Part 3 out of 5
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 ball-
player 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
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
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 ball-
players 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 third-
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 key-
note. And the bleachers rose to their feet and
gave the Rube the rousing cheer of the brotherhood
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
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
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
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
``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 grand-
stand 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 sun-
tanned 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.
``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
``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.''
``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 well-
dressed 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 right-
field 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 score-
card 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 roped-
in-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 winged-
footed 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 foul-
line 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 heart-
rending 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 main-
stay 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 base-
stealing 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
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
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 over-
powering; 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
``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 self-
``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
``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
``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.''
THE WINNING BALL
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
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 seven-
For a moment there was a blank, ominous
silence, while we assimilated the meaning of his
``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 ``Charley-
horse.'' 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, high-
salaried 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
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
``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 horse-
hide 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 in-
shoots 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 team-
mates, ``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
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
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
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
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
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
``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
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
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
``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-front-
of-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 fellow-
players 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,''
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
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
``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
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