced
up and down the side lines, giving a splendid
imitation of cannibals celebrating the occasion of a
Once Snead stooped down to trap the ``rabbit,''
and it slipped through his legs, for which
his comrades jeered him unmercifully. Then a
brawny batter sent up a tremendously high fly
between short and third.
``You take it!'' yelled Gillinger to Bane.
``You take it!'' replied the Crab, and actually
walked backward. That ball went a mile high.
The sky was hazy, gray, the most perplexing in
which to judge a fly ball. An ordinary fly gave
trouble enough in the gauging.
Gillinger wandered around under the ball for
what seemed an age. It dropped as swiftly as a
rocket shoots upward. Gillinger went forward
in a circle, then sidestepped, and threw up his
broad hands. He misjudged the ball, and it hit
him fairly on the head and bounced almost to
where Doran stood at second.
Our big captain wilted. Time was called. But
Gillinger, when he came to, refused to leave the
game and went back to third with a lump on his
head as large as a goose egg.
Every one of his teammates was sorry, yet
every one howled in glee. To be hit on the head
was the unpardonable sin for a professional.
Old man Hathaway gradually lost what little
speed he had, and with it his nerve. Every time
he pitched the ``rabbit'' he dodged. That was
about the funniest and strangest thing ever seen
on a ball field. Yet it had an element of tragedy.
Hathaway's expert contortions saved his head
and body on divers occasions, but presently a low
bounder glanced off the grass and manifested an
affinity for his leg.
We all knew from the crack and the way the
pitcher went down that the ``rabbit'' had put him
out of the game. The umpire called time, and
Merritt came running on the diamond.
``Hard luck, old man,'' said the manager.
``That'll make a green and yellow spot all right.
Boys, we're still two runs to the good. There's
one out, an' we can win yet. Deerfoot, you're as
badly crippled as Hathaway. The bench for
yours. Hooker will go to center, an' I'll pitch.''
Merritt's idea did not strike us as a bad one.
He could pitch, and he always kept his arm in
prime condition. We welcomed him into the fray
for two reasons--because he might win the game,
and because he might be overtaken by the baseball
While Merritt was putting on Hathaway's baseball
shoes, some of us endeavored to get the ``rabbit''
away from the umpire, but he was too wise.
Merritt received the innocent-looking ball with
a look of mingled disgust and fear, and he summarily
ordered us to our positions.
Not far had we gone, however, when we were
electrified by the umpire's sharp words:
``Naw! Naw, you don't. I saw you change the
ball I gave you fer one in your pocket! Naw!
You don't come enny of your American dodges
on us! Gimmee thet ball, an' you use the other,
or I'll stop the game.''
Wherewith the shrewd umpire took the ball from
Merritt's hand and fished the ``rabbit'' from his
pocket. Our thwarted manager stuttered his
wrath. ``Y-you be-be-wh-whiskered y-yap! I'll
What dire threat he had in mind never
materialized, for he became speechless. He glowered
upon the cool little umpire, and then turned
grandly toward the plate.
It may have been imagination, yet I made sure
Merritt seemed to shrink and grow smaller before
he pitched a ball. For one thing the plate was
uphill from the pitcher's box, and then the fellow
standing there loomed up like a hill and swung
a bat that would have served as a wagon tongue.
No wonder Merritt evinced nervousness. Presently
he whirled and delivered the ball.
A dark streak and a white puff of dust over
second base showed how safe that hit was. By
dint of manful body work, Hooker contrived to
stop the ``rabbit'' in mid-center. Another run
scored. Human nature was proof against this
temptation, and Merritt's players tendered him
manifold congratulations and dissertations.
``Grand, you old skinflint, grand!''
``There was a two-dollar bill stickin' on thet
hit. Why didn't you stop it?''
``Say, Merritt, what little brains you've got will
presently be ridin' on the `rabbit.' ''
``You will chase up these exhibition games!''
``Take your medicine now. Ha! Ha! Ha!''
After these merciless taunts, and particularly
after the next slashing hit that tied the score,
Merritt looked appreciably smaller and humbler.
He threw up another ball, and actually shied as
it neared the plate.
The giant who was waiting to slug it evidently
thought better of his eagerness as far as that pitch
was concerned, for he let it go by.
Merritt got the next ball higher. With a mighty
swing, the batsman hit a terrific liner right at the
Quick as lightning, Merritt wheeled, and the
ball struck him with the sound of two boards
brought heavily together with a smack.
Merritt did not fall; he melted to the ground
and writhed while the runners scored with more
tallies than they needed to win.
What did we care! Justice had been done us,
and we were unutterably happy. Crabe Bane
stood on his head; Gillinger began a war dance;
old man Hathaway hobbled out to the side lines
and whooped like an Indian; Snead rolled over
and over in the grass. All of us broke out into
typical expressions of baseball frenzy, and
individual ones illustrating our particular moods.
Merritt got up and made a dive for the ball.
With face positively flaming he flung it far beyond
the merry crowd, over into a swamp. Then he
limped for the bench. Which throw ended the
most memorable game ever recorded to the credit
of the ``rabbit.''
``Fate has decreed more bad luck for Salisbury
in Saturday's game with Bellville. It has leaked
out that our rivals will come over strengthened
by a `ringer,' no less than Yale's star pitcher,
Wayne. We saw him shut Princeton out in June,
in the last game of the college year, and we are
not optimistic in our predictions as to what Salisbury
can do with him. This appears a rather unfair
procedure for Bellville to resort to. Why
couldn't they come over with their regular team?
They have won a game, and so have we; both
games were close and brilliant; the deciding game
has roused unusual interest. We are inclined to
resent Bellville's methods as unsportsmanlike.
All our players can do is to go into this game on
Saturday and try the harder to win.''
Wayne laid down the Salisbury Gazette, with a
little laugh of amusement, yet feeling a vague,
disquieting sense of something akin to regret.
``Pretty decent of that chap not to roast me,''
he soliloquized.
Somewhere he had heard that Salisbury
maintained an unsalaried team. It was notorious
among college athletes that the Bellville Club paid
for the services of distinguished players. And
this in itself rather inclined Wayne to sympathize
with Salisbury. He knew something of the struggles
of a strictly amateur club to cope with its
semi-professional rivals.
As he was sitting there, idly tipped back in a
comfortable chair, dreaming over some of the
baseball disasters he had survived before his college
career, he saw a young man enter the lobby
of the hotel, speak to the clerk, and then turn and
come directly toward the window where Wayne
was sitting.
``Are yon Mr. Wayne, the Yale pitcher?''
he asked eagerly. He was a fair-haired,
clean-cut young fellow, and his voice rang pleasantly.
``Guilty,'' replied Wayne.
``My name's Huling. I'm captain of the Salisbury
nine. Just learned you were in town and
are going to pitch against us tomorrow. Won't
you walk out into the grounds with me now?
You might want to warm up a little.''
``Thank you, yes, I will. Guess I won't need
my suit. I'll just limber up, and give my arm a
good rub.''
It struck Wayne before they had walked far
that Huling was an amiable and likable chap. As
the captain of the Salisbury nine, he certainly
had no reason to be agreeable to the Morristown
``ringer,'' even though Wayne did happen to be
a famous Yale pitcher.
The field was an oval, green as an emerald, level
as a billiard table and had no fences or stands
to obstruct the open view of the surrounding
wooded country. On each side of the diamond
were rows of wooden benches, and at one end of
the field stood a little clubhouse.
Wayne took off his coat, and tossed a ball for
a while to an ambitious youngster, and then went
into the clubhouse, where Huling introduced him
to several of his players. After a good rubdown,
Wayne thanked Huling for his courtesy, and
started out, intending to go back to town.
``Why not stay to see us practice?'' asked the
captain. ``We're not afraid you'll size up our
weaknesses. As a matter of fact, we don't look
forward to any hitting stunts tomorrow, eh,
Burns? Burns, here, is our leading hitter, and
he's been unusually noncommittal since he heard
who was going to pitch for Bellville.''
``Well, I wouldn't give a whole lot for my prospects
of a home run tomorrow,'' said Burns, with
a laugh.
Wayne went outside, and found a seat in the
shade. A number of urchins had trooped upon
the green field, and carriages and motors were
already in evidence. By the time the players came
out of the dressing room, ready for practice, there
was quite a little crowd in attendance.
Despite Wayne's hesitation, Huling insisted
upon introducing him to friends, and finally hauled
him up to a big touring car full of girls. Wayne,
being a Yale pitcher, had seen several thousand
pretty girls, but the group in that automobile
fairly dazzled him. And the last one to whom
Huling presented him--with the words: ``Dorothy,
this is Mr. Wayne, the Yale pitcher, who is
to play with Bellville tomorrow; Mr. Wayne, my
sister''--was the girl he had known he would
meet some day.
``Climb up, Mr. Wayne. We can make room,''
invited Miss Huling.
Wayne thought the awkwardness with which he
found a seat beside her was unbecoming to a Yale
senior. But, considering she was the girl he had
been expecting to discover for years, his clumsiness
bespoke the importance of the event. The
merry laughter of the girls rang in his ears.
Presently, a voice detached itself from the others,
and came floating softly to him.
``Mr. Wayne, so you're going to wrest our
laurels from us?'' asked Miss Huling.
``I don't know--I'm not infallible--I've been
``When? Not this season?'' she inquired
quickly, betraying a knowledge of his record
that surprised and pleased him. ``Mr. Wayne,
I was at the Polo Grounds on June fifteenth.''
Her white hand lightly touched the Princeton
pin at her neck. Wayne roused suddenly out of
his trance. The girl was a Princeton girl! The
gleam of her golden hair, the flash of her blue
eyes, became clear in sight.
``I'm very pleased to hear it,'' he replied.
``It was a great game, Mr. Wayne, and you may
well be proud of your part in winning it. I
shouldn't be surprised if you treated the Salisbury
team to the same coat of whitewash. We
girls are up in arms. Our boys stood a fair chance
to win this game, but now there's a doubt. By
the way, are you acquainted in Bellville?''
``No. I met Reed, the Bellville captain, in New
York this week. He had already gotten an extra
pitcher--another ringer--for this game, but he
said he preferred me, if it could be arranged.''
While conversing, Wayne made note of the fact
that the other girls studiously left him to Miss
Huling. If the avoidance had not been so marked,
he would never have thought of it.
``Mr. Wayne, if your word is not involved--will
you change your mind and pitch tomorrow's game
for us instead of Bellville?''
Quite amazed, Wayne turned squarely to look
at Miss Huling. Instead of disarming his quick
suspicion, her cool, sweet voice, and brave, blue
eyes confirmed it. The charms of the captain's
sister were to be used to win him away from the
Bellville nine. He knew the trick; it had been
played upon him before.
But never had any other such occasion given
him a feeling of regret. This case was different.
She was the girl. And she meant to flirt with him,
to use her eyes for all they were worth to
encompass the Waterloo of the rival team.
No, he had made a mistake, after all--she was
not the real girl. Suddenly conscious of a little
shock of pain, he dismissed that dream girl from
his mind, and determined to meet Miss Huling
half way in her game. He could not flirt as well
as he could pitch; still, he was no novice.
``Well, Miss Huling, my word certainly is not
involved. But as to pitching for Salisbury--that
``Upon what?''
``Upon what there is in it.''
``Mr. Wayne, you mean--money? Oh, I know.
My brother Rex told me how you college men are
paid big sums. Our association will not give a
dollar, and, besides, my brother knows nothing of
this. But we girls are heart and soul on winning
this game. We'll----''
``Miss Huling, I didn't mean remuneration in
sordid cash,'' interrupted Wayne, in a tone that
heightened the color in her cheeks.
Wayne eyed her keenly with mingled emotions.
Was that rose-leaf flush in her cheeks natural?
Some girls could blush at will. Were the wistful
eyes, the earnest lips, only shamming? It cost
him some bitterness to decide that they were.
Her beauty fascinated, while it hardened him.
Eternally, the beauty of women meant the undoing
of men, whether they played the simple,
inconsequential game of baseball, or the great,
absorbing, mutable game of life.
The shame of the situation for him was increasingly
annoying, inasmuch as this lovely girl
should stoop to flirtation with a stranger, and the
same time draw him, allure him, despite the
apparent insincerity.
``Miss Huling, I'll pitch your game for two
things,'' he continued.
``Name them.''
``Wear Yale blue in place of that orange-andblack
Princeton pin.''
``I will.'' She said it with a shyness, a look in
her eyes that made Wayne wince. What a perfect
little actress! But there seemed just a chance
that this was not deceit. For an instant he
wavered, held back by subtle, finer intuition; then
he beat down the mounting influence of truth in
those dark-blue eyes, and spoke deliberately:
``The other thing is--if I win the game--a
Dorothy Huling's face flamed scarlet. But this
did not affect Wayne so deeply, though it showed
him his mistake, as the darkening shadow of
disappointment in her eyes. If she had been a flirt,
she would have been prepared for rudeness. He
began casting about in his mind for some apology,
some mitigation of his offense; but as he was
about to speak, the sudden fading of her color,
leaving her pale, and the look in her proud, dark
eyes disconcerted him out of utterance.
``Certainly, Mr. Wayne. I agree to your price
if you win the game.''
But how immeasurable was the distance
between the shy consent to wear Yale blue, and the
pale, surprised agreement to his second proposal!
Wayne experienced a strange sensation of personal loss.
While he endeavored to find his tongue, Miss
Huling spoke to one of the boys standing near,
and he started off on a run for the field. Presently
Huling and the other players broke for the car,
soon surrounding it in breathless anticipation.
``Wayne, is it straight? You'll pitch for us
tomorrow?'' demanded the captain, with shining
``Surely I will. Bellville don't need me.
They've got Mackay, of Georgetown,'' replied
Accustomed as he was to being mobbed by
enthusiastic students and admiring friends, Wayne
could not but feel extreme embarrassment at the
reception accorded him now. He felt that he was
sailing under false colors. The boys mauled him,
the girls fluttered about him with glad laughter.
He had to tear himself away; and when he finally
reached his hotel, he went to his room, with his
mind in a tumult.
Wayne cursed himself roundly; then he fell into
deep thought. He began to hope he could retrieve
the blunder. He would win the game; he would
explain to her the truth; he would ask for an
opportunity to prove he was worthy of her friendship;
he would not mention the kiss. This last
thought called up the soft curve of her red lips
and that it was possible for him to kiss her made
the temptation strong.
His sleep that night was not peaceful and
dreamless. He awakened late, had breakfast sent
to his room, and then took a long walk out into
the country. After lunch he dodged the crowd in
the hotel lobby, and hurried upstairs, where he
put on his baseball suit. The first person he met
upon going down was Reed, the Bellville man.
``What's this I hear, Wayne, about your pitching
for Salisbury today? I got your telegram.''
``Straight goods,'' replied Wayne.
``But I thought you intended to pitch for us?''
``I didn't promise, did I?''
``No. Still, it looks fishy to me.''
``You've got Mackay, haven't you?''
``Yes. The truth is, I intended to use you
``Well, I'll try to win for Salisbury. Hope
there's no hard feeling.''
``Not at all. Only if I didn't have the Georgetown
crack, I'd yell murder. As it is, we'll trim
Salisbury anyway.''
``Maybe,'' answered Wayne, laughing. ``It's
a hot day, and my arm feels good.''
When Wayne reached the ball grounds, he
thought he had never seen a more inspiring sight.
The bright green oval was surrounded by a glittering
mass of white and blue and black. Out
along the foul lines were carriages, motors, and
tally-hos, brilliant with waving fans and flags.
Over the field murmured the low hum of many
``Here you are!'' cried Huling, making a grab
for Wayne. ``Where were you this morning?
We couldn't find you. Come! We've got a minute
before the practice whistle blows, and I promised
to exhibit you.''
He hustled Wayne down the first-base line, past
the cheering crowd, out among the motors, to the
same touring car that he remembered. A bevy of
white-gowned girls rose like a covey of ptarmigans,
and whirled flags of maroon and gray.
Dorothy Huling wore a bow of Yale blue upon
her breast, and Wayne saw it and her face through
a blur.
``Hurry, girls; get it over. We've got to
practice,'' said the captain.
In the merry melee some one tied a knot of
ribbon upon Wayne. Who it was he did not know;
he saw only the averted face of Dorothy Huling.
And as he returned to the field with a dull pang,
he determined he would make her indifference
disappear with the gladness of a victory for her
The practice was short, but long enough for
Wayne to locate the glaring weakness of Salisbury
at shortstop and third base. In fact, most
of the players of his team showed rather poor
form; they were overstrained, and plainly lacked
experience necessary for steadiness in an
important game.
Burns, the catcher, however, gave Wayne
confidence. He was a short, sturdy youngster, with
all the earmarks of a coming star. Huling, the
captain, handled himself well at first base. The
Bellville players were more matured, and some of
them were former college cracks. Wayne saw
that he had his work cut out for him.
The whistle blew. The Bellville team trotted
to their position in the field; the umpire called
play, and tossed a ball to Mackay, the long, lean
Georgetown pitcher.
Wells, the first batter, fouled out; Stamford hit
an easy bounce to the pitcher, and Clews put up
a little Texas leaguer--all going out, one, two,
three, on three pitched balls.
The teams changed from bat to field. Wayne
faced the plate amid vociferous cheering. He
felt that he could beat this team even without good
support. He was in the finest condition, and his
arm had been resting for ten days. He knew that
if he had control of his high inshoot, these
Bellville players would feel the whiz of some speed
under their chins.
He struck Moore out, retired Reed on a measly
fly, and made Clark hit a weak grounder to second;
and he walked in to the bench assured of the
outcome. On some days he had poor control; on
others his drop ball refused to work properly;
but, as luck would have it, he had never had
greater speed or accuracy, or a more bewildering
fast curve than on this day, when he meant to
win a game for a girl.
``Boys, I've got everything,'' he said to his
fellow-players, calling them around him. ``A couple
of runs will win for us. Now, listen, I know
Mackay. He hasn't any speed, or much of a curve.
All he's got is a teasing slow ball and a foxy head.
Don't be too anxious to hit. Make him put 'em
But the Salisbury players were not proof
against the tempting slow balls that Mackay
delivered. They hit at wide curves far off the plate
and when they did connect with the ball it was
only to send an easy chance to the infielders.
The game seesawed along, inning after inning;
it was a pitcher's battle that looked as if the first
run scored would win the game. Mackay toyed
with the Salisbury boys; it was his pleasure to
toss up twisting, floating balls that could scarcely
be hit out of the diamond. Wayne had the
Bellville players utterly at his mercy; he mixed up his
high jump and fast drop so cleverly, with his
sweeping out-curve, that his opponents were unable
to gauge his delivery at all.
In the first of the seventh, Barr for Bellville
hit a ball which the third baseman should have
fielded. But he fumbled. The second batter sent
a fly to shortstop, who muffed it. The third
hitter reached his base on another error by an
infielder. Here the bases were crowded, and the
situation had become critical all in a moment.
Wayne believed the infield would go to pieces, and
lose the game, then and there, if another hit went
to short or third.
``Steady up, boys,'' called Wayne, and beckoned
for his catcher.
``Burns, it's up to you and me,'' he said, in a
low tone. ``I've got to fan the rest of these
hitters. You're doing splendidly. Now, watch close
for my drop. Be ready to go down on your knees.
When I let myself out, the ball generally hits the
ground just back of the plate.''
``Speed 'em over!'' said Burns, his sweaty face
grim and determined. ``I'll get in front of 'em.''
The head of the batting list was up for
Bellville, and the whole Bellville contingent on the
side lines rose and yelled and cheered.
Moore was a left handed hitter, who choked his
bat up short, and poked at the ball. He was a
good bunter, and swift on his feet. Wayne had
taken his measure, as he had that of the other
players, earlier in the game; and he knew it was
good pitching to keep the ball in close to Moore's
hands, so that if he did hit it, the chances were
it would not go safe.
Summoning all his strength, Wayne took his
long swing and shot the ball over the inside corner
with terrific speed.
One strike!
Wayne knew it would not do to waste any balls
if he wished to maintain that speed, so he put
the second one in the same place. Moore struck
too late.
Two strikes!
Then Burns signed for the last drop. Wayne
delivered it with trepidation, for it was a hard
curve to handle. Moore fell all over himself
trying to hit it. Little Burns dropped to his knees
to block the vicious curve. It struck the ground,
and, glancing, boomed deep on the breast protector.
How the Salisbury supporters roared their
approval! One man out--the bases full--with Reed,
the slugging captain, at bat!
If Reed had a weakness, Wayne had not
discovered it yet, although Reed had not hit safely.
The captain stood somewhat back from the plate,
a fact that induced Wayne to try him with the
speedy outcurve. Reed lunged with a powerful
swing, pulling away from the plate, and he missed
the curve by a foot.
Wayne did not need to know any more. Reed
had made his reputation slugging straight balls
from heedless pitchers. He chopped the air twice
more, and flung his bat savagely to the ground.
``Two out--play the hitter!'' called Wayne to
his team.
Clark, the third man up, was the surest batter
on the Bellville team. He looked dangerous. He
had made the only hit so far to the credit of his
team. Wayne tried to work him on a high, fast
ball close in. Clark swung freely and cracked a
ripping liner to left. Half the crowd roared, and
then groaned, for the beautiful hit went foul by
several yards. Wayne wisely decided to risk all
on his fast drop. Clark missed the first, fouled
the second.
Two strikes!
Then he waited. He cooly let one, two, three
of the fast drops go by without attempting to hit
them. Burns valiantly got his body in front of
them. These balls were all over the plate, but too
low to be called strikes. With two strikes, and
three balls, and the bases full, Clark had the advantage.
Tight as the place was, Wayne did not flinch.
The game depended practically upon the next ball
delivered. Wayne craftily and daringly decided
to use another fast drop, for of all his assortment
that would be the one least expected by Clark.
But it must be started higher, so that in case
Clark made no effort to swing, it would still be a
Gripping the ball with a clinched hand, Wayne
swung sharply, and drove it home with the limit
of his power. It sped like a bullet, waist high,
and just before reaching the plate darted downward,
as if it had glanced on an invisible barrier.
Clark was fooled completely and struck futilely.
But the ball caromed from the hard ground, hit
Burns with a resounding thud, and bounced away.
Clark broke for first, and Moore dashed for home.
Like a tiger the little catcher pounced upon the
ball, and, leaping back into line, blocked the
sliding Moore three feet from the plate.
Pandemonium burst loose among the Salisbury
adherents. The men bawled, the women screamed,
the boys shrieked, and all waved their hats and
flags, and jumped up and down, and manifested
symptoms of baseball insanity.
In the first of the eighth inning, Mackay sailed
up the balls like balloons, and disposed of three
batters on the same old weak hits to his clever
fielders. In the last of the eighth, Wayne struck
out three more Bellville players.
``Burns, you're up,'' said Wayne, who, in his
earnestness to win, kept cheering his comrades.
``Do something. Get your base any way you can.
Get in front of one. We must score this inning.''
Faithful, battered Burns cunningly imposed his
hip over the plate and received another bruise in
the interests of his team. The opposing players
furiously stormed at the umpire for giving him
his base, but Burns' trick went through. Burnett
bunted skilfully, sending Burns to second. Cole
hit a fly to center. Then Huling singled between
short and third.
It became necessary for the umpire to delay the
game while he put the madly leaping boys back
off the coaching lines. The shrill, hilarious cheering
gradually died out, and the field settled into a
forced quiet.
Wayne hurried up to the plate and took his
position. He had always been a timely hitter, and
he gritted his teeth in his resolve to settle this
game. Mackay whirled his long arm, wheeled,
took his long stride, and pitched a slow, tantalizing
ball that seemed never to get anywhere. But
Wayne waited, timed it perfectly, and met it
The ball flew safely over short, and but for a
fine sprint and stop by the left fielder, would have
resulted in a triple, possibly a home run. As it
was, Burns and Huling scored; and Wayne, by a
slide, reached second base. When he arose and
saw the disorderly riot, and heard the noise of
that well-dressed audience, he had a moment of
exultation. Then Wells flew out to center ending
the chances for more runs.
As Wayne received the ball in the pitcher's box,
he paused and looked out across the field toward
a white-crowned motor car, and he caught a gleam
of Dorothy Huling's golden hair, and wondered
if she were glad.
For nothing short of the miraculous could
snatch this game from him now. Burns had withstood
a severe pounding, but he would last out
the inning, and Wayne did not take into account
the rest of the team. He opened up with no
slackening of his terrific speed, and he struck out the
three remaining batters on eleven pitched balls.
Then in the rising din he ran for Burns and gave
him a mighty hug.
``You made the gamest stand of any catcher I
ever pitched to,'' he said warmly.
Burns looked at his quivering, puffed, and
bleeding hands, and smiled as if to say that this
was praise to remember, and reward enough.
Then the crowd swooped down on them, and they
were swallowed up in the clamor and surge of
victory. When Wayne got out of the thick and
press of it, he made a bee line for his hotel, and
by running a gauntlet managed to escape.
Resting, dressing, and dining were matters
which he went through mechanically, with his
mind ever on one thing. Later, he found a dark
corner of the porch and sat there waiting, thinking.
There was to be a dance given in honor of
the team that evening at the hotel. He watched
the boys and girls pass up the steps. When the
music commenced, he arose and went into the hall.
It was bright with white gowns, and gay with
``There he is. Grab him, somebody,'' yelled
``Do something for me, quick,'' implored Wayne
of the captain, as he saw the young people wave
toward him.
``Salisbury is yours tonight,'' replied Huling
``Ask your sister to save me one dance.''
Then he gave himself up. He took his meed of
praise and flattery, and he withstood the battery
of arch eyes modestly, as became the winner of
many fields. But even the reception after the
Princeton game paled in comparison with this
impromptu dance.
She was here. Always it seemed, while he
listened or talked or danced, his eyes were drawn to
a slender, graceful form, and a fair face crowned
with golden hair. Then he was making his way
to where she stood near one of the open windows.
He never knew what he said to her, nor what
reply she made, but she put her arm in his, and
presently they were gliding over the polished
floor. To Wayne the dance was a dream. He led
her through the hall and out upon the balcony,
where composure strangely came to him.
``Mr. Wayne, I have to thank you for saving
the day for us. You pitched magnificently.''
``I would have broken my arm to win that
game,'' burst out Wayne. ``Miss Huling, I made
a blunder yesterday. I thought there was a
conspiracy to persuade me to throw down Bellville.
I've known of such things, and I resented it.
You understand what I thought. I humbly offer
my apologies, and beg that you forget the rude
obligation I forced upon you.''
How cold she was! How unattainable in that
moment! He caught his breath, and rushed on.
``Your brother and the management of the club
have asked me to pitch for Salisbury the remainder
of the season. I shall be happy to--if----''
``If what?'' She was all alive now, flushing
warmly, dark eyes alight, the girl of his dreams.
``If you will forgive me--if you will let me be
your friend--if--Miss Huling, you will again wear
that bit of Yale blue.''
``If, Mr. Wayne, you had very sharp eyes you
would have noticed that I still wear it!''
Willie Howarth loved baseball. He loved it
all the more because he was a cripple. The game
was more beautiful and wonderful to him because
he would never be able to play it. For Willie
had been born with one leg shorter than the other;
he could not run and at 11 years of age it was
all he could do to walk with a crutch.
Nevertheless Willie knew more about baseball
than any other boy on Madden's Hill. An uncle
of his had once been a ballplayer and he had
taught Willie the fine points of the game. And
this uncle's ballplayer friends, who occasionally
visited him, had imparted to Willie the vernacular
of the game. So that Willie's knowledge of players
and play, and particularly of the strange talk,
the wild and whirling words on the lips of the real
baseball men, made him the envy of every boy on
Madden's Hill, and a mine of information. Willie
never missed attending the games played on the
lots, and he could tell why they were won or lost.
Willie suffered considerable pain, mostly at
night, and this had given him a habit of lying
awake in the dark hours, grieving over that
crooked leg that forever shut him out of the heritage
of youth. He had kept his secret well; he was
accounted shy because he was quiet and had never
been able to mingle with the boys in their activity.
No one except his mother dreamed of the fire and
hunger and pain within his breast. His schoolmates
called him ``Daddy.'' It was a name given
for his bent shoulders, his labored gait and his
thoughtful face, too old for his years. And no
one, not even his mother, guessed how that name
hurt Willie.
It was a source of growing unhappiness with
Willie that the Madden's Hill boys were always
beaten by the other teams of the town. He really
came to lose his sadness over his own misfortune
in pondering on the wretched play of the Madden's
Hill baseball club. He had all a boy's
pride in the locality where he lived. And when
the Bogg's Farm team administered a crushing
defeat to Madden's Hill, Willie grew desperate.
Monday he met Lane Griffith, the captain of
the Madden's Hill nine.
``Hello, Daddy,'' said Lane. He was a big,
aggressive boy, and in a way had a fondness for
``Lane, you got an orful trimmin' up on the
Boggs. What 'd you wanter let them country jakes
beat you for?''
``Aw, Daddy, they was lucky. Umpire had hayseed
in his eyes! Robbed us! He couldn't see
straight. We'll trim them down here Saturday.''
``No, you won't--not without team work. Lane,
you've got to have a manager.''
``Durn it! Where 're we goin' to get one?''
Lane blurted out.
``You can sign me. I can't play, but I know the
game. Let me coach the boys.''
The idea seemed to strike Capt. Griffith
favorably. He prevailed upon all the boys living on
Madden's Hill to come out for practice after
school. Then he presented them to the managing
coach. The boys were inclined to poke fun at
Daddy Howarth and ridicule him; but the idea
was a novel one and they were in such a state of
subjection from many beatings that they welcomed
any change. Willie sat on a bench improvised
from a soap box and put them through a
drill of batting and fielding. The next day in his
coaching he included bunting and sliding. He
played his men in different positions and for three
more days he drove them unmercifully.
When Saturday came, the day for the game
with Bogg's Farm, a wild protest went up from
the boys. Willie experienced his first bitterness
as a manager. Out of forty aspirants for the
Madden's Hill team he could choose but nine to
play the game. And as a conscientious manager
he could use no favorites. Willie picked the best
players and assigned them to positions that, in
his judgment, were the best suited to them. Bob
Irvine wanted to play first base and he was down
for right field. Sam Wickhart thought he was the
fastest fielder, and Willie had him slated to catch.
Tom Lindsay's feelings were hurt because he was
not to play in the infield. Eddie Curtis suffered
a fall in pride when he discovered he was not down
to play second base. Jake Thomas, Tay-Tay
Mohler and Brick Grace all wanted to pitch. The
manager had chosen Frank Price for that
important position, and Frank's one ambition was
to be a shortstop.
So there was a deadlock. For a while there
seemed no possibility of a game. Willie sat on the
bench, the center of a crowd of discontented,
quarreling boys. Some were jealous, some were
outraged, some tried to pacify and persuade the
others. All were noisy. Lane Griffith stood by
his manager and stoutly declared the players
should play the positions to which they had been
assigned or not at all. And he was entering into
a hot argument with Tom Lindsay when the
Bogg's Farm team arrogantly put in an appearance.
The way that team from the country walked out
upon the field made a great difference. The spirit
of Madden's Hill roused to battle. The game began
swiftly and went on wildly. It ended almost
before the Hill boys realized it had commenced.
They did not know how they had won but they
gave Daddy Howarth credit for it. They had a
bonfire that night to celebrate the victory and
they talked baseball until their parents became
alarmed and hunted them up.
Madden's Hill practiced all that next week and
on Saturday beat the Seventh Ward team. In
four more weeks they had added half a dozen more
victories to their record. Their reputation went
abroad. They got uniforms, and baseball shoes
with spikes, and bats and balls and gloves. They
got a mask, but Sam Wickhart refused to catch
with it.
``Sam, one of these days you'll be stoppin' a
high inshoot with your eye,'' sagely remarked
Daddy Howarth. ``An' then where'll I get a
catcher for the Natchez game?''
Natchez was the one name on the lips of every
Madden's Hill boy. For Natchez had the great
team of the town and, roused by the growing
repute of the Hill club, had condescended to arrange
a game. When that game was scheduled for July
Fourth Daddy Howarth set to driving his men.
Early and late he had them out. This manager, in
keeping with all other famous managers, believed
that batting was the thing which won games. He
developed a hard-hitting team. He kept everlastingly
at them to hit and run, hit and run.
On the Saturday before the Fourth, Madden's
Hill had a game to play that did not worry
Daddy and he left his team in charge of the captain.
``Fellers, I'm goin' down to the Round House
to see Natchez play. I'll size up their game,''
said Daddy.
When he returned he was glad to find that his
team had won its ninth straight victory, but he
was not communicative in regard to the playing of
the Natchez club. He appeared more than usually
The Fourth fell on Tuesday. Daddy had the
boys out Monday and he let them take only a
short, sharp practice. Then he sent them home.
In his own mind, Daddy did not have much hope
of beating Natchez. He had been greatly
impressed by their playing, and one inning toward
the close of the Round House game they had
astonished him with the way they suddenly seemed
to break loose and deluge their opponents in a
flood of hits and runs. He could not understand
this streak of theirs--for they did the same thing
every time they played--and he was too good a
baseball student to call it luck.
He had never wanted anything in his life, not
even to have two good legs, as much as he wanted
to beat Natchez. For the Madden's Hill boys had
come to believe him infallible. He was their idol.
They imagined they had only to hit and run, to
fight and never give up, and Daddy would make
them win. There was not a boy on the team who
believed that Natchez had a chance. They had
grown proud and tenacious of their dearly won
reputation. First of all, Daddy thought of his
team and their loyalty to him; then he thought of
the glory lately come to Madden's Hill, and lastly
of what it meant to him to have risen from a lonely
watcher of the game--a cripple who could not even
carry a bat--to manager of the famous Hill team.
It might go hard with the boys to lose this game,
but it would break his heart.
From time out of mind there had always been
rivalry between Madden's Hill and Natchez. And
there is no rivalry so bitter as that between boys.
So Daddy, as he lay awake at night planning the
system of play he wanted to use, left out of all
account any possibility of a peaceful game. It
was comforting to think that if it came to a fight
Sam and Lane could hold their own with Bo
Stranathan and Slugger Blandy.
In the managing of his players Daddy observed
strict discipline. It was no unusual thing for him
to fine them. On practice days and off the field
they implicitly obeyed him. During actual play,
however, they had evinced a tendency to jump
over the traces. It had been his order for them
not to report at the field Tuesday until 2 o'clock.
He found it extremely difficult to curb his own
inclination to start before the set time. And only
the stern duty of a man to be an example to his
players kept Daddy at home.
He lived near the ball grounds, yet on this day,
as he hobbled along on his crutch, he thought the
distance interminably long, and for the first time
in weeks the old sickening resentment at his useless
leg knocked at his heart. Manfully Daddy
refused admittance to that old gloomy visitor.
He found comfort and forgetfulness in the thought
that no strong and swift-legged boy of his
acquaintance could do what he could do.
Upon arriving at the field Daddy was amazed
to see such a large crowd. It appeared that all
the boys and girls in the whole town were in
attendance, and, besides, there was a sprinkling of
grown-up people interspersed here and there
around the diamond. Applause greeted Daddy's
appearance and members of his team escorted him
to the soap-box bench.
Daddy cast a sharp eye over the Natchez players
practicing on the field. Bo Stranathan had
out his strongest team. They were not a prepossessing
nine. They wore soiled uniforms that did
not match in cut or color. But they pranced and
swaggered and strutted! They were boastful and
boisterous. It was a trial for any Madden's Hill
boy just to watch them.
``Wot a swelled bunch!'' exclaimed Tom Lindsay.
``Fellers, if Slugger Blandy tries to pull any
stunt on me today he'll get a swelleder nut,''
growled Lane Griffith.
``T-t-t-t-t-te-te-tell him t-t-t-to keep out of
m-m-m-my way an' not b-b-b-b-bl-block me,''
stuttered Tay-Tay Mohler.
``We're a-goin' to skin 'em,'' said Eddie Curtis.
``Cheese it, you kids, till we git in the game,''
ordered Daddy. ``Now, Madden's Hill, hang
round an' listen. I had to sign articles with
Natchez--had to let them have their umpire. So
we're up against it. But we'll hit this pitcher
Muckle Harris. He ain't got any steam. An' he
ain't got much nerve. Now every feller who goes
up to bat wants to talk to Muck. Call him a big
swelled stiff. Tell him he can't break a pane of
glass--tell him he can't put one over the pan--
tell him it he does you'll slam it down in the sand
bank. Bluff the whole team. Keep scrappy all
the time. See! That's my game today. This
Natchez bunch needs to be gone after. Holler at
the umpire. Act like you want to fight.''
Then Daddy sent his men out for practice.
``Boss, enny ground rules?'' inquired Bo
Stranathan. He was a big, bushy-haired boy with
a grin and protruding teeth. ``How many bases
on wild throws over first base an' hits over the
sand bank?''
``All you can get,'' replied Daddy, with a
magnanimous wave of hand.
``Huh! Lemmee see your ball?''
Daddy produced the ball that he had Lane had
made for the game.
``Huh! Watcher think? We ain 't goin' to play
with no mush ball like thet,'' protested Bo. ``We
play with a hard ball. Looka here! We'll trow
up the ball.''
Daddy remembered what he had heard about
the singular generosity of the Natchez team to
supply the balls for the games they played.
``We don't hev to pay nothin' fer them balls.
A man down at the Round House makes them for
us. They ain't no balls as good,'' explained Bo,
with pride.
However, as Bo did not appear eager to pass
over the balls for examination Daddy simply
reached out and took them. They were small,
perfectly round and as hard as bullets. They had no
covers. The yarn had been closely and tightly
wrapped and then stitched over with fine beeswaxed
thread. Daddy fancied he detected a
difference in the weight of the ball, but Bo took them
back before Daddy could be sure of that point.
``You don't have to fan about it. I know a ball
when I see one,'' observed Daddy. ``But we're
on our own grounds an' we'll use our own ball.
Thanks all the same to you, Stranathan.''
``Huh! All I gotta say is we'll play with my
ball er there won't be no game,'' said Bo suddenly.
Daddy shrewdly eyed the Natchez captain. Bo
did not look like a fellow wearing himself thin
from generosity. It struck Daddy that Bo's habit
of supplying the ball for the game might have
some relation to the fact that he always carried
along his own umpire. There was a strange
feature about this umpire business and it was that
Bo's man had earned a reputation for being
particularly fair. No boy ever had any real reason
to object to Umpire Gale's decisions. When Gale
umpired away from the Natchez grounds his close
decisions always favored the other team, rather
than his own. It all made Daddy keen and
``Stranathan, up here on Madden's Hill we
know how to treat visitors. We'll play with your
ball. . . . Now keep your gang of rooters from
crowdin' on the diamond.''
``Boss, it's your grounds. Fire 'em off if they
don't suit you. . . . Come on, let's git in the
game. Watcher want--field er bat?''
``Field,'' replied Daddy briefly.
Billy Gale called ``Play,'' and the game began
with Slugger Blandy at bat. The formidable way
in which he swung his club did not appear to have
any effect on Frank Price or the player back of
him. Frank's most successful pitch was a slow,
tantalizing curve, and he used it. Blandy lunged
at the ball, missed it and grunted.
``Frank, you got his alley,'' called Lane.
Slugger fouled the next one high in the air
back of the plate. Sam Wickhart, the stocky
bowlegged catcher, was a fiend for running after
foul flies, and now he plunged into the crowd of
boys, knocking them right and left, and he caught
the ball. Whisner came up and hit safely over
Griffith, whereupon the Natchez supporters began
to howl. Kelly sent a grounder to Grace at short
stop. Daddy's weak player made a poor throw to
first base, so the runner was safe. Then Bo
Stranathan batted a stinging ball through the
infield, scoring Whisner.
``Play the batter! Play the batter!'' sharply
called Daddy from the bench.
Then Frank struck out Molloy and retired
Dundon on an easy fly.
``Fellers, git in the game now,'' ordered Daddy,
as his players eagerly trotted in. ``Say things to
that Muckle Harris! We'll walk through this
game like sand through a sieve.''
Bob Irvin ran to the plate waving his bat at
``Put one over, you freckleface! I 've been dyin'
fer this chanst. You're on Madden's Hill now.''
Muckle evidently was not the kind of pitcher to
stand coolly under such bantering. Obviously he
was not used to it. His face grew red and his
hair waved up. Swinging hard, he threw the ball
straight at Bob's head. Quick as a cat, Bob
dropped flat.
``Never touched me!'' he chirped, jumping up
and pounding the plate with his bat. ``You couldn't
hit a barn door. Come on. I'll paste one a
Bob did not get an opportunity to hit, for Harris
could not locate the plate and passed him to first
on four balls.
``Dump the first one,'' whispered Daddy in
Grace's ear. Then he gave Bob a signal to run
on the first pitch.
Grace tried to bunt the first ball, but he missed
it. His attempt, however, was so violent that he
fell over in front of the catcher, who could not
recover in time to throw, and Bob got to second
base. At this juncture, the Madden's Hill band
of loyal supporters opened up with a mingling
of shrill yells and whistles and jangling of tin
cans filled with pebbles. Grace hit the next ball
into second base and, while he was being thrown
out, Bob raced to third. With Sam Wickhart up
it looked good for a score, and the crowd yelled
louder. Sam was awkward yet efficient, and he
batted a long fly to right field. The fielder muffed
the ball. Bob scored, Sam reached second base,
and the crowd yelled still louder. Then Lane
struck out and Mohler hit to shortstop, retiring
the side.
Natchez scored a run on a hit, a base on balls,
and another error by Grace. Every time a ball
went toward Grace at short Daddy groaned. In
their half of the inning Madden's Hill made two
runs, increasing the score 3 to 2.
The Madden's Hill boys began to show the
strain of such a close contest. If Daddy had
voiced aloud his fear it would have been: ``They'll
blow up in a minnit!'' Frank Price alone was
slow and cool, and he pitched in masterly style.
Natchez could not beat him. On the other hand,
Madden's Hill hit Muck Harris hard, but superb
fielding kept runners off the bases. As Daddy's
team became more tense and excited Bo Stranathan's
players grew steadier and more arrogantly
confident. Daddy saw it with distress, and he
could not realize just where Natchez had license
for such confidence. Daddy watched the game
with the eyes of a hawk.
As the Natchez players trooped in for their
sixth inning at bat, Daddy observed a marked
change in their demeanor. Suddenly they seemed
to have been let loose; they were like a band of
Indians. Daddy saw everything. He did not miss
seeing Umpire Gale take a ball from his pocket
and toss it to Frank, and Daddy wondered if that
was the ball which had been in the play. Straightway,
however, he forgot that in the interest of the
Bo Stranathan bawled: ``Wull, Injuns, hyar's
were we do 'em. We've jest ben loafin' along. Git
ready to tear the air, you rooters!''
Kelly hit a wonderfully swift ball through the
infield. Bo batted out a single. Malloy got up
in the way of one of Frank's pitches, and was
passed to first base. Then, as the Natchez crowd
opened up in shrill clamor, the impending disaster
fell. Dundon hit a bounder down into the infield.
The ball appeared to be endowed with life. It
bounded low, then high and, cracking into Grace's
hands, bounced out and rolled away. The runners
raced around the bases.
Pickens sent up a tremendous fly, the highest
ever batted on Madden's Hill. It went over Tom
Lindsay in center field, and Tom ran and ran.
The ball went so far up that Tom had time to
cover the ground, but he could not judge it. He
ran round in a little circle, with hands up in
bewilderment. And when the ball dropped it hit
him on the head and bounded away.
``Run, you Injun, run!'' bawled Bo. ``What'd
I tell you? We ain't got 'em goin', oh, no! Hittin'
'em on the head!''
Bill dropped a slow, teasing ball down the thirdbase
line. Jake Thomas ran desperately for it,
and the ball appeared to strike his hands and run
up his arms and caress his nose and wrap itself
round his neck and then roll gently away. All the
while, the Natchez runners tore wildly about the
bases and the Natchez supporters screamed and
whistled. Muck Harris could not bat, yet he hit
the first ball and it shot like a bullet over the
infield. Then Slugger Blandy came to the plate.
he ball he sent out knocked Grace's leg from
under him as if it were a ten-pin. Whisner
popped a fly over Tay Tay Mohler's head. Now
Tay Tay was fat and slow, but he was a sure
catch. He got under the ball. It struck his hands
and jumped back twenty feet up into the air. It
was a strangely live ball. Kelly again hit to
shortstop, and the ball appeared to start slow,
to gather speed with every bound and at last to
dart low and shoot between Grace's legs.
``Haw! Haw!'' roared Bo. ``They've got a
hole at short. Hit fer the hole, fellers. Watch
me! Jest watch me!''
And he swung hard on the first pitch. The ball
glanced like a streak straight at Grace, took a
vicious jump, and seemed to flirt with the infielder's
hands, only to evade them.
Malloy fouled a pitch and the ball hit Sam
Wickhart square over the eye. Sam's eye popped out
and assumed the proportions and color of a huge
``Hey!'' yelled Blandy, the rival catcher. ``Air
you ketchin' with yer mug?''
Sam would not delay the game nor would he don
the mask.
Daddy sat hunched on his soap-box, and, as in
a hateful dream, he saw his famous team go to
pieces. He put his hands over his ears to shut out
some of the uproar. And he watched that little
yarn ball fly and shoot and bound and roll to
crush his fondest hopes. Not one of his players
appeared able to hold it. And Grace had holes
in his hands and legs and body. The ball went
right through him. He might as well have been
so much water. Instead of being a shortstop he
was simply a hole. After every hit Daddy saw
that ball more and more as something alive. It
sported with his infielders. It bounded like a
huge jack-rabbit, and went swifter and higher at
every bound. It was here, there, everywhere.
And it became an infernal ball. It became
endowed with a fiendish propensity to run up a
player's leg and all about him, as if trying to hide
in his pocket. Grace's efforts to find it were
heartbreaking to watch. Every time it bounded
out to center field, which was of frequent
occurrence, Tom would fall on it and hug it as if he
were trying to capture a fleeing squirrel. Tay
Tay Mohler could stop the ball, but that was no
great credit to him, for his hands took no part in
the achievement. Tay Tay was fat and the ball
seemed to like him. It boomed into his stomach
and banged against his stout legs. When Tay saw
it coming he dropped on his knees and valorously
sacrificed his anatomy to the cause of the game.
Daddy tried not to notice the scoring of runs
by his opponents. But he had to see them and he
had to count. Ten runs were as ten blows! After
that each run scored was like a stab in his heart.
The play went on, a terrible fusilade of wicked
ground balls that baffled any attempt to field them.
Then, with nineteen runs scored, Natchez appeared
to tire. Sam caught a foul fly, and Tay
Tay, by obtruding his wide person to the path of
infield hits, managed to stop them, and throw out
the runners.
Score--Natchez, 21; Madden Hill, 3.
Daddy's boys slouched and limped wearily in.
``Wot kind of a ball's that?'' panted Tom, as
he showed his head with a bruise as large as a
``T-t-t-t-ta-ta-tay-tay-tay-tay----'' began Mohler,
in great excitement, but as he could not
finish what he wanted to say no one caught
his meaning.
Daddy's watchful eye had never left that
wonderful, infernal little yarn ball. Daddy was
crushed under defeat, but his baseball brains still
continued to work. He saw Umpire Gale leisurely
step into the pitcher's box, and leisurely pick up
the ball and start to make a motion to put it in
his pocket.
Suddenly fire flashed all over Daddy.
``Hyar! Don't hide that ball!'' he yelled, in
his piercing tenor.
He jumped up quickly, forgetting his crutch,
and fell headlong. Lane and Sam got him upright
and handed the crutch to him. Daddy began
to hobble out to the pitcher's box.
``Don't you hide that ball. See! I've got my
eye on this game. That ball was in play, an' you
can't use the other.''
Umpire Gale looked sheepish, and his eyes did
not meet Daddy's. Then Bo came trotting up.
``What's wrong, boss?'' he asked.
``Aw, nuthin'. You're tryin' to switch balls on
me. That's all. You can't pull off any stunts on
Madden's Hill.''
``Why, boss, thet ball's all right. What you
hollerin' about?''
``Sure that ball's all right,'' replied Daddy.
``It's a fine ball. An' we want a chanst to hit it!
Bo flared up and tried to bluster, but Daddy cut
him short.
``Give us our innin'--let us git a whack at that
ball, or I'll run you off Madden's Hill.''
Bo suddenly looked a little pale and sick.
``Course youse can git a whack at it,'' he said,
in a weak attempt to be natural and dignified.
Daddy tossed the ball to Harris, and as he
hobbled off the field he heard Bo calling out low
and cautiously to his players. Then Daddy was
certain he had discovered a trick. He called his
players around him.
``This game ain't over yet. It ain't any more'n
begun. I'll tell you what. Last innin' Bo's
umpire switched balls on us. That ball was lively.
An' they tried to switch back on me. But nix!
We're goin' to git a chanst to hit that lively ball,
An' they're goin' to git a dose of their own
medicine. Now, you dead ones--come back to life!
Show me some hittin' an' runnin'.''
``Daddy, you mean they run in a trick on us?''
demanded Lane, with flashing eyes.
``Funny about Natchez's strong finishes!''
replied Daddy, coolly, as he eyed his angry players.
They let out a roar, and then ran for the bats.
The crowd, quick to sense what was in the air,
thronged to the diamond and manifested alarming
signs of outbreak.
Sam Wickhart leaped to the plate and bandished
his club.
``Sam, let him pitch a couple,'' called Daddy
from the bench. ``Mebbe we'll git wise then.''
Harris had pitched only twice when the fact
became plain that he could not throw this ball
with the same speed as the other. The ball was
heavier; besides Harris was also growing tired.
The next pitch Sam hit far out over the center
fielder's head for a home run. It was a longer
hit than any Madden's Hill boy had ever made.
The crowd shrieked its delight. Sam crossed the
plate and then fell on the bench beside Daddy.
``Say! that ball nearly knocked the bat out of
my hands,'' panted Sam. ``It made the bat
``Fellers, don't wait,'' ordered Daddy. ``Don't
give the umpire a chanst to roast us now. Slam
the first ball!''
The aggressive captain lined the ball at Bo
Stranathan. The Natchez shortstop had a fine
opportunity to make the catch, but he made an
inglorious muff. Tay Tay hurried to bat. Umpire
Gale called the first pitch a strike. Tay
slammed down his club. ``T-t-t-t-to-to-twasn't
over,'' he cried. ``T-t-t-tay----''
``Shut up,'' yelled Daddy. ``We want to git
this game over today.''
Tay Tay was fat and he was also strong, so that
when beef and muscle both went hard against the
ball it traveled. It looked as if it were going a
mile straight up. All the infielders ran to get
under it. They got into a tangle, into which the
ball descended. No one caught it, and thereupon
the Natchez players began to rail at one another.
Bo stormed at them, and they talked back to him.
Then when Tom Lindsay hit a little slow grounder
into the infield it seemed that a just retribution
had overtaken the great Natchez team.
Ordinarily this grounder of Tom's would have
been easy for a novice to field. But this peculiar
grounder, after it has hit the ground once, seemed
to wake up and feel lively. It lost its leisurely
action and began to have celerity. When it reached
Dundon it had the strange, jerky speed so
characteristic of the grounders that had confused the
Madden's Hill team. Dundon got his hands on
the ball and it would not stay in them. When
finally he trapped it Tom had crossed first base
and another runner had scored. Eddie Curtis
cracked another at Bo. The Natchez captain
dove for it, made a good stop, bounced after the
rolling ball, and then threw to Kelly at first. The
ball knocked Kelly's hands apart as if they had
been paper. Jake Thomas batted left handed and
he swung hard on a slow pitch and sent the ball
far into right field. Runners scored. Jake's hit
was a three-bagger. Then Frank Price hit up an
infield fly. Bo yelled for Dundon to take it and
Dundon yelled for Harris. They were all afraid
to try for it. It dropped safely while Jake ran
With the heavy batters up the excitement
increased. A continuous scream and incessant
rattle of tin cans made it impossible to hear what
the umpire called out. But that was not important,
for he seldom had a chance to call either ball
or strike. Harris had lost his speed and nearly
every ball he pitched was hit by the Madden's
Hill boys. Irvine cracked one down between short
and third. Bo and Pickens ran for it and collided
while the ball jauntily skipped out to left field
and, deftly evading Bell, went on and on. Bob
reached third. Grace hit another at Dundon, who
appeared actually to stop it four times before he
could pick it up, and then he was too late. The
doughty bow-legged Sam, with his huge black eye,
hung over the plate and howled at Muckle. In
the din no one heard what he said, but evidently
Muck divined it. For he roused to the spirit of
a pitcher who would die of shame if he could not
fool a one-eyed batter. But Sam swooped down
and upon the first ball and drove it back toward
the pitcher. Muck could not get out of the way
and the ball made his leg buckle under him. Then
that hit glanced off to begin a marvelous exhibition
of high and erratic bounding about the infield.
Daddy hunched over his soap-box bench and
hugged himself. He was farsighted and he saw
victory. Again he watched the queer antics of that
little yarn ball, but now with different feelings.
Every hit seemed to lift him to the skies. He kept
silent, though every time the ball fooled a Natchez
player Daddy wanted to yell. And when it started
for Bo and, as if in revenge, bounded wickeder at
every bounce to skip off the grass and make Bo
look ridiculous, then Daddy experienced the
happiest moments of his baseball career. Every time
a tally crossed the plate he would chalk it down
on his soap box.
But when Madden's Hill scored the nineteenth
run without a player being put out, then Daddy
lost count. He gave himself up to revel. He sat
motionless and silent; nevertheless his whole
internal being was in the state of wild tumult. It
was as if he was being rewarded in joy for all
the misery he had suffered because he was a cripple.
He could never play baseball. but he had
baseball brains. He had been too wise for the
tricky Stranathan. He was the coach and manager
and general of the great Madden's Hill nine.
If ever he had to lie awake at night again he would
not mourn over his lameness; he would have something
to think about. To him would be given the
glory of beating the invincible Natchez team. So
Daddy felt the last bitterness leave him. And he
watched that strange little yarn ball, with its
wonderful skips and darts and curves. The longer
the game progressed and the wearier Harris
grew, the harder the Madden's Hill boys batted
the ball and the crazier it bounced at Bo and his
sick players. Finally, Tay Tay Mohler hit a teasing
grounder down to Bo.
Then it was as if the ball, realizing a climax,
made ready for a final spurt. When Bo reached
for the ball it was somewhere else. Dundon could
not locate it. And Kelly, rushing down to the
chase, fell all over himself and his teammates
trying to grasp the illusive ball, and all the time Tay
Tay was running. He never stopped. But as he
was heavy and fat he did not make fast time on
the bases. Frantically the outfielders ran in to
head off the bouncing ball, and when they had
succeeded Tay Tay had performed the remarkable
feat of making a home run on a ball batted into
the infield.
That broke Natchez's spirit. They quit. They
hurried for their bats. Only Bo remained behind
a moment to try to get his yarn ball. But Sam
had pounced upon it and given it safely to Daddy.
Bo made one sullen demand for it.
``Funny about them fast finishes of yours!'' said
Daddy scornfully. ``Say! the ball's our'n. The
winnin' team gits the ball. Go home an' look up
the rules of the game!''
Bo slouched off the field to a shrill hooting and
tin canning.
``Fellers, what was the score?'' asked Daddy.
Nobody knew the exact number of runs made
by Madden's Hill.
``Gimme a knife, somebody,'' said the manager.
When it had been produced Daddy laid down
the yarn ball and cut into it. The blade entered
readily for a inch and then stopped. Daddy cut
all around the ball, and removed the cover of
tightly wrapped yarn. Inside was a solid ball of
India rubber.
``Say! it ain't so funny now--how that ball
bounced,'' remarked Daddy.
``Wot you think of that!'' exclaimed Tom, feeling
the lump on his head.
``T-t-t-t-t-t-t-ta-tr----'' began Tay Tay Mohler.
``Say it! Say it!'' interrupted Daddy.
``Ta-ta-ta-tr-trimmed them wa-wa-wa-wa-with
their own b-b-b-b-b-ba-ba-ball,'' finished Tay.
He bought a ticket at the 25-cent window, and
edging his huge bulk through the turnstile, laboriously
followed the noisy crowd toward the bleachers.
I could not have been mistaken. He was Old
Well-Well, famous from Boston to Baltimore as
the greatest baseball fan in the East. His singular
yell had pealed into the ears of five hundred
thousand worshippers of the national game and would
never be forgotten.
At sight of him I recalled a friend's baseball
talk. ``You remember Old Well-Well? He's all
in--dying, poor old fellow! It seems young Burt,
whom the Phillies are trying out this spring, is
Old Well-Well's nephew and protege. Used to
play on the Murray Hill team; a speedy youngster.
When the Philadelphia team was here last,
Manager Crestline announced his intention to play
Burt in center field. Old Well-Well was too ill
to see the lad get his tryout. He was heart-broken
and said: `If I could only see one more game!' ''
The recollection of this random baseball gossip
and the fact that Philadelphia was scheduled to
play New York that very day, gave me a sudden
desire to see the game with Old Well-Well. I did not
know him, but where on earth were introductions
as superfluous as on the bleachers? It was a very
easy matter to catch up with him. He walked
slowly, leaning hard on a cane and his wide shoulders
sagged as he puffed along. I was about to
make some pleasant remark concerning the prospects
of a fine game, when the sight of his face
shocked me and I drew back. If ever I had seen
shadow of pain and shade of death they hovered
darkly around Old Well-Well.
No one accompanied him; no one seemed to
recognize him. The majority of that merry crowd
of boys and men would have jumped up wild with
pleasure to hear his well-remembered yell. Not
much longer than a year before, I had seen ten
thousand fans rise as one man and roar a greeting
to him that shook the stands. So I was
confronted by a situation strikingly calculated to
rouse my curiosity and sympathy.
He found an end seat on a row at about the
middle of the right-field bleachers and I chose
one across the aisle and somewhat behind him.
No players were yet in sight. The stands were
filling up and streams of men were filing into the
aisles of the bleachers and piling over the benches.
Old Well-Well settled himself comfortably in his
seat and gazed about him with animation. There
had come a change to his massive features. The
hard lines had softened; the patches of gray
were no longer visible; his cheeks were ruddy;
something akin to a smile shone on his face as he
looked around, missing no detail of the familiar
During the practice of the home team Old Well-
Well sat still with his big hands on his knees; but
when the gong rang for the Phillies, he grew restless,
squirming in his seat and half rose several
times. I divined the importuning of his old habit
to greet his team with the yell that had made him
famous. I expected him to get up; I waited for
it. Gradually, however, he became quiet as a man
governed by severe self-restraint and directed his
attention to the Philadelphia center fielder.
At a glance I saw that the player was new to
me and answered the newspaper description of
young Burt. What a lively looking athlete! He
was tall, lithe, yet sturdy. He did not need to
chase more than two fly balls to win me. His
graceful, fast style reminded me of the great Curt
Welch. Old Well-Well's face wore a rapt
expression. I discovered myself hoping Burt would
make good; wishing he would rip the boards off
the fence; praying he would break up the game.
It was Saturday, and by the time the gong
sounded for the game to begin the grand stand
and bleachers were packed. The scene was glittering,
colorful, a delight to the eye. Around the
circle of bright faces rippled a low, merry
murmur. The umpire, grotesquely padded in front
by his chest protector, announced the batteries,
dusted the plate, and throwing out a white ball,
sang the open sesame of the game: ``Play!''
Then Old Well-Well arose as if pushed from his
seat by some strong propelling force. It had been
his wont always when play was ordered or in a
moment of silent suspense, or a lull in the
applause, or a dramatic pause when hearts heat high
and lips were mute, to bawl out over the listening,
waiting multitude his terrific blast: ``Well-Well-
Twice he opened his mouth, gurgled and
choked, and then resumed his seat with a very
red, agitated face; something had deterred him
from his purpose, or he had been physically
incapable of yelling.
The game opened with White's sharp bounder
to the infield. Wesley had three strikes called on
him, and Kelly fouled out to third base. The
Phillies did no better, being retired in one, two,
three order. The second inning was short and no
tallies were chalked up. Brain hit safely in the
third and went to second on a sacrifice. The
bleachers began to stamp and cheer. He reached
third on an infield hit that the Philadelphia shortstop
knocked down but could not cover in time
to catch either runner. The cheer in the grand
stand was drowned by the roar in the bleachers.
Brain scored on a fly-ball to left. A double along
the right foul line brought the second runner
home. Following that the next batter went out
on strikes.
In the Philadelphia half of the inning young
Burt was the first man up. He stood left-handed
at the plate and looked formidable. Duveen, the
wary old pitcher for New York, to whom this new
player was an unknown quantity, eyed his easy
position as if reckoning on a possible weakness.
Then he took his swing and threw the ball. Burt
never moved a muscle and the umpire called strike.
The next was a ball, the next a strike; still Burt
had not moved.
``Somebody wake him up!'' yelled a wag in the
bleachers. ``He's from Slumbertown, all right, all
right!'' shouted another.
Duveen sent up another ball, high and swift.
Burt hit straight over the first baseman, a line
drive that struck the front of the right-field
``Peacherino!'' howled a fan.
Here the promise of Burt's speed was fulfilled.
Run! He was fleet as a deer. He cut through
first like the wind, settled to a driving strides
rounded second, and by a good, long slide beat
the throw in to third. The crowd, who went to
games to see long hits and daring runs, gave him
a generous hand-clapping.
Old Well-Well appeared on the verge of apoplexy.
His ruddy face turned purple, then black;
he rose in his seat; he gave vent to smothered
gasps; then he straightened up and clutched his
hands into his knees.
Burt scored his run on a hit to deep short, an
infielder's choice, with the chances against retiring
a runner at the plate. Philadelphia could not
tally again that inning. New York blanked in the
first of the next. For their opponents, an error,
a close decision at second favoring the runner,
and a single to right tied the score. Bell of New
York got a clean hit in the opening of the fifth.
With no one out and chances for a run, the
impatient fans let loose. Four subway trains in
collision would not have equalled the yell and stamp
in the bleachers. Maloney was next to bat and
he essayed a bunt. This the fans derided with
hoots and hisses. No team work, no inside ball
for them.
``Hit it out!'' yelled a hundred in unison.
``Home run!'' screamed a worshipper of long
As if actuated by the sentiments of his admirers
Maloney lined the ball over short. It looked good
for a double; it certainly would advance Bell to
third; maybe home. But no one calculated on
Burt. His fleetness enabled him to head the
bounding ball. He picked it up cleanly, and
checking his headlong run, threw toward third base.
Bell was half way there. The ball shot straight
and low with terrific force and beat the runner to
the bag.
``What a great arm!'' I exclaimed, deep in my
throat. ``It's the lad's day! He can't be
The keen newsboy sitting below us broke the
amazed silence in the bleachers.
``Wot d'ye tink o' that?''
Old Well-Well writhed in his seat. To him if
was a one-man game, as it had come to be for me.
I thrilled with him; I gloried in the making good
of his protege; it got to be an effort on my part
to look at the old man, so keenly did his emotion
communicate itself to me.
The game went on, a close, exciting, brilliantly
fought battle. Both pitchers were at their best.
The batters batted out long flies, low liners, and
sharp grounders; the fielders fielded these difficult
chances without misplay. Opportunities came
for runs, but no runs were scored for several
innings. Hopes were raised to the highest pitch
only to be dashed astonishingly away. The crowd
in the grand stand swayed to every pitched ball;
the bleachers tossed like surf in a storm.
To start the eighth, Stranathan of New York
tripled along the left foul line. Thunder burst
from the fans and rolled swellingly around the
field. Before the hoarse yelling, the shrill
hooting, the hollow stamping had ceased Stranathan
made home on an infield hit. Then bedlam broke
loose. It calmed down quickly, for the fans sensed
trouble between Binghamton, who had been
thrown out in the play, and the umpire who was
waving him back to the bench.
``You dizzy-eyed old woman, you can't see
straight!'' called Binghamton.
The umpire's reply was lost, but it was evident
that the offending player had been ordered out of
the grounds.
Binghamton swaggered along the bleachers
while the umpire slowly returned to his post. The
fans took exception to the player's objection and
were not slow in expressing it. Various witty
enconiums, not to be misunderstood, attested to
the bleachers' love of fair play and their disgust
at a player's getting himself put out of the game
at a critical stage.
The game proceeded. A second batter had been
thrown out. Then two hits in succession looked
good for another run. White, the next batter,
sent a single over second base. Burt scooped the
ball on the first bounce and let drive for the plate.
It was another extraordinary throw. Whether
ball or runner reached home base first was most
difficult to decide. The umpire made his sweeping
wave of hand and the breathless crowd caught
his decision.
In action and sound the circle of bleachers
resembled a long curved beach with a mounting
breaker thundering turbulently high.
``Rob--b--ber--r!'' bawled the outraged fans,
betraying their marvelous inconsistency.
Old Well-Well breathed hard. Again the
wrestling of his body signified an inward strife. I
began to feel sure that the man was in a mingled
torment of joy and pain, that he fought the maddening
desire to yell because he knew he had not
the strength to stand it. Surely, in all the years
of his long following of baseball he had never had
the incentive to express himself in his peculiar
way that rioted him now. Surely, before the game
ended he would split the winds with his wonderful
Duveen's only base on balls, with the help of
a bunt, a steal, and a scratch hit, resulted in a run
for Philadelphia, again tying the score. How the
fans raged at Fuller for failing to field the lucky
``We had the game on ice!'' one cried.
``Get him a basket!''
New York men got on bases in the ninth and
made strenuous efforts to cross the plate, but it
was not to be. Philadelphia opened up with two
scorching hits and then a double steal. Burt came
up with runners on second and third. Half the
crowd cheered in fair appreciation of the way fate
was starring the ambitious young outfielder; the
other half, dyed-in-the-wool home-team fans, bent
forward in a waiting silent gloom of fear. Burt
knocked the dirt out of his spikes and faced
Duveen. The second ball pitched he met fairly and
it rang like a bell.
No one in the stands saw where it went. But
they heard the crack, saw the New York shortstop
stagger and then pounce forward to pick up the
ball and speed it toward the plate. The catcher
was quick to tag the incoming runner, and then
snap the ball to first base, completing a double
When the crowd fully grasped this, which was
after an instant of bewilderment, a hoarse crashing
roar rolled out across the field to bellow back
in loud echo from Coogan's Bluff. The grand
stand resembled a colored corn field waving in a
violent wind; the bleachers lost all semblance of
anything. Frenzied, flinging action--wild chaos
--shrieking cries--manifested sheer insanity of
When the noise subsided, one fan, evidently
a little longer-winded than his comrades, cried out
``O-h! I don't care what becomes of me--
Score tied, three to three, game must go ten
innings--that was the shibboleth; that was the
overmastering truth. The game did go ten innings--
eleven--twelve, every one marked by masterly
pitching, full of magnificent catches, stops
and throws, replete with reckless base-running
and slides like flashes in the dust. But they were
unproductive of runs. Three to three! Thirteen
``Unlucky thirteenth,'' wailed a superstitious
I had got down to plugging, and for the first
time, not for my home team. I wanted Philadelphia
to win, because Burt was on the team. With
Old Well-Well sitting there so rigid in his seat,
so obsessed by the playing of the lad, I turned
traitor to New York.
White cut a high twisting bounder inside the
third base, and before the ball could be returned
he stood safely on second. The fans howled with
what husky voice they had left. The second hitter
batted a tremendously high fly toward center field.
Burt wheeled with the crack of the ball and raced
for the ropes. Onward the ball soared like a sailing
swallow; the fleet fielder ran with his back to
the stands. What an age that ball stayed in the
air! Then it lost its speed, gracefully curved and
began to fall. Burt lunged forward and upwards;
the ball lit in his hands and stuck there as he
plunged over the ropes into the crowd. White
had leisurely trotted half way to third; he saw the
catch, ran back to touch second and then easily
made third on the throw-in. The applause that
greeted Burt proved the splendid spirit of the
game. Bell placed a safe little hit over short,
scoring White. Heaving, bobbing bleachers--
wild, broken, roar on roar!
Score four to three--only one half inning left
for Philadelphia to play--how the fans rooted for
another run! A swift double-play, however, ended
the inning.
Philadelphia's first hitter had three strikes
called on him.
``Asleep at the switch!'' yelled a delighted fan.
The next batter went out on a weak pop-up fly
to second.
``Nothin' to it!''
``Oh, I hate to take this money!''
``All-l o-over!''
Two men at least of all that vast assemblage
had not given up victory for Philadelphia. I had
not dared to look at Old Well-Well for a long,
while. I dreaded the nest portentious moment.
I felt deep within me something like clairvoyant
force, an intangible belief fostered by hope.
Magoon, the slugger of the Phillies, slugged
one against the left field bleachers, but, being
heavy and slow, he could not get beyond second
base. Cless swung with all his might at the first
pitched ball, and instead of hitting it a mile as
he had tried, he scratched a mean, slow, teasing
grounder down the third base line. It was as
safe as if it had been shot out of a cannon. Magoon
went to third.
The crowd suddenly awoke to ominous possibilities;
sharp commands came from the players'
bench. The Philadelphia team were bowling and
hopping on the side lines, and had to be put down
by the umpire.
An inbreathing silence fell upon stands and
field, quiet, like a lull before a storm.
When I saw young Burt start for the plate and
realized it was his turn at bat, I jumped as if I
had been shot. Putting my hand on Old Well-
Well's shoulder I whispered: ``Burt's at bat:
He'll break up this game! I know he's going to
lose one!''
The old fellow did not feel my touch; he did not
hear my voice; he was gazing toward the field
with an expression on his face to which no human
speech could render justice. He knew what was
coming. It could not be denied him in that moment.
How confidently young Burt stood up to the
plate! None except a natural hitter could have
had his position. He might have been Wagner
for all he showed of the tight suspense of that
crisis. Yet there was a tense alert poise to his
head and shoulders which proved he was alive to
his opportunity.
Duveen plainly showed he was tired. Twice he
shook his head to his catcher, as if he did not
want to pitch a certain kind of ball. He had to
use extra motion to get his old speed, and he
delivered a high straight ball that Burt fouled over
the grand stand. The second ball met a similar
fate. All the time the crowd maintained that
strange waiting silence. The umpire threw out a
glistening white ball, which Duveen rubbed in the
dust and spat upon. Then he wound himself up
into a knot, slowly unwound, and swinging with
effort, threw for the plate.
Burt's lithe shoulders swung powerfully. The
meeting of ball and bat fairly cracked. The low
driving hit lined over second a rising glittering
streak, and went far beyond the center fielder.
Bleachers and stands uttered one short cry,
almost a groan, and then stared at the speeding
runners. For an instant, approaching doom could
not have been more dreaded. Magoon scored.
Cless was rounding second when the ball lit. If
Burt was running swiftly when he turned first he
had only got started, for then his long sprinter's
stride lengthened and quickened. At second he
was flying; beyond second he seemed to merge
into a gray flitting shadow.
I gripped my seat strangling the uproar within
me. Where was the applause? The fans were
silent, choked as I was, but from a different cause.
Cless crossed the plate with the score that
defeated New York; still the tension never laxed
until Burt beat the ball home in as beautiful a run
as ever thrilled an audience.
In the bleak dead pause of amazed disappointment
Old Well-Well lifted his hulking figure and
loomed, towered over the bleachers. His wide
shoulders spread, his broad chest expanded, his
breath whistled as he drew it in. One fleeting
instant his transfigured face shone with a glorious
light. Then, as he threw back his head and
opened his lips, his face turned purple, the muscles
of his cheeks and jaw rippled and strung, the veins
on his forehead swelled into bulging ridges. Even
the back of his neck grew red.
Ear-splitting stentorian blast! For a moment
I was deafened. But I heard the echo ringing
from the cliff, a pealing clarion call, beautiful and
wonderful, winding away in hollow reverberation,
then breaking out anew from building to
building in clear concatenation.
A sea of faces whirled in the direction of that
long unheard yell. Burt had stopped statue-like
as if stricken in his tracks; then he came running,
darting among the spectators who had leaped the
Old Well-Well stood a moment with slow glance
lingering on the tumult of emptying bleachers, on
the moving mingling colors in the grand stand,
across the green field to the gray-clad players.
He staggered forward and fell.
Before I could move, a noisy crowd swarmed
about him, some solicitous, many facetious.
Young Burt leaped the fence and forced his way
into the circle. Then they were carrying the old
man down to the field and toward the clubhouse.
I waited until the bleachers and field were
empty. When I finally went out there was a crowd
at the gate surrounding an ambulance. I caught
a glimpse of Old Well-Well. He lay white and
still, but his eyes were open, smiling intently.
Young Burt hung over him with a pale and agitated
face. Then a bell clanged and the ambulance
clattered away.

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