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´╗┐Title: Baseball Joe in the Big League - or, A Young Pitcher's Hardest Struggles
Author: Chadwick, Lester
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Baseball Joe in the Big League - or, A Young Pitcher's Hardest Struggles" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: HE BEAT THE BALL BY A NARROW MARGIN, AND WAS DECLARED
SAFE. Page 245.]



    Baseball Joe in
    the Big League
    OR
    A Young Pitcher's Hardest Struggles

    _By_ LESTER CHADWICK

    AUTHOR OF
    "BASEBALL JOE OF THE SILVER STARS,"
    "BASEBALL JOE AT YALE,"
    "BASEBALL JOE IN THE CENTRAL LEAGUE,"
    "THE RIVAL PITCHERS,"
    "THE EIGHT-OARED VICTORS," ETC.

    _ILLUSTRATED_

    NEW YORK
    CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY

    Copyright, 1915, by
    CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY

    Baseball Joe in the Big League
    Printed in U. S. A.



    CONTENTS

    CHAPTER                                   PAGE

          I    TWO LETTERS                       1

         II    TO THE RESCUE                    11

        III    AN UPSET                         19

         IV    AN APPEAL                        30

          V    THE THREAT                       38

         VI    A WARNING                        46

        VII    BASEBALL TALK                    54

       VIII    THE QUARREL                      61

         IX    JOE IS DRAFTED                   70

          X    OFF TO ST. LOUIS                 77

         XI    GOING DOWN SOUTH                 87

        XII    THE QUARRELING MAN               97

       XIII    UNDER SUNNY SKIES               103

        XIV    HARD WORK                       112

         XV    ANOTHER THREAT                  122

        XVI    JOE'S TRIUMPH                   129

       XVII    "PLAY BALL!"                    140

      XVIII    HOT WORDS                       148

        XIX    JOE GOES IN                     153

         XX    STAGE FRIGHT                    162

        XXI    A QUEER MESSAGE                 175

       XXII    IN DANGER                       182

      XXIII    A LAME ARM                      191

       XXIV    A TIGHT GAME                    201

        XXV    IN NEW YORK                     208

       XXVI    ADRIFT                          217

      XXVII    THE RESCUE                      223

     XXVIII    MOVING PICTURES                 229

       XXIX    SHALLEG'S DOWNFALL              234

        XXX    THE HARDEST BATTLE              240



BASEBALL JOE IN THE BIG LEAGUE



CHAPTER I

TWO LETTERS


"Whew!" whistled Joe Matson, the astonishment on his bronzed face being
indicated by his surprised exclamation of:

"Well, what do you know about that, Sis?"

"What is it, Joe?" asked his sister Clara, as she looked up from a
letter she was reading to see her brother staring at a sheet of paper he
had just withdrawn from an envelope, for the morning mail had been
delivered a few minutes before. "What is it?" the girl went on, laying
aside her own correspondence. "Is it anything serious--anything about
father's business? Don't tell me there is more trouble, Joe!"

"I'm not going to, Clara. It isn't trouble, but, if what he says is
true, it's going to make a big difference to me," and Joe looked out of
the window, across a snowy expanse of yard, and gazed at, without
consciously seeing, a myriad of white flakes swirling down through the
wintry air.

"No, it isn't exactly trouble," went on Joe, "and I suppose I ought to
be corkingly glad of it; but I hadn't counted on leaving the Central
Baseball League quite so soon."

"Oh, Joe! Have you lost your place?" exclaimed Clara. "And just after
you have done so well, too; and helped them win the pennant! I call that
a shame! I thought baseball men were better 'sports' than that."

"Listen to her--my little sister using slang!" laughed Joe.

"'Sports' isn't slang," defended Clara. "I've heard lots of girls use
it. I mean it in the right sense. But have you really lost your place on
the team, Joe?"

"Well, not exactly, Sis, but I'm about to, I'm afraid. However, I guess
I may as well make the best of it, and be glad. I sure can use the extra
money!"

"I certainly don't know what you're talking about," went on Clara, with
a helpless look at her big, handsome brother, "and I suppose you'll take
your own time in telling me. But I _would_ like to know what it all
means, Joe. And about extra money. Who's going to give it to you?"

"Nobody. I'll have to earn it with this pitching arm of mine," and the
young baseball player swung it around, as though "winding-up" for a
swift delivery.

"Look out, Joe!" cried Clara, but she gave the warning too late.

At that moment Mrs. Matson entered the room with a jug of water, which
she intended pouring on a window-box of flowers. Joe's arm struck the
jug a glancing blow, and sent it flying, the water spraying over the
floor, and the jug itself falling, and cracking into many pieces.

For a moment there was a momentous silence, after two startled
screams--one each from Mrs. Matson and Clara. Then Joe cried gaily:

"Out at first! Say, Momsey, I hope I didn't hit you!"

"No, you didn't," and she laughed now. "But what does it all mean? Are
you practicing so early in the season? Oh, my carpet! It will be
ruined!" she went on, as she saw the water. "But I'm glad I didn't bring
in a good jug. Did you hurt your hand?"

"Nary a hurt," said Joe, with a smile. "Ha! I'll save _you_ from a
wetting!" he exclaimed, as he stooped quickly and picked up an unopened
letter, the address of which was in a girlish hand.

"Get the mop, while you're at it," advised Clara. A little later Joe had
sopped up the water, and quiet was restored.

"And now suppose you tell us all about it," suggested Mrs. Mason. "Why
were you practicing gymnastics, Joe?" and she smiled at her athletic
son.

"I was just telling Clara that my pitching arm was likely to bring me in
more money this year, Momsey, and I was giving it a twirl, when you
happened to get in my way. Now I'll tell you all about it. It's this
letter," and Joe held out the one he had been reading.

"Are you sure it isn't the _other_?" asked Clara, with a sly look at her
brother, for she had glanced at the writing on the unopened envelope Joe
had picked up from the floor. "Let me read that other letter, Joe," she
teased.

"A little later--maybe!" he parried. "But this one," and he fluttered
the open sheet in his hand, "this one is from Mr. Gregory, manager of
the Pittston team, with whom I have the honor to be associated," and Joe
bowed low to his mother and sister. "Mr. Gregory gives me a bit of news.
It is nothing less than that the manager of the St. Louis Nationals is
negotiating for the services of yours truly--your humble servant, Joseph
Matson," and again the young ball player bowed, and laughed.

"Joe, you don't mean it!" cried his sister. "You're going to belong to a
major league team!" for Clara was almost as ardent a baseball "fan" as
was her brother.

"Well, it looks like it, Sis," replied Joe, slowly, as he glanced at the
letter again. "Of course it isn't settled, but Mr. Gregory says I'm
pretty sure to be drafted to St. Louis."

"Drafted!" exclaimed his mother. "That sounds like war times, when they
used to draft men to go to the front. Do you mean you haven't any choice
in the matter, Joe?"

"Well, that's about it, Momsey," the young man explained. "You see,
baseball is pretty well organized. It has to be, to make it the success
it is," he added frankly, "though lots of people are opposed to the
system. But I haven't been in it long enough to find fault, even if I
wanted to--which I don't."

"But it seems queer that you can't stay with the Pittston team if you
want to," said Mrs. Matson.

"I don't know as I want to," spoke Joe, slowly, "especially when I'll
surely get more money with St. Louis, besides having the honor of
pitching for a major league team, even if it isn't one of the
top-notchers, and a pennant winner. So if they want to draft me, let
them do their worst!" and he laughed, showing his even, white teeth.

"You see," he resumed, "when I signed a contract with the Pittstons, of
the Central League, I gave them the right to control my services as long
as I played baseball. I had to agree not to go to any other team
without permission, and, in fact, no other organized team would take me
unless the Pittston management released me. I went into it with my eyes
open.

"And, you see, the Pittston team, being one of the small ones, has to
give way to a major league team. That is, any major league team, like
the St. Louis Nationals, can call for, or draft, any player in a smaller
team. So if they call me I'll have to go. And I'll be glad to. I'll get
more money and fame.

"That is, I hope I will," and Joe spoke more soberly. "I know I'm not
going to have any snap of it. It's going to be hard work from the word
go, for there will be other pitchers on the St. Louis team, and I'll
have to do my best to make a showing against them.

"And I will, too!" cried Joe, resolutely. "I'll make good, Momsey!"

"I hope so, my son," she responded, quietly. "You know I was not much in
favor of your taking up baseball for a living, but I must say you have
done well at it, and after all, if one does one's best at anything, that
is what counts. So I hope you make good with the St. Louis team--I
suppose 'make good' is the proper expression," she added, with a smile.

"It'll do first-rate, Momsey," laughed Joe. "Now let's see what else
Gregory says."

He glanced over the letter again, and remarked:

"Well, there's nothing definite. The managers are laying their plans for
the Spring work, and he says I'm being considered. He adds he will be
sorry to lose me."

"I should think he would be!" exclaimed Clara, a flush coming into her
cheeks. "You were the best pitcher on his team!"

"Oh, I wouldn't go as far as to say that!" cried Joe, "though I
appreciate your feeling, Sis. I had a good bit of luck, winning some of
the games the way I did. Well, I guess I'll go look up some St. Louis
records, and see what I'm expected to do in the batting average line
compared with them," the player went on. "The St. Louis team isn't a
wonder, but it's done pretty fair at times, I believe, and it's a step
up for me. I'll be more in line for a place on the New York Giants, or
the Philadelphia Athletics if I make a good showing in Missouri,"
finished Joe.

He started from the room, carrying the two letters, one of which he had
not yet opened.

"Who's it from?" asked Clara, with a smile, as she pointed to the heavy,
square envelope in his hand.

"Oh, one of my many admirers," teased Joe. "I can't tell just which one
until I open it. And, just to satisfy your curiosity, I'll do so now,"
and he proceeded to slit the envelope with his pocket-knife.

"Oh, it's from Mabel Varley!" he exclaimed.

"Just as if you didn't know all the while!" scoffed Clara. "You wouldn't
forget her handwriting so soon, Joe Matson."

"Um!" he murmured, non-committally. "Why, this is news!" he cried,
suddenly. "Mabel and her brother Reggie are coming here!"

"Here!" exclaimed Clara. "To visit us?"

"Oh, no, not that exactly," Joe went on. "They're on a trip, it seems,
and they're going to stop off here for a day or so. Mabel says they'll
try to see us. I hope they will."

"I've never met them," observed Clara.

"No," spoke Joe, musingly. "Well, you may soon. Why!" he went on,
"they're coming to-day--on the afternoon express. I must go down to the
station to meet them, though the train is likely to be late, if this
snow keeps up. Whew! see it come down!" and he went over to the window
and looked out.

"It's like a small blizzard," remarked Clara, "and it seems to be
growing worse. Doesn't look much like baseball; does it, Joe?"

"I should say not! Say, I believe I'll go down to the station, anyhow,
and see what the prospects are. Want to come, Sis?"

"No, thank you. Not in this storm. Where are the Varleys going to stop?"

"At the hotel. Reggie has some business in town, Mabel writes. Well, I
sure will be glad to see him again!"

"_Him_? _Her_, you mean!" laughed Clara. "Oh, Joe, you _are_ so simple!"

"Humph!" he exclaimed, as he put the two letters into his pocket--both
of great importance to him. "Well, I'll go down to the station."

Joe was soon trudging through the storm on the way to the depot.

"The St. Louis 'Cardinals'!" he mused, as he bent his head to the blast,
thinking of the letters in his pocket. "I didn't think I'd be in line
for a major league team so soon. I wonder if I can make good?"

Thinking alternately of the pleasure he would have in seeing Miss Mabel
Varley, a girl in whom he was more than ordinarily interested, and of
the new chance that had come to him, Joe soon reached the depot. His
inquiries about the trains were not, however, very satisfactorily
answered.

"We can't tell much about them in this storm," the station master said.
"All our trains are more or less late. Stop in this afternoon, and I may
have some definite information for you."

And later that day, when it was nearly arrival time for the train on
which Mabel and Reggie were to come, Joe received some news that
startled him.

"There's no use in your waiting, Joe," said the station master, as the
young ball player approached him again. "Your train won't be in to-day,
and maybe not for several days."

"Why? What's the matter--a wreck?" cried Joe, a vision of injured
friends looming before him.

"Not exactly a wreck, but almost as bad," went on the official. "The
train is stalled--snowed in at Deep Rock Cut, five miles above here, and
there's no chance of getting her out."

"Great Scott!" cried Joe. "The express snowed in! Why, I've got friends
on that train! I wonder what I can do to help them?"



CHAPTER II

TO THE RESCUE


Joe Matson looked so worried at the information imparted by the station
master that the latter asked him:

"Any particular friends of yours on that train?"

"Very particular," declared the young ball player. "And I hope no harm
comes to them."

"Well, I don't know as any great harm will come," went on the station
master. "The train's snowed in, and will have to stay there until we can
get together a gang of men and shovel her out. It won't be easy, for
it's snowing harder every minute, and Deep Rock Cut is one of the worst
places on the line for drifts. But no other train can run into the
stalled one, that's sure. The only thing is the steam may get low, and
the passengers will be cold, and hungry."

"Isn't there any way to prevent that?" asked Joe, anxiously.

"I s'pose the passengers could get out and try to reach some house or
hotel," resumed the railroad man, "but Deep Rock Cut is a pretty lonely
place, and there aren't many houses near it. The only thing I see to do
would be for someone to go there with a horse and sled, and rescue the
passengers, and that would be _some_ job, as there's quite a trainload
of them."

"Well, I'm going to try and get _my_ friends that way, anyhow!" cried
Joe. "I'll go to the rescue," and he set off for home through the storm
again, intending to hire a rig at a livery stable, and do what he could
to take Mabel and her brother from the train.

And, while Joe is thus making his preparations, I will tell my new
readers something about the previous books of this series, in which Joe
Matson, or "Baseball Joe," as he is called, has a prominent part.

The initial volume was called "Baseball Joe of the Silver Stars; Or, The
Rivals of Riverside," and began with my hero's career in the town of
Riverside. Joe joined the ball team there, and, after some hard work,
became one of the best amateur pitchers in that section of the country.
He did not have it all easy, though, and the fight was an uphill one.
But Joe made good, and his team came out ahead.

"Baseball Joe on the School Nine; Or, Pitching for the Blue Banner," the
second book in the series, saw our hero as the pitcher on a better
organized team than were the Silver Stars. Joe had taken a step forward.
He did not make the school nine without a struggle, for he had rivals,
and a strong effort was made to keep him out of the game.

But Joe proved his worth, and when a critical time came he pitched to
victory, thus defeating the plans of his enemies.

It was quite a step forward for Joe to go to Yale from Excelsior Hall,
where he had gotten his early education.

Naturally Joe wanted to play on the Yale team, but he had to wait some
time before his ambition was gratified. In "Baseball Joe at Yale; Or,
Pitching for the College Championship," I related how, after playing
during his freshman year on the class team, Joe was picked as one of the
pitchers for the varsity.

Then, indeed, he was proud and happy, but he knew it would not be as
easy as it had been at Excelsior Hall. Every step upward meant harder
work, but Joe welcomed the chance.

And when finally the deciding game came--the one with Princeton at the
Polo Grounds, New York--Joe had the proud distinction of pitching for
Yale--and he pitched to victory.

Joe's ambition, ever since he had taken an interest in baseball, had
been to become a professional player. His mother had hoped that he
would become a minister, or enter one of the more learned professions,
but, though Joe disappointed her hopes, there was some compensation.

"Better let the boy have his own way," Mr. Matson had said. "I would
rather see him a good ball player than a half-rate lawyer, or doctor;
and, after all, there is good money to be made on the diamond."

So, when Joe received an offer from the manager of one of the minor
league professional teams, he took it. In "Baseball Joe in the Central
League; Or, Making Good as a Professional Pitcher," the fourth volume of
the series, I related Joe's experiences when he got his start in
organized baseball. How he was instrumental in bringing back on the
right path a player who had gone wrong, and how he fought to the last,
until his team won the pennant--all that you will find set down in the
book.

I might add that Joe lived with his father, mother, and sister in the
town of Riverside, where Mr. Matson was employed in the Royal Harvester
Works, being an able inventor.

Joe had many friends in town, one in particular being Tom Davis, who had
gone to Excelsior Hall with him. Of late, however, Joe had not seen so
much of Tom, their occupations pursuing divergent paths.

It was while Joe was on his way to join the Pittston team, of the
Central League, that he made the acquaintance of Reggie Varley, a rich,
and somewhat dudish, young man; and the acquaintance was made in an odd
manner. For Reggie practically accused Joe of knowing something of some
jewelry that was missing from a valise.

Of course Joe did not take it, but for some time the theft remained
quite a mystery, until Joe solved the secret. From then on he and Reggie
were good friends, and Reggie's sister Mabel and Joe were----

Oh, well, what's the use of telling on a fellow? You wouldn't like it
yourself; would you?

The baseball season came to an end, and the Pittston team covered itself
with glory, partly due to Joe's good pitching. Cold weather set in, and
the players took themselves to their various Winter occupations, or
pleasures. Joe went home, to wait until the training season should open,
in preparation for league games on the velvety, green diamonds.

Several weeks of inaction had passed, the holidays were over, Winter had
set in with all earnestness, and now we find Joe hurrying along, intent
on the rescue of Reggie and his sister from the snow-stalled train.

"I hope they will not freeze before I get to them," thought Joe, as he
staggered through the blinding snow. "They can't, though, for there'll
be sure to be steam for some hours yet. I guess I'll stop home, and get
something to eat for them, and a bottle of coffee. I'll put it in one of
those vacuum flasks, and it will keep hot."

So intent was Joe on his rescue that, for the time, he gave no more
thought to the matter of joining the St. Louis nine, important as that
matter was to him.

"I'd better get a team of horses, and a light sled," he mused, as he
turned in the direction of the livery stable. "There will be some heavy
going between here and Deep Rock Cut, and I'll need a good team to pull
through."

A little later he was leaving his order with the proprietor.

"I'll fix you up, Joe," said the stable boss, who was a baseball "fan,"
and a great admirer of our hero. "I'll give you the best team in the
place, and they'll get you through, if any horses can. I expect I'll
have other calls, if, as you say, the train is stalled, for there'll
likely be other folks in town who have friends aboard her. But you've
got the first call, and I'm glad of it."

"I'll be back in a little while," called Joe, as he hurried off. "I'm
going around to my house to put up some lunch and coffee."

"Good idea! I'll have everything ready for you when you come back."

On Joe hurried once more, through the swirl of white flakes that cut
into his face, blown on the wings of a bitter wind. He bent his head to
the blast, and buttoned his overcoat more closely about him, as he
fought his way through the drifts.

It had been snowing since early morning, and there were no signs to
indicate that the storm was going to stop. It was growing colder, too,
and the wind seemed to increase in violence each hour. Though it was
only a little after one o'clock in the afternoon, it was unusually dark,
and Joe realized that night would soon be at hand, hastened by the
clouds overhead.

"But the snow will make it light enough to see, I guess," reasoned Joe.
"I hope I can keep to the road. It wouldn't be much of a joke to get
Reggie and Mabel out of the train, into the comfortable sled, and then
lose them on the way home."

Quickly explaining to his mother and sister his plan of going for the
two friends in the stalled train, Joe hastily put up some sandwiches,
while Clara made coffee and poured it into the vacuum bottle.

"Perhaps you'd better bring them here, Joe, instead of taking them to
the hotel," suggested his mother. "Mabel will be wet and cold, perhaps,
and I could make her more comfortable here than she would be at the
hotel. We have room enough."

"She can share my room," proposed Clara.

"That's good of you," and Joe flashed a grateful look at his sister. "I
hope you will like Mabel," he added, softly.

"I guess I will; if you do," laughed Clara.

"Well, I sure do," and Joe smiled.

Then, with a big scarf to wrap about his neck, and carrying the basket
of food and coffee, Joe set out for the livery stable, to start to the
rescue.



CHAPTER III

AN UPSET


"Here you are, Joe. Best team in the stable. I could have hired 'em out
twice over since you went; but I wouldn't do it. Other folks have got
the scare, too, about friends on the stalled train," and the livery boss
handed Joe the reins of a pair of prancing horses, hitched to a light,
but strong cutter.

"Thanks, Mr. Blasser," said Joe. "I'll take good care of 'em."

"And hold 'em in a bit at the start," advised the man. "They haven't
been out for a couple of days, and they're a bit frisky. But they'll
calm down after a while."

With a jingle of bells, and a scattering of the snow from their hoofs,
the horses leaped forward when Joe gave them their heads, and down the
whitened street they trotted, on the way to Deep Rock Cut.

This was a place where the railroad went through a rocky defile, about a
mile long. It had been the scene of more than one wreck, for there was
a dangerous curve in it, and in the Winter it was a source of worry to
the railroad men, for the snow piled high in it when there was a storm
of more than usual severity. In the Summer a nearby river sometimes rose
above its banks, and filled the cut with water, washing out the track.

Altogether Deep Rock Cut was a cause of much anxiety to the railroad
management, but it was not practical to run the line on either side of
it, so its use had been continued.

"And very likely it's living up to its reputation right now," mused Joe,
as he drove down the main street, and then turned to another that would
take him out of the town, and to a highway that led near Deep Rock Cut.
"It sure must be living up to its reputation right now, though, of
course, the storm is to blame.

"Whew! It certainly does blow!" he commented, as he held the reins in
one hand, and drew more closely about his throat the muffler he had
brought with him. "Stand to it, ponies!" Joe called to the sturdy
steeds. They had started off at a lively pace, but the snow soon slowed
them down. They started up again, however, at the sound of Joe's voice,
and settled down into a steady pull that took them over the ground at a
good pace.

Now that he was actually on the way to the rescue Joe allowed his
thoughts to go back to the baseball letter that was in his pocket, next
to the one from Mabel.

"I wonder how they came to pick me out?" he mused, as he recalled the
possibility that he would go to St. Louis. "They must have had a scout
at some of the Central League games, though generally the news of that
is tipped off beforehand.

"That must have been the way of it, though," he went on, still communing
with himself. "I don't know that I played so extra well, except maybe at
the last, and then--then I just _had_ to--to make good. Well, I'm glad
they picked me out. Wonder if any other members of the Pittston team are
slated to go? Can't be, though, or Gregory would have told me of it.

"And I wonder how much more salary I'll get? Of course I oughtn't to
think too much about money, for, after all, it's the game I like. But,
then, I have to live, and, since I'm in organized baseball, I want to be
at the top of the heap, the same as I would if I were a lawyer, or a
doctor. That's it--the top of the heap--the New York Giants for mine--if
I can reach 'em," and he smiled quizzically.

"Yes, I guess lots of the fellows would give their eye teeth to have my
chance. Of course, it isn't settled yet," Joe told himself, "but there
must have been a good foundation for it, or Gregory wouldn't have taken
the trouble to write to me about it."

Joe found the road to Deep Rock Cut fully as bad, in the matter of
snowdrifts, as he had expected. It was rather slow going when he got to
the open country, where the wind had full sweep, and progress, even on
the part of the willing horses, was slower.

Joe picked out the best, and easiest, route possible, but that was not
saying much, and it was not until nearly three o'clock, and growing
quite dark, that he came within sight of the cut. Then the storm was so
thick that he could not see the stalled train.

"I'll have to leave the team as near to it as I can get, and walk in to
tell Reggie and Mabel that I've come for them," Joe decided.

The highway crossed the railroad track a short distance from the end of
the cut nearest Riverside, and Joe, halting a moment to listen, and to
make sure no trains were approaching, drove over the rails.

"Though there isn't much danger, now, of a train getting through that,"
he said to himself, as he saw the big drift of snow that blocked the
cut. Behind that drift was the stalled train, he reflected, and then, as
he looked at the white mound, he realized that he had made a mistake.

"I can never get through that drift myself," he said. "I'll have to
drive up to the other end of the cut, by which the engine and cars
entered. Stupid of me not to have thought of that at first."

He turned his horses, and again sought the highway that led along the
cut, parallel to it, and about a quarter of a mile distant. Joe
listened, again hoping he could hear the whistle of the approaching
rescue-train, for at the station he had been told one was being fitted
out, and would carry a gang of snow shovelers. But the howl of the wind
was all that came to his ears.

"This means another mile of travel," Joe thought, as he urged on the
horses. "It will be pitch dark by the time I get back to town with them.
I hope Mabel doesn't take cold. It sure is bitter."

Joe found the going even harder as he kept on, but he would not give up
now.

"There's one consolation," he reasoned, "the wind will be at our backs
going home. That will make it easier."

The road that crossed the track at the other end of Deep Rock Cut was
farther from the beginning of the defile, and Joe, leaving the horses in
a sheltering clump of trees, struggled down the track, the rails of
which were out of sight under the snow.

"I wonder if Mabel can walk back?" he said aloud. "If not I guess Reggie
and I can carry her. It's pretty deep. I didn't get here any too soon."

Something dark loomed up before him, amid the wall of white, swirling
flakes.

"There's the train!" exclaimed Joe, in relief.

It was indeed the rear coach of the stalled passenger train, and, a
moment later, Joe was climbing the snow-encumbered steps. It proved to
be the baggage car, and, as Joe entered, he surprised a number of men
who were smoking, and playing cards on an upturned trunk.

"Hello!" exclaimed one of them, in surprise at the sight of the ball
player. "Where'd you come from? Is the rescue-train here?"

"Not yet," Joe answered. "I came to take a couple of friends into town."

"Say, I wish I had a friend like you!" cried the man, with a laugh. "I
sure would like to get into town; but I don't dare start out and tramp
it--not with my rheumatism. How much room have you got in your airship?"

"I came in a cutter," responded Joe, with a smile.

"Say, you got some grit!" declared the man. "I like your nerve!"

"Oh, Joe's got plenty of nerve--of the right sort!" called a brakeman,
and Joe, nodding at him, recognized a railroad acquaintance who had
been present at some of the town ball games.

"A couple of my friends are in one of the coaches, Mr. Wheatson,"
explained Joe. "I'm going to drive back with them."

"Go ahead and look for 'em," invited the brakeman. "The train is yours,
as far as I'm concerned. I guess we're tied up here all night."

"They're going to start out a rescue-train," Joe informed the men in the
baggage car, for the telegraph wires had gone down after the first
message, telling of the stalled train, had been sent.

"That's good news," replied one of the men. "Well, all we can do is to
stay here, and play cards. It's nice and warm in here, anyhow."

"Yes, it will be until the coal for the engine gives out," spoke a
player, who seemed to take a rather gloomy view of matters. "And what
are we going to do about supper? I'd like to know that!"

Joe wished he could have brought along enough food for all the stranded
passengers, but this was impossible. He went on through the train, and
presently came to where Mabel and her brother were seated in the parlor
car, looking gloomily out at the storm.

"Well!" exclaimed Joe, with a smile, as he stood just back of them. They
both turned with a flash, and a look of pleased surprise came over the
faces of Reggie and his sister as they saw him.

"Joe Matson!" cried Reggie, jumping up, and holding out his hand. "Where
in the world did you come from? I didn't know you were on this train."

"I wasn't," laughed Joe. "I just boarded it, and I've come for you," he
added, as he gave Mabel his hand.

"Oh, but I'm glad to see you!" she exclaimed. "Isn't this just perfectly
awful, to be snowed in like this! And they tell us there's no chance of
getting out to-night."

"There is for you," remarked Joe, quietly.

"How?" asked Reggie, quickly. "Did they push the relief-train through?"

"I'm all the relief-train there is," announced Joe, and he told about
having the cutter in readiness.

"Say, that's fine of you!" cried Reggie. "Shall we go with him, Mabel?"

"Well, I rather guess so," she answered. "I couldn't stay here another
hour."

"It won't be much fun traveling through the storm," Joe warned his
friends. At this Reggie looked a bit doubtful, but his sister exclaimed:

"I don't mind it! I love a storm, anyhow, and I just can't bear sitting
still, and doing nothing. Besides, there isn't a thing to eat aboard
this train, for they took off the dining car right after lunch."

"I brought along a little something. It's in the cutter," Joe said. "I
didn't bring it in here for fear the famished passengers would mob me
for it," he added, with a smile. "Well, if you're willing to trust
yourself with me, perhaps we'd better start," he went on. "It is getting
darker all the while, and the snow is still falling."

"I'll be ready at once!" cried Mabel. "Reggie, get down the valises;
will you, please? Can you take them?" she asked of Joe.

"Oh, yes--room for them in the cutter," he assured her.

The other passengers looked on curiously, and enviously, when they heard
where Reggie and his sister were going. But, much as Joe would have
liked to take them all to a place of comfort, he could not. The three
went back to the baggage car, and, saying good-bye to the card-players,
stepped out into the storm.

"I guess your brother and I had better carry you, Mabel," suggested Joe,
as he saw the deep snow that led along the track to where he had left
the cutter.

"Indeed you'll not--thank you!" she flashed back at him. "I have on
stout shoes, and I don't mind the drifts." She proved it by striding
sturdily through them, and soon the three were at the cutter, the
horses whinnying impatiently to be gone.

"Have some hot coffee and a sandwich," invited Joe, as he got out the
basket, and served his guests.

"Say, you're all right!" cried Reggie. Mabel said nothing, but the look
she gave Joe was reward enough.

The coffee in the vacuum bottle was warm and cheering, and soon, much
refreshed from the little lunch, and bundled up well in the robes Joe
had brought, Reggie and his sister were ready for the trip to town.

"Step along!" cried the young baseball player to the horses, and glad
enough they were to do so. Out to the highway they went, and it was not
until they were some distance away from the cut that Joe noticed how
much worse the going was. The snow was considerably deeper, and had
drifted high in many more places.

"Think you can make it?" asked Reggie, anxiously.

"Well, I'm going to make a big try!" responded Joe. "I've got a good
team here."

Half an hour later it was quite dark, but the white covering on the
ground showed where the road was faintly outlined. Joe let the horses
have their heads, and they seemed to know they were going toward their
stable, for they went along at a good pace.

"There's a bad drift!" exclaimed Joe as, ahead of him, he saw a big
mound of snow. He tried to guide the horses to one side, and must have
given a stronger pull on the reins than he realized. For the steeds
turned sharply, and, the next moment, the cutter suddenly turned over on
its side, spilling into the snow the three occupants.



CHAPTER IV

AN APPEAL


"Look out there!"

"See if you can grab the horses, Reggie!"

"Mabel, are you hurt?"

Fast and excitedly came the exclamations, as Joe managed to free himself
from the entanglement of robes and lines. Then he stood up, and, giving
a hasty glance to see that Mabel and her brother were extricating
themselves (apparently little if any hurt), the young pitcher sprang for
the heads of the horses, fearing they might bolt.

But, as if the steeds had done mischief enough; or, possibly because
they were well trained, and had lost most of their skittishness in the
cold, they stood still.

"For which I'm mighty glad!" quoth Joe, as he looked to see that no part
of the harness was broken, a fact of which he could not be quite sure in
the darkness.

"Are you all right, Mabel?" called Joe, as he stood at the heads of the
animals.

"All right, Joe, yes, thank you. How about yourself?"

"Oh, I haven't a scratch. The snow is soft. How about you, Reggie?"

"Nothing worse than about a peck of snow down my neck. What happened,
anyhow?"

"Hit a drift and turned too suddenly. I guess you'll wish I had left you
in the train; won't you?"

"No, indeed!" laughed Mabel. "This isn't anything, nor the first upset
I've been in--Reggie tipped us over once."

"Oh, that was when I was first learning how to drive," put in the other
youth, quickly. "But can we go on, Joe?"

"I think so. Nothing seems to be broken. We'll have to right the sled,
though. I wonder if the horses will stand while we do it? I wouldn't
like them to start up, but----"

"Let me hold them!" begged Mabel. "I'm not afraid, and with me at their
heads you boys can turn the sled right side up. It isn't tipped all the
way over, anyhow."

She shook the snow from her garments, and made her way to where Joe
stood, holding the reins close to the heads of the horses. It was still
snowing hard, and with the cold wind driving the flakes into swirls and
drifts, it was anything but pleasant. Had they been left behind by the
horses running away, their plight would have been dangerous enough.

"Perhaps I can help you," suddenly called a voice out of the storm, and
Joe and the others turned quickly, to see whence it had come.

The snow-encrusted figure of a man made its way over the piles of snow,
and stood beside Joe.

"I'll hold the horses for you," the stranger went on. "You seem to have
had an accident. I know something about horses. I'll hold them while you
right the sled."

"Thanks," said Joe, and, as he spoke, he wondered where he had heard
that voice before. He knew he had heard it, for there was a familiar
ring to it. But it was not light enough to make out the features of the
man. Besides, he was so wrapped up, with a slouch hat drawn low over his
face, and a scarf pulled up well around his neck, that, even in
daylight, his features would have been effectually concealed.

"I guess they won't need much holding," Joe went on, all the while
racking his brain to recall the voice. He wanted to have the man speak
again, that he might listen once more.

And the unknown, who had appeared so suddenly out of the storm, did not
seem to have anything to conceal. He spoke freely.

"Don't worry about the horses," he remarked. "I can manage them."

"They won't need a lot of managing," responded Joe. "I guess they've had
pretty nearly all the tucker taken out of them in the storm. It was
pretty hard coming from Riverside."

"Are you from there?" the man asked rather quickly.

"Yes," answered Joe, "and we're going back."

"Then I'm glad I met you!" the man exclaimed, and Joe, who had half
formed an opinion as to his identity, changed his mind, for the voice
sounded different now. "Yes, I'm glad I met you," the stranger went on.
"I was looking for someone to ask the road to Riverside, and you can
tell me. I guess I lost my way in the storm. I heard your sleigh-bells,
and I was heading for them when I heard you upset. You can show me the
shortest road to Riverside; can't you?"

"We can do better than that," spoke Joe, trying, but still
unsuccessfully, to get a look at the man's face. "We've got plenty of
room in the sled, and you can ride back with us, once we get it on the
runners again. Come on, Reggie, give me a hand, if you will, and we'll
get this cutter right side up with care."

"If it needs three of you, I can take my place at the horses," suggested
Mabel, who was standing beside Joe, idly looking through the
fast-gathering darkness at the stranger.

"Oh, the two of us can easily do it," said the young ball player. "It
isn't heavy. Come on, Reggie. Better stand a bit back, Mabel. It might
slip," he advised.

Joe and his friend easily righted the sleigh, while the stranger stood
at the heads of the horses, who were now quiet enough. Then, the
scattered robes having been collected, and the baggage picked up, all
was in readiness for a new start.

Joe tucked the warm blanket well around Mabel, and then called to the
stranger:

"Get up on the front seat, and I'll soon have you in Riverside. It isn't
very far now."

"Thanks," said the man, briefly. "This is better luck than I've had in
some time."

For a while, after the mishap, none of the occupants of the cutter
spoke, as the willing horses pulled it through the big drifts of snow.
Joe drove more carefully, taking care not to turn too suddenly, and he
avoided, as well as he could, the huge heaps of white crystals that,
every moment, were piling higher.

Reggie was snuggling down in the robes, and Mabel, too, rather worn out
by the events of the day, and the worry of being snowed in, maintained
silence.

As for Joe, he had all he could do to manage the horses in the storm,
though the beasts did not seem inclined to make any more trouble. The
man on the seat beside him appeared wrapped, not only in his heavy
garments, but in a sort of gloomy silence, as well. He did not speak
again, and Joe was still puzzling over his identity.

"For I'm sure I've met him before, and more than once," reasoned Joe.
"But then I've met so many fellows, playing ball all around the country,
that it's no wonder I can't recall a certain voice. Maybe I'll get a
chance to have a good look at him later."

"You'll come right to our house," said Joe, turning to speak to Mabel
and Reggie. "Mother said so."

"Oh, but we have our rooms engaged at the hotel," objected the other
youth.

"That doesn't matter. You can go there later, if you like. But mother
insisted that I bring you home," Joe went on. "You can be more
comfortable there--at least, until you get over this cold trip."

"It's perfectly lovely of your mother," declared Mabel. "But I don't
want to put her to so much inconvenience."

"It isn't any inconvenience at all," laughed Joe. "She wants to meet
you, and so does my sister Clara."

"And I want to meet them," responded Mabel, with a blush that was unseen
in the darkness.

"Well, have it your own way," said Reggie, who was, perhaps, rather too
much inclined to give in easily. Life came very easy to him, anyhow.
"It's very nice of you to put us up, Joe. By the way, how is your
father since the operation?"

"Oh, he has almost entirely recovered. His eyesight is better than ever,
he says."

"How lovely!" cried Mabel. "And how lucky it was, Joe, that your share
of the money your team got for winning the pennant helped to make the
operation possible."

"Yes, I sure do owe a debt of gratitude to baseball," admitted the young
pitcher.

"Do you play ball?" suddenly asked the man on the seat beside Joe.

"Yes, I play at it," was the modest answer.

"Amateur or professional?"

"Professional. I am with the Central League."

Was it fancy, or did the man give a sudden start, that might indicate
surprise? Joe could not be sure.

"I suppose you'll be at it again this year, Joe," put in Reggie.

"Oh, yes. But I may change my club. I'll tell you about it later. We'll
soon be at the house. Is there any special place I can take you to, in
Riverside?" asked Joe of the stranger.

"Well, I'm looking for a young fellow named Matson," was the unexpected
answer.

"Matson?" cried Joe. "Why, that's my name!"

"Joe Matson?" the man exclaimed, drawing slightly away in order,
possibly, to get a better look at the young player.

"I'm Joe Matson--yes. Are you looking for me?"

"I was, and I'm glad I found you!" the man exclaimed. "I've got a very
special request to make of you. Is there some hotel, or boarding house,
where I could put up, and where I could see you--later?" he asked,
eagerly.

"Why, yes, there are several such places in town," said Joe, slowly,
trying, harder than ever, to place the man who had so unexpectedly
appeared.

"Take me to a quiet one--not too high-priced," requested the man in a
low voice. "I want to see you on a very particular matter--that is, it's
particular to me," he added, significantly. "Will you come and see
me--after you take care of your friends?"

"Why, yes, I guess so--perhaps to-morrow," replied Joe, for he did not
fancy going out in the storm again that night. "But why can't you stop
off at my house now?" he asked.

"No, I don't want to do that," the man objected. "I'd rather you would
come to see me," and there was a note of appeal in his voice.

"Very well, I'll see you to-morrow," Joe promised, wondering if this
man's seeking of him had any connection with his possible draft to the
St. Louis Cardinals.



CHAPTER V

THE THREAT


"Here's a boarding house that will suit you, I think," announced Joe, a
little later, as he stopped the horses in front of a sort of hostelry of
good reputation. It was not as large nor as stylish as some of the other
places in Riverside, but Joe bore in mind the man's request to be taken
to a moderate-priced establishment.

"Thanks," said the stranger. "Then you'll come here to see me to-morrow?
I'll be in all day."

"I'll call in the afternoon, Mr.--er----" and Joe hesitated. "I don't
believe I caught your name," he said, significantly.

"No, I didn't mention it, but it's Shalleg," was the answer.

"Oh, of the Clevefield team!" exclaimed the young player, knowing now
where he had heard the voice before.

"Yes, of the Clevefield team," admitted Mr. Shalleg, repeating the name
of one of the nines forming the Central League, and which team Joe's
club had met several times on the diamond.

"I was trying, ever since you spoke, to recall where I'd met you
before," went on Joe, "but you had me guessing. I'm glad to meet you
again. I suppose you're going to stay with the League this coming
season?"

"I--er--I haven't quite made my plans," was the somewhat hesitating
answer. "I've been looking about. I was over in Rocky Ford this morning,
seeing a friend, and I happened to recall that you lived in Riverside,
so I came on, but lost my way in the storm. I didn't recognize you back
there, where you had the upset."

"The lack of recognition was mutual," laughed Joe, puzzling over what
Shalleg's object could be in seeking him. "Well, I must get these folks
in out of the storm," Joe went on. "I'll see you to-morrow, Mr.
Shalleg."

The latter alighted from the cutter, and entered the boarding house,
while Joe turned the heads of the horses toward his own home.

"I guess you'll be glad to get indoors," he said to Reggie and Mabel.

"Well, it's pretty cold," Reggie admitted, "though I suppose my sister
will say she likes it."

"I do!" declared Mabel. "But it isn't so nice when it's dark," she
confessed.

They were now on the principal street of Riverside, and the lamps from
the shop windows gleamed dimly on the swirling flakes, and drifts of
snow.

A little later Joe pulled up in front of his own house, and escorted the
visitors into the cheery living room.

"Here they are, Mother--Clara!" he called, as Mrs. Matson and her
daughter came out to welcome their guests.

"I am glad to see you," said Clara, simply, as she kissed Mabel----and
one look from the sister's eyes told Joe that Clara approved of his
friends.

"Where's father?" asked Joe.

"Bathing his eyes," replied his mother. "He'll be here presently," for
Mr. Matson had recently undergone an operation on his eyes, after an
accident, and they still needed care.

Soon a merry party was gathered about the supper table, where the events
of the day were told, from the receipt by Joe of the two letters, to the
rescue from the stalled train, and the accident in the snow.

"But I sure would like to know what it is Shalleg wants," mused Joe, who
had come back from leaving the horses at the livery stable. "I sure
would."

"Didn't he give you any hint?" asked Clara.

"No. But perhaps he wants some advice about baseball matters. I'm
getting to be some pumpkins, you know, since St. Louis is after me!"
cried Joe, with simulated pride.

"Oh, do tell us about it!" cried Mabel, and Joe related the news of the
draft that would probably take him to the big league.

Reggie and Mabel spent the night at Joe's house. The storm kept up
through the hours of darkness, and part of the next day, when it
stopped, and the sun came out. Old Sol shone on a scene of whiteness,
where big drifts of snow were piled here and there.

"I wonder how the stalled train is faring?" remarked Mabel, after
breakfast. "We'll have to get our trunks away from it, somehow, Reggie."

"Yes, I suppose so," he said. "And I've got to look after those business
matters. I think we had better go to the hotel," he added.

"Very well," assented Joe. "I'll go down to the station with you, and
we'll see about your baggage."

"I'll stay here until you boys come back," decided Mabel, who had taken
as great a liking to Clara, as the latter had to her.

Joe and Reggie found that the train was still stalled in the snow drift,
but a large force of shovelers was at work, and the prospect was that
the line would be opened that afternoon. Thereupon Reggie went to the
hotel to arrange about his own room, and one for his sister.

"And I'll go see Shalleg," decided Joe. "Might as well get it over with,
though I did tell him I wouldn't come until afternoon. I'm anxious to
know what it's all about."

"He's making a sort of mystery of it," observed Reggie.

"Somewhat," admitted Joe, with a smile.

Greatly to his relief (for Joe was anxious to get the matter over with)
he found Shalleg at the boarding house when he called.

"Come up to my room," invited the baseball player. "It's warmer than
down in the parlor."

In his room he motioned Joe to a chair, and then, looking intently at
the young pitcher, said:

"Matson, do you know what it is to be down and out?"

"Down and out? What do you mean?"

"I mean to have few friends, and less money. Do you know what that
means?"

"Well, not personally," said Joe, "though I can't boast of a superfluity
of money myself."

"You've got more than I have!" snapped Shalleg.

"I don't know about that," said Joe, slowly, wondering whither the
conversation was leading.

"Your team won the pennant!" cried the man, and Joe, as he caught the
odor of his breath, realized what made Shalleg's manner so excited. The
man was partially intoxicated. Joe wished he had not come. "Your team
won the pennant," Shalleg went on, "and that meant quite a little money
for every player. You must have gotten your share, and I'd like to
borrow some of you, Matson. I'm down and out, I tell you, and I need
money bad--until I can get on my feet again."

Joe did not answer for a moment, but mentally he found a reason for
Shalleg's being "off his feet" at present. Bad habits, very likely.

"Can you let me have some money--until Spring opens?" proceeded Shalleg.
"You'll be earning more then, whether I am or not, for I don't know that
I'm going back with Clevefield. I suppose you'll play with the Pittston
team?"

"I don't know," answered Joe, preferring to reply to that question
first. He wanted time to think about the other.

"You don't know!" Shalleg exclaimed, in surprise.

"No. I hear I am to be drafted to the St. Louis Nationals."

"The St. Louis Nationals!" cried Shalleg. "That team! Why, that team is
the one I----"

He came to a sudden halt.

"What is it?" asked Joe, wonderingly.

"I--er--I--er--well, never mind, now. Can you let me have--say, two
hundred dollars?"

"Two hundred dollars!" cried Joe. "I haven't that much money to spare.
And, if I had, I don't know that I would be doing my duty to my father
and mother to lend it."

"But I need it!" cried Shalleg. "Did you ever know what it was to be
down and out?"

"Well, I've seen such sad cases, and I'm sorry for you," spoke Joe,
softly. He thought of John Dutton, the broken-down pitcher whose rescue,
from a life of ruin, had been due largely to our hero's efforts, as told
in the volume immediately preceding this.

"Being sorry isn't going to help," sneered Shalleg, and there was an
ugly note in his voice. "I need money! You must have some left from your
pennant winnings."

"I had to spend a large sum for my father's operation," said Joe. "He
has had bad luck, too. I really have no money to spare."

"That's not so--I don't believe you!" snapped Shalleg. "You must have
money, and I've got to get some. I've been begging from a lot of fellows
who played ball with me, but they all turned me down. Now you're doing
the same thing. You'd better be careful. I'm a desperate man!"

"What do you mean?" asked Joe, in some alarm, for he thought the fellow
meditated an attack. Joe looked to see with what he could defend
himself, and he noted, though with no cowardly satisfaction, that the
door to the hall was close at hand.

"I mean just what I say. I'm desperately in need of money."

"Well, I'm very sorry, but I'm not in a position to be able to help
you," said Joe, firmly. "Why don't you go to the manager of your team,
and get him to give you an advance on your salary? That is often done.
I'm sure if you told him your need he'd do it."

"No, he wouldn't!" growled Shalleg. "I've got to borrow it somewhere
else. Then you won't let me have it?" and he glowered at Joe.

"I can't, even if I would."

"I don't believe it!" snarled the other. "And now I tell you one thing.
I'm a bad man to be bad friends with. If you don't let me have this
money it will be the worse for you."

"I guess you are forgetting yourself," returned Joe, quietly. "I did not
come here to be threatened, or insulted. I guess you are not yourself,
Mr. Shalleg. I am sorry, and I'll bid you good day."

With that Joe walked out, but not before the infuriated man called after
him:

"And so you're going to St. Louis; are you? Well, look out for me,
that's all I've got to say! Look out for Bill Shalleg!" and he slammed
the door after Joe.



CHAPTER VI

A WARNING


Joe Matson's brain was in a whirl as he left the boarding house where
Shalleg had made his strange threat. The young pitcher had never before
gone through such an experience, and it had rather unnerved him.

"I wonder what I'd better do?" he mused, as he walked along the street,
where many men were busy clearing away the snow. "I don't like to report
what he said to me to any of the baseball authorities, for it would look
as though I was afraid of him. And I'm not!" declared Joe, sturdily.
"Shalleg wasn't himself, or he wouldn't have said such things. He didn't
know quite what he was doing, I guess."

But, the more Joe thought of it, as he trudged along, the more worried
he became.

"He has a very bad temper, and he might do me some injury," mused Joe.
"But, after all, what _can_ he do? If he stays on the Clevefield team,
and I go to St. Louis, we'll be far enough apart. I guess I won't do
anything about it now."

But the youth could not altogether conceal the emotions that had swayed
him during the strange interview. When, a little later, he called at the
hotel to see if Reggie and his sister had comfortable rooms, his face
must have showed something unusual, for Mabel asked:

"Why, Joe, what is the matter?"

"Matter? Nothing," he replied, with a laugh, but it was rather forced.

"You look as though--something had happened," the girl went on. "Perhaps
you haven't recovered from your efforts to rescue us from the stalled
train last night."

"Oh, yes, I'm all over that," declared Joe, more at his ease now.

"It was awfully good of you," proceeded Mabel. "Just think; suppose we
had had to stay in that train until now?"

"Oh, they've been relieved by this time," spoke Joe.

"Yes, but they had to stay there all night. I can't thank you enough for
coming after us. Are you sure there is nothing the matter?" she
insisted. "You haven't had bad news, about not making the St. Louis
team; have you?"

"No, indeed. I haven't had any news at all since that one letter from
Mr. Gregory. And no news is good news, they say."

"Not always," and she smiled.

"Are you comfortable here?" asked Joe, as he sat in the parlor between
the bedrooms of brother and sister.

"Oh, yes. And Reggie likes it very much. He has a lot of business to
attend to. Father is putting more and more on his shoulders each year.
He wants him finally to take it up altogether. Reggie doesn't care so
much for it, but it's good for him," and she smiled frankly at Joe.

"Yes, work is good," he admitted, "even if it is only playing baseball."

"And that sometimes seems to me like hard work," responded Mabel.

"It is," Joe admitted. "How long do you stay in Riverside?"

"Three or four days yet. Why?"

"Because there'll be good sleighing, and I thought perhaps you'd like to
go out for a ride."

"I shall be delighted!"

"Then I'll arrange for it. Won't you come over to the house this
evening?"

"I have an engagement," she laughed.

Joe looked disappointed. Mabel smiled.

"It's with your sister," she said. "I promised to come over and learn a
new lace pattern."

"I'm just crazy about fancy work myself!" and Joe laughed in turn. "It's
as bad as the new dances. I guess I'll stay home, too."

"Do," Mabel invited. And when Joe took his leave some of the worry
caused by Shalleg's threat had passed away.

"I guess I'll say nothing about it," mused our hero. "It would do no
good, and if father and mother heard about it they might worry. I'll
just fight it out all alone. I guess Shalleg was only a 'bluff,' anyhow.
He may be in desperate straits, but he had no right to make threats like
that."

Riverside was storm-bound for several days, and when she was finally dug
out, and conditions were normal, there was still plenty of snow left for
sleighing. Joe planned to take Mabel for a ride, and Reggie, hearing of
it, asked Clara to be his guest.

Two or three days passed, and Joe neither saw nor heard any more of
Shalleg, except to learn, by judicious inquiry, that the surly and
threatening fellow had left the boarding house to which Joe had taken
him.

"I guess he's gone off to try his game on some other players in the
League," thought the young pitcher. "I hope he doesn't succeed, though.
If he got money I'm afraid he'd make a bad use of it."

There came another letter from Mr. Gregory, in which he told Joe that,
while the matter was still far from being settled, the chances were that
the young pitcher would be drafted to St. Louis.

"I will let you know, in plenty of time, whether you are to train with
us, or with the big league," the manager of the Pittston team wrote. "So
you will have to hold yourself in readiness to do one or the other."

"They don't give you much choice; do they?" spoke Reggie, when Joe told
him this news. "You've got to do just as they tell you; haven't you?"

"In a measure, yes," assented Joe. "Baseball is big business. Why, I
read an article the other day that stated how over fifty million persons
pay fifteen million dollars every year just to see the games, and the
value of the different clubs, grounds and so on mounts up to many
millions more."

"It sure is big business," agreed Reggie. "I might go into it myself."

"Well, more than one fortune has been made at it," observed Joe.

"But I don't like the idea of the club owners and managers doing as they
please with the players. It seems to take away your freedom," argued the
other lad.

"Well, in a sense I suppose it does," admitted Joe. "And yet the
interests of the players are always being looked after. We don't have to
be baseball players unless we want to; but, once we sign a contract, we
have to abide by it.

"Then, too, the present organization has brought to the players bigger
salaries than they ever got before. Of course we chaps in the minor
leagues aren't bid for, as are those in the big leagues. But we always
hope to be."

"It seems funny, for one manager to buy a player from another manager,"
went on Reggie.

"I suppose so, but I've grown sort of used to it," Joe replied. "Of
course the players themselves don't benefit by the big sum one manager
may give another for the services of a star fielder or pitcher, but it
all helps our reputations."

"Is the St. Louis team considered pretty good?" Reggie wanted to know.

"Well, it could be better," confessed Joe, slowly. "They reached one
place from the top of the second division last season, but if I play
with them I'll try to pull them to the top of the second half, anyhow,"
he added, with a laugh. "The Cardinals never have been considered so
very good, but the club is a money-maker, and we can't all be pennant
winners," he admitted, frankly.

"No, I suppose not," agreed Reggie. "Well, I wish you luck, whatever you
do this Summer. If I ever get out to St. Louis I'll stop off and see you
play."

"Do," urged Joe. He hoped Mabel would come also.

When Joe reached home that afternoon his mother met him in the living
room, and said quickly:

"Someone is waiting for you in the parlor, Joe."

"Gracious! I hope it isn't Shalleg!" thought the young pitcher. "If he
has come here to make trouble----" And his heart sank.

But as he entered the room a glad smile came over his face.

"Hello, Charlie Hall!" he cried, at the sight of the shortstop of the
Pittston team, with whom Joe had been quite chummy during the league
season. "What good wind blows you here?"

"Oh, you know I'm a traveling salesman during the Winter, and I happened
to make this town to-day. Just thought I'd step up and see how you
were."

"Glad you did! It's a real pleasure to see you. Going back at the game
in the Spring, I expect; aren't you?"

"Sure. I wouldn't miss it for anything. But what's this I hear about
you?"

"I don't know. Nothing to my discredit, I hope," and Joe smiled.

"Far from it, old man. But there's a rumor among some of the old boys
that you're to be drafted to the Cardinals. How about it?"

"Well, Gregory told me as much, but it isn't all settled yet. Say,
Charlie, now you're here, I want to ask you something."

"Fire ahead."

"Do you know a fellow named Shalleg?"

Charlie Hall started.

"It's queer you should ask me that," he responded, slowly.

"Why?" Joe wanted to know.

"Because that's one of the reasons I stopped up to talk to you. I want
to warn you against Shalleg."

"Warn me! What do you mean?" and Joe thought of the threats the man had
made.

"Why, you know he's out of the Clevefield team; don't you?"

"No, I didn't know it," replied Joe. "But go on. I'll tell you something
pretty soon."

"Yes, he's been given his unconditional release," went on Charlie. "He
got to gambling, and doing other things no good ball player can expect
to do, and keep in the game, and he was let go. And I heard something
that made me come here to warn you, Joe. There may be nothing in it, but
Shalleg----"

There came a knock at the door of the parlor, and Joe held up a warning
hand.

"Wait a minute," he whispered.



CHAPTER VII

BASEBALL TALK


There was silence for a moment, following Joe's warning, and then the
voice of his mother was heard:

"Joe, you're wanted on the telephone."

"Oh, all right," he answered in a relieved tone. "I didn't want her to
hear about Shalleg," he added in a whisper to Charlie. "She and father
would worry, and, with his recent sickness, that wouldn't be a good
thing for him."

"I should say not," agreed the other ball player.

"I'll be right there, Mother," went on Joe, in louder tones and then he
went to the hall, where the telephone stood. It was only a message from
a local sporting goods dealer, saying that he had secured for Joe a
certain glove he had had made to order.

Joe went back to his chum, and the baseball talk was renewed.

"What were you going to say that Shalleg was up to?" asked Joe.

"As I was saying," resumed Charlie, "there may be nothing in the rumor,
but it's the talk, in baseball circles, that Shalleg has been trying his
best, since being released, to get a place with the Cardinals."

"You don't mean it!" cried Joe. "That accounts for his surprise, and
perhaps for his bitter feeling against me when I told him there was a
chance that I would go to St. Louis."

"Probably," agreed Charlie. "So, having heard this, and knowing that
Shalleg is a hard character, I thought I'd warn you."

"I'm glad you did," returned Joe warmly. "It was very good of you to go
to that trouble. And, after the experience I had with Shalleg, I
shouldn't wonder but what there was something in it. Though why he
should be vindictive toward me is more than I can fathom. I certainly
never did anything to him, except to refuse to lend him money, and I
actually had to do that."

"Of course," agreed Charlie. "But I guess, from his bad habits, his mind
is warped. He is abnormal, and your refusal, coupled with the fact that
you are probably going to a team that he has tried his best to make, and
can't, simply made him wild. So, if I were you, I should be on the
lookout, Joe."

"I certainly will. It's queer that I met Shalleg the way I did--in the
storm. It was quite an unusual coincidence. It seems he had been to
Rocky Ford, a town near here, to see if he could borrow money from
somebody there--at least so he said. Then he heard I lived here, and he
started for Riverside, and got lost on the way, in the storm. Altogether
it was rather queer. I never was so surprised in my life as when, after
riding with me for some time, the man said he was looking for me."

"It _was_ queer," agreed Charlie. "Well, the only thing to do, after
this, is to steer clear of him. And, after all, it may only be talk."

"Yes," assented Joe, "and now let's talk about something pleasant. How
are you, anyhow? What are your plans for the coming season? And how are
all the boys since we played the last pennant game?"

"Gracious!" exclaimed Charlie with a laugh. "You fire almost as many
questions at a fellow as a lawyer would."

Then the two plunged into baseball talk, which, as it has no special
interest for my readers, I shall omit.

"Have you anything special to do?" asked Joe, as Charlie and he came to
a pause in recalling scenes and incidents, many of which you will find
set down in the previous book of this series.

"No. After I clean up all the orders I can here I will have a few days'
vacation," replied Hall.

"Good!" cried Joe. "Then spend them with me. Reggie Varley and his
sister are here for a while--you remember Reggie; don't you, Charlie?"

"As well as you remember his sister, I reckon," was the laughing
rejoinder.

"Never mind that. Then I'll count on you. I'll introduce you to a nice
girl, and we'll get up a little sleigh-riding party. There'll be a fine
moon in a couple of nights."

"Go as far as you like with me," invited Charlie. "I'm not in training
yet, and I guess a late oyster supper, after a long ride, won't do me
any particular harm."

Charlie departed for the hotel, to get his baggage, for he was going to
finish out the rest of his stay in Riverside as Joe's guest, and the
young pitcher went to get the new glove, about which he had received the
telephone message.

It was a little later that day that, as Clara was passing her brother's
room, she heard a curious, thumping noise.

"I wonder what that is?" she murmured. "Sounds as though Joe were
working at a punching bag. Joe, what in the world are you doing?" she
asked, pausing outside his door.

"Making a pocket in my new glove," he answered. "Come on in, Sis. I'm
all covered with olive oil, or I'd open the door for you."

"Olive oil! The idea! Are you making a salad, as well?" she asked
laughingly, as she pushed open the portal.

She saw her brother, attired in old clothes, alternately pouring a few
drops of olive oil on his new pitcher's glove, and then, with an old
baseball pounding a hollow place in the palm.

"What does it mean?" asked Clara.

"Oh, I'm just limbering up my new glove," answered Joe. "If I'm to play
with a big team, like the St. Louis Cardinals, I want to have the best
sort of an outfit. You know a ball will often slip out of a new glove,
so I'm making a sort of 'pocket' in this one, only not as deep as in a
catcher's mitt, so it will hold the ball better."

"But why the olive oil?"

"Oh, well, of course any good oil would do, but this was the handiest.
The oil softens the leather, and makes it pliable. And say, if you
haven't anything else to do, there's an old glove, that's pretty badly
ripped; you might sew it up. It will do to practice with."

"I'll sew it to-morrow, Joe. I've got to make a new collar now. Mabel
and I are going to the matinee, and I want to look my best."

"Oh, all right," agreed Joe easily. "There's no special hurry," and he
went on thumping the baseball into the hollow of the new glove.

"Well, Joe, is there anything new in the baseball situation?" asked Mr.
Matson of his son a little later. The inventor, whose eyesight had been
saved by the operation (to pay for which most of Joe's pennant money
went) was able to give part of his time to his business now.

"No, there's not much new, Dad," replied the young player. "I am still
waiting to hear definitely about St. Louis. I do hope I am drafted
there."

"It means quite an advance for you; doesn't it, Joe?"

"Indeed it does, Dad. There aren't many players who are taken out of a
small league, to a major one, at the close of their first season. I
suppose I ought to be proud."

"Well, I hope you are, Joe, in a proper way," said Mr. Matson. "Pride,
of the right sort, is very good. And I'm glad of your prospective
advance. I am sure it was brought about by hard work, and, after all,
that is the only thing that counts. And you did work hard, Joe."

"Yes, I suppose I did," admitted the young pitcher modestly, as he
thought of the times he pitched when his arm ached, and when his nerves
were all unstrung on account of the receipt of bad news. "But other
fellows worked hard, too," he went on. "You've _got_ to work hard in
baseball."

"Will it be any easier on the St. Louis team?" his father wanted to
know.

"No, it will be harder," replied Joe. "I might as well face that at
once."

And it was well that Joe had thus prepared himself in advance, for
before him, though he did not actually know it, were the hardest
struggles to which a young pitcher could be subjected.

"Yes, there'll be hard work," Joe went on, "but I don't mind. I like it.
And I'm not so foolish as to think that I'm going to go in, right off
the reel, and become the star pitcher of the team. I guess I'll have to
sit back, and warm the bench for quite a considerable time before I'm
called on to pull the game out of the fire."

"Well, that's all right, as long as you're there when the time comes,"
said his father. "Stick to it, Joe, now that you are in it. Your mother
didn't take much to baseball at first, but, the more I see of it, and
read of it, the more I realize that it's a great business, and a clean
sport. I'm glad you're in it, Joe."

"And I am too, Dad."



CHAPTER VIII

THE QUARREL


"Are we all here?"

"Oh, what a glorious night!"

"Did you ever see such a moon!"

"Looks about as big as a baseball does when you're far from first and
the pitcher is heaving it over, to tag you out!"

This last observation from Joe Matson.

"Oh, what an unpoetical remark to make!"

That from Mabel Varley.

There came a chorus of laughter, shouts, good-natured jibes, little
shrieks and giggles from the girls, and chuckles from the young men.

"Well, let's get started," proposed Joe.

It was the occasion of the sleigh ride that Joe had gotten up,
ostensibly for the enjoyment of a number of his young friends, but, in
reality for Mabel, who, with her brother, was still staying on in
Riverside, for the Varley business was not yet finished.

It was a glorious, wintry night, and in the sky hung the silvery moon,
lighting up a few fleecy clouds with glinting beams, and bringing into
greater brightness the sparkling snow that encrusted the earth.

"Count noses," suggested Charlie Hill, who, with a young lady to whom
Joe had introduced him a day or so before, was in the sleighing party.

"I'll help," volunteered Mabel, who, of course, was being escorted by
Joe, while Reggie had Clara under his care. Mabel and Joe made sure that
all of their party were present. They were gathered in the office of the
livery stable, whence they were to start, to go to a hotel about twelve
miles distant--a hotel famous for its oyster suppers, as many a
sleighing party, of which Joe had been a member, could testify.
Following the supper there was to be a little dance, and the party,
properly chaperoned, expected to return some time before morning.

"Yes, I guess we're all here," Joe announced, as he looked among the
young people. And it was no easy task to make sure, for they were
constantly shifting about, going here and there, friends greeting
friends.

Four sturdy horses were attached to a big barge, in the bottom of which
had been spread clean straw, for it was quite frosty, and, in spite of
heavy wraps and blankets, feet would get cold. But the straw served, in
a measure, to keep them warm.

"All aboard!" cried Charlie Hill, who had made himself a general
favorite with all of Joe's friends. "All aboard!"

"Why don't you say 'play ball'?" asked Mabel, with a laugh. "It seems to
me, with a National Leaguer with us, the least we could do would be to
make that our rallying cry!" Mabel was a real "sport."

"I'm not a big leaguer yet," protested Joe. "Don't go too strong on
that. I may be turned back into the bushes."

"Not much danger," commented Charlie, as he thought of the fine work Joe
had done in times past. Joe was a natural born pitcher, but he had
developed his talents by hard work, as my readers know.

Into the sled piled the laughing, happy young folks, and then, snugly
tucked in, the word was given, and, with a merry jingle of bells, away
they went over the white snow.

There were the old-time songs sung, after the party had reached the open
country, and had taken the edge off their exuberance by tooting tin
horns. "Aunt Dinah's Quilting Party," "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,"
"Old Black Joe"--all these, and some other, more modern, songs were
sung, more or less effectively. But, after all, it was the spirit and
not the melody that counted.

On over the snowy road went the big sled, pulled by the willing horses,
who seemed all the more willing because of the joyous party they were
dragging along.

"Look out for this grade-crossing," remarked Joe to the driver, for they
were approaching the railroad.

"I will, Joe," the man replied. "I have good occasion to remember this
place, too."

"So have I," spoke Mabel, in a low voice to her escort. "There is where
we were snowed in; isn't it?" she asked, nodding in the direction of
Deep Rock Cut.

"That's the place," replied Joe.

"Yes, sir, I have occasion to remember this place," went on the driver.
"And I'm always careful when I cross here, ever since, two years ago, I
was nearly run down by a train. I had just such a load of young folks as
I've got now," he went on.

"How did it happen?" asked Reggie, as the runners scraped over the bare
rails, a look up and down the moon-lit track showing no train in sight.

"Well, the party was making quite a racket, and I didn't hear the
whistle of the train," resumed the driver. "It was an extra, and I
didn't count on it. We were on our way home, and we had a pretty narrow
escape. Just got over in time, I tell you. The young folks were pretty
quiet after that, and I was glad it happened on the way home, instead of
going, or it would have spoiled all their fun. And, ever since then,
whether I know there's a train due or not, I'm always careful of this
crossing."

"It makes one feel ever so much safer to have a driver like him," spoke
Mabel to Clara.

"Oh, we can always trust Frank," replied Joe's sister.

Laughing, shouting, singing and blowing the horns, the party went on its
merry way, until the hotel was reached.

Everything was in readiness for the young people, for the arrangements
had been made in advance, and soon after the girls had "dolled-up," as
Joe put it, by which he meant arranged their hair, that had become blown
about under the scarfs they wore, they all sat down to a
bountifully-spread table.

"Reminds me of the dinner we had, after we won the pennant," said
Charlie Hall.

"Only it's so different," added Joe. "That was a hot night."

Talk and merry laughter, mingled with baseball conversation went around
the table. Joe did not care to "talk shop," but somehow or other, he
could not keep away from the subject that was nearest his heart. Nor
could Charlie, and the two shot diamond discussion back and forth, the
others joining in occasionally.

The meal was drawing to an end. Reggie Varley, pouring out a glass of
water, rose to his feet.

"Friends and fellow citizens," he began in a sort of "toastmaster
voice."

"Hear! Hear!" echoed Charlie, entering into the spirit of the occasion.

"We have with us this evening," went on Reggie, in the approved manner
of after-dinner introductions, "one whom you all well know, and whom it
is scarcely necessary to name----"

"Hear! Hear!" interrupted Charlie, pounding on the table with his knife
handle.

All eyes were turned toward Joe, who could not help blushing.

"I rise to propose the health of one whom we all know and love," went on
Reggie, "and to assure him that we all wish him well in his new place."

"Better wait until I get it," murmured Joe, to whom this was a great
surprise.

"To wish him all success," went on Reggie. "And I desire to add that, as
a token of our esteem, and the love in which we hold him, we wish to
present him this little token--and may it be a lucky omen for him when
he is pitching away in the big league," and with this Reggie handed to
Joe a stick-pin, in the shape of a baseball, the seams outlined in
diamonds, and a little ruby where the trademark would have been.

Poor Joe was taken quite by surprise.

"Speech! Speech!" came the general cry.

Joe fumbled the pin in his fingers, and for a moment there was a mist
before his eyes. This little surprise had been arranged by Reggie, and
he had quietly worked up the idea among Joe's many young friends, all of
whom had contributed to the cost of the token.

"Go on! Say something!" urged Mabel, at Joe's side.

"Well--er--well, I--er--I don't know what to say," he stammered, "except
that this is a great surprise to me, and that I--er--I thank you!"

He sat down amid applause, and someone started up the song "For He's a
Jolly Good Fellow!"

It was sung with a will. Altogether the affair was successfully carried
out, and formed one of the most pleasant remembrances in the life of
Baseball Joe.

After the presentation, others made impromptu speeches, even the girls
being called on by Reggie, to whom the position of toastmaster
particularly appealed.

The supper was over. The girls were in the dressing room, donning their
wraps, and Joe and Reggie had gone to the office to pay the bill.

The proprietor of the hotel was in the men's room, and going there Joe
was greeted by name, for the hotel man knew him well.

"Everything satisfactory, Mr. Matson?" the host asked, and at the
mention of Joe's name, a rough-looking fellow, who was buying a cigar,
looked up quickly.

"Yes, Mr. Todd, everything was fine," replied Joe, not noticing the
man's glance. "Now we'll settle with you."

"No hurry," said the proprietor. "I hear you're going to leave us
soon--going up to a higher class in baseball, Joe."

"Well, there's some talk of it," admitted our hero, and as he took out
the money to make the payment, the rough-looking man passed behind him.
Joe dropped a coin, and, in stooping to pick it up, he moved back a
step. As he did so, he either collided with the man, who had observed
him so narrowly, or else the fellow deliberately ran into Joe.

"Look out where you're walking! You stepped on my foot!" exclaimed the
man in surly tones. "Can't you see what you're doing? you country gawk!"

"I beg your pardon," spoke Joe quietly, but a red flush came into his
face, and his hands clenched involuntarily.

"Huh! Trying to put on high society airs; eh?" sneered the other. "I'll
soon take that out of you. I say you stepped on me on purpose."

"You are mistaken," said Joe, still quietly.

"Huh! Do you mean to say I'm sayin' what ain't so?" demanded the other.

"If you like to put it that way; yes," declared Joe, determined to stand
upon his rights, for he felt that it had not been his fault.

"Be careful," warned Reggie, in a low voice.

"Say, young feller, I don't allow nobody to say that to me!" blustered
the fellow, advancing on Joe with an ugly look. "You'll either beg my
pardon, or give me satisfaction! I'll----"

"Now here. None of that!" interposed the proprietor. "You aren't hurt,
Wessel."

"How do you know? And didn't he accuse me of----"

"Oh, get out. You're always ready to pick a quarrel," went on the hotel
man. "Move on!"

"Well, then let him beg my pardon," insisted the other. "If he don't,
I'll take it out of him," and his clenched fist indicated his meaning
only too plainly.



CHAPTER IX

JOE IS DRAFTED


For a moment Joe stood facing the angry man--unnecessarily angry, it
seemed--since, even if the young ball player had trod on his foot, the
injury could not have amounted to much.

"I told you once that I was sorry for having collided with you, though I
do not believe it was my fault," spoke Joe, holding himself in check
with an effort. "That is all I intend to say, and you may make the most
of it."

"I'll make the most of you, if you don't look out!" blustered the man.
"If you'll just step outside we can settle this little argument to the
queen's taste," and he seemed very eager to have Joe accept his
challenge.

"Now see here! There'll be no fighting on these premises," declared the
hotel proprietor, with conviction.

"No, we'll do it outside," growled the man.

"Not with me. I don't intend to fight you," said Joe as quietly as he
could.

"Huh! Afraid; eh?"

"No, not afraid."

"Well, you're a coward and a----"

"That will do, Wessel. Get out!" and the proprietor's voice left no room
for argument. The man slunk away, giving Joe a surly look, and then the
supper bill was paid, and receipted.

"Who was he?" asked Joe, when the fellow was out of sight.

"Oh, I don't know any good of him," replied the hotel man. "He's been
hanging around town ever since the ball season closed."

"Is he a player?" Joe inquired.

"No. I'm inclined to think he's a gambler. I know he was always wanting
to make bets on the games around here, but no one paid much attention to
him. You don't know him; do you?"

"Never saw him before, as far as I recollect," returned Joe slowly. "I
wonder why he wanted to pick a quarrel with me? For that was certainly
his object."

"It was," agreed Reggie, "and he didn't pay much attention to you until
he heard your name."

"I wonder if he could be----?" began Joe, and then he hesitated in his
half-formed question. Reggie looked at his friend inquiringly, but Joe
did not proceed.

"Don't say anything about this to the girls," requested Joe, as they
went upstairs.

"Oh, no, of course not," agreed Reggie. "He was only some loafer, I
expect, who had a sore head. Best to keep it quiet."

Joe was more upset by the incident than he liked to admit. He could not
understand the man's motive in trying so hard to force him into a fight.

"Not that I would be afraid," reasoned Joe, for he was in good
condition, and in splendid fighting trim, due to his clean living and
his outdoor playing. "I think I could have held my own with him," he
thought, "only I don't believe in fighting, if it can be avoided.

"But there was certainly something more than a little quarrel back of it
all. Wessel is his name; eh? I must remember that."

Joe made a mental note of it, but he little realized that he was to hear
the name again under rather strange circumstances.

"What's the matter?" asked Mabel, on the way home in the sleigh, drawn
by the prancing horses with their jingling bells.

"Why?" parried Joe.

"You are so quiet."

"Well--I didn't count on so much happening to-night."

"You mean about that little pin? I think it's awfully sweet."

"Did you help pick it out?" asked Joe, seeing a chance to turn the
conversation.

"Yes. Reggie asked me what I thought would be nice, and I chose that."

"Couldn't have been better," declared Joe, with enthusiasm. "I shall
always keep it!"

They rode on, but Joe could not shake off the mood that had seized him.
He could not forget the look and words of the man who endeavored to
force a quarrel with him--for what object Joe could only guess.

"I'm sure there's something the matter," insisted Mabel, when the song
"Jingle Bells!" had died away. "Have I done anything to displease you?"
she asked, for she had "split" one dance with Charlie Hall.

"No, indeed!" cried Joe, glad that he could put emphasis into his
denial. "There's nothing really the matter."

"Unless you're sorry you're going away out to Missouri," persisted the
girl.

"Well, I am sorry--that is, if I really have to go," spoke the young
ball player sincerely. "Of course it isn't at all certain that I will
go."

"Oh, I guess it's certain enough," she said. "And I really hope you do
go."

"It's pretty far off," said Joe. "I'll have to make my headquarters in
St. Louis."

"Reggie and I expect to be in the West a good part of the coming
Summer," went on Mabel, in even tones. "It's barely possible that
Reggie may make his business headquarters in St. Louis, for papa's
trade is shifting out that way."

"You don't mean it!" cried Joe, and some of his companions in the sleigh
wondered at the warmth of his tone.

"Oh, yes, I do," said Mabel. "So I shall see you play now and then; for
I'm as ardent a 'fan' as I ever was."

"That's good," returned Joe. "I'm glad I'm going to a major league--that
is, if they draft me," he added quickly. "I didn't know you might be out
there."

From then on the thought of going to St. Louis was more pleasant to Joe.

The sleigh ride was a great success in every particular. The young
people reached home rather late--or, rather early in the morning, happy
and not too tired.

"It was fine; wasn't it?" whispered Clara, as she and her brother
tip-toed their way into the house, so as not to awaken their parents.

"Dandy!" he answered softly.

"Weren't you surprised about the pin?"

"Of course I was."

"But you don't seem exactly happy. Is something worrying you? I heard
Mabel ask you the same thing."

"Did you?" inquired Joe, non-committally.

"Yes. Is anything the matter?"

"No, Sis. Get to bed. It's late."

Clara paused for a moment. She realized that Joe had not answered her
question as she would have liked.

"But I guess he's thinking of the change he may have to make," the
sister argued. "Joe is a fine fellow. He certainly has gone ahead in
baseball faster than he would have done in some other line of endeavor.
Well, it's good he likes it.

"And yet," she mused, as she went to her room, "I wonder what it is that
is worrying him?"

If she could have seen Joe, at that same moment, sitting on the edge of
a chair in his apartment, moodily staring at the wall, she would have
wondered more.

"What was his game?" thought Joe, as he recalled the scene with the man
at the hotel. "What was his object?"

But he could not answer his own question.

Joe's sleep was disturbed the remainder of that night--short as the
remainder was.

At breakfast table, the next morning, the story of the jolly sleigh ride
was told to Mr. and Mrs. Matson. Of course Joe said nothing of the
dispute with the surly man.

"And here's the pin they gave me," finished the young player as he
passed around the emblem that had been so unexpectedly presented to
him.

His mother was looking at it when the doorbell rang, and the maid, who
answered it, brought back a telegram.

"It's for Mr. Joseph," she announced.

Joe's face was a little pale as he tore open the yellow envelope, and
then, as he glanced at the words written on the sheet of paper, he
exclaimed:

"It's settled! I'm drafted to St. Louis!"



CHAPTER X

OFF TO ST. LOUIS


For a few seconds, after Joe's announcement, there was silence in the
room. Then, as the realization of what it meant came to them, Clara was
the first to speak.

"I'm _so_ glad, Joe," she said, simply, but there was real meaning in
her words.

"And I congratulate you, son," added Mr. Matson. "It's something to be
proud of, even if St. Louis isn't in the first division."

"Oh, they'll get there, as soon as I begin pitching," declared Joe with
a smile.

Mrs. Matson said nothing for a while. Her son, and the rest of the
family, knew of her objection to baseball, and her disappointment that
Joe had not entered the ministry, or some of the so-called learned
professions.

But, as she looked at the smiling and proud face of her boy she could
not help remarking:

"Joe, I, too, am very glad for your sake. I don't know much about
sporting matters, but I suppose this is a promotion."

"Indeed it is, Mother!" Joe cried, getting up to go around the table and
kiss her. "It's a fine promotion for a young player, and now it's up to
me to make good. And I will, too!" he added earnestly.

"Is that all Mr. Gregory, your former manager, says in the telegram?"
asked Mr. Matson.

"No, he says a letter of explanation will follow, and also a contract to
sign."

"Will you get more money, Joe?" asked Clara.

"Sure, Sis. I know what you're thinking of," Joe added, with a smile at
the girl, as he put his stick-pin in his scarf. "You're thinking of the
ring I promised to buy you if I got this place. Well, I'll keep my word.
You can go down and get measured for it to-day."

"Oh, Joe, what a good brother you are!" she cried.

"Then you really will get more money?" asked Mrs. Matson, and her voice
was a bit eager. Indeed Joe's salary, and the cash he received as his
share of the pennant games, had been a blessing to the family during Mr.
Matson's illness, for the inventor had lost considerable funds.

"Yes, I'll get quite a bit more," said Joe. "I got fifteen hundred a
year with the Pittstons, and Mr. Gregory said I ought to get at least
double that if I go with St. Louis. It will put us on Easy Street; won't
it, Momsey?"

"It will be very welcome," she replied, with a sigh, but it was rather a
happy sigh at that. She had known the pinch of hard times in her day,
had Mrs. Matson.

"I'd have to be at the game of lawyering or doctoring a long while,
before I'd get an advance like this," went on Joe, as he read the
telegram over a second time. And then he put it carefully in his pocket,
to be filed away with other treasures, such as young men love to look at
from time to time; a faded flower, worn by "Someone," a letter or two,
a--but there, I promised not to tell secrets.

The first one who knew of his promotion, after the folks at home, was
Mabel. Joe made some excuse to call at the hotel. Reggie was out on
business, but Joe did not mind that.

"Oh, I'm so glad--for your sake, Joe!" exclaimed Mabel warmly. "I hope
you make a great reputation!"

"It won't be from lack of trying," he said, with a smile. "And I do hope
you can get out to St. Louis this Summer."

"We expect to," she answered. "I have been there with Reggie several
times."

"What sort of a place is it?" asked Joe eagerly, "and where does my
team play?" he inquired, with an accent on the "my."

"There are two major league teams in St. Louis," explained Mabel, who,
as I have said, was an ardent "fan." She was almost as good as a boy in
this respect. "The National League St. Louis team, or the 'Cardinals,'
as I suppose you know they are nicknamed, plays on Robison Field, at
Vandeventer and Natural Bridge road. I've often been out there to games
with Reggie, but I'll look forward to seeing them now, with a lot more
pleasure," she added, blushing slightly.

"Thanks," laughed Joe. "I guess I'll be able to find my way about the
city. But, after all, I'll be likely to strike it with the team, for
I'll probably have to go South training before I report in St. Louis."

"It isn't hard to find your way about St. Louis," went on Mabel. "Just
take a Natural Bridge line car, and that'll bring you out to Robison
Field. Or you can take a trunk line, and transfer to Vandeventer. But
the best way is the Natural Bridge route. Is there anything else you'd
like to know?" she asked, with a smile. "Information supplied at short
notice. The Browns, or American League team, play at Grand and
Dodier----"

"Oh, I'm not interested in them!" interrupted Joe. "I'm going to stick
to my colors--cardinal."

"And I'll wear them, too," said Mabel in a low voice, and the blush in
her cheeks deepened. Already she was wearing Joe's color.

"This is our last day here," the girl went on, after a pause.

"It is?" cried Joe in surprise. "Why, I thought----"

"I'm sorry, too," she broke in with. "You have given Reggie and me a
lovely time. I've enjoyed myself very much."

"Not half as much as _I_ have," murmured Joe.

Reggie came in a little later, and congratulated the young player, and
then Charlie Hall added his good wishes. It was his last day in town
also, and he and the Varleys left on the same train, Joe and his sister
going to the station to see them off.

"If you get snowed in again, just let me know," called Joe, with a
laugh, as the train pulled out. "I'll come for you in an airship."

"Thanks!" laughed Mabel, as she waved her hand in a final good-bye.

As Joe was leaving the station a train from Rocky Ford pulled in, and
one of the passengers who alighted from it was the ill-favored man who
had endeavored to pick a quarrel with Joe at the hotel the night
before.

The fellow favored the young player with a surly glance, and seemed
about to approach him. Then, catching sight of Clara at her brother's
side, he evidently thought better of it, and veered off.

Joe's face must have showed his surprise at the sight of the man, for
Clara asked:

"Who is that fellow, Joe? He looked at you in such a peculiar way. Do
you know him?"

Joe was glad he could answer in the negative. He really did not know the
man, and did not want to, though it certainly seemed strange that he
should encounter him again.

"He seems to know you," persisted Clara, for the man had looked back at
Joe twice.

"Maybe he thinks he does, or maybe he wants to," went on the pitcher,
trying to speak indifferently. "Probably he's heard that I'm the coming
twirling wonder of the Cardinals," and he pretended to swell up his
chest, and look important.

"Nothing like having a good opinion of yourself," laughed Clara.

That afternoon's mail brought Joe a letter from Mr. Gregory, in which
the news contained in the telegram was confirmed. It was also stated
that Joe would receive formal notice of his draft from the St. Louis
team, and his contract, which was to be signed in duplicate.

"I wish he'd said something about salary," mused our hero. "But probably
the other letter, from the St. Louis manager, will have that in, and the
contract will, that's certain."

The following day all the details were settled. Joe received formal
notice of his draft from the Pittstons to the St. Louis Cardinals. He
was to play for a salary of three thousand dollars a year.

In consideration of this he had to agree to certain conditions, among
them being that he would not play with any other team without permission
from the organized baseball authorities, and, as long as he was in the
game, and accepted the salary, he would be subject to the call of any
other team in the league, the owners of which might wish to "purchase"
him; that is, if they paid the St. Louis team sufficient money.

"I wonder what they'll consider me worth, say at the end of the first
season?" said Joe to Clara.

"What a way to talk!" she exclaimed. "As if you were a horse, or a
slave."

"It does sound a bit that way," he admitted, "and some of the star
players bring a lot more than valuable horses. Why, some of the players
on the New York Giants cost the owners ten and fifteen thousand dollars,
and the Pittsburgh Nationals paid $22,500 for one star fellow as a
pitcher. I hope I get to be worth that to some club," laughed Joe, "but
there isn't any danger--not right off the bat," he added with a smile.

"Well, that's a part of baseball I'm not interested in," said Clara. "I
like to see the game, but I watch it for the fun in it, not for the
money."

"And yet there has to be money to make it a success," declared Joe.
"Grounds, grandstands and trips cost cash, and the owners realize on the
abilities of the players. In return they pay them good salaries. Many a
player couldn't make half as much in any other business. I'm glad I'm in
it."

Joe signed and returned the contract, and from then on he was the
"property" of the St. Louis team, and subject to the orders of the
owners and manager.

A few days later Joe received his first instructions--to go to St.
Louis, report to the manager, and then go South to the training camp,
with the team. There his real baseball work, as a member of a big
league, would start.

Joe packed his grip, stowing away his favorite bat and his new pitcher's
glove, said good-bye to his family and friends in Riverside, and took a
train that eventually would land him in St. Louis, at the Union Depot.

The journey was without incident of moment, and in due time Joe reached
the hotel where he had been told the players were quartered.

"Is Mr. Watson here?" he asked the clerk, inquiring for the manager.

"I think you'll find him in the billiard room," replied the clerk,
sizing up Joe with a critical glance. "Here, boy, show this gentleman to
Mr. Watson," went on the man at the register.

"Do you know him by sight?" he asked.

"No," replied Joe, rather sorry he did not.

"I know him!" exclaimed the bellboy, coming forward, with a cheerful
grin on his freckled face. "He sure has a good ball team. I hope they
win the pennant this year. Are you one of the players?" he asked.

"One of the new ones," spoke Joe, modestly enough.

"Gee! Dat's great!" exclaimed the lad admiringly. "There's 'Muggins'
Watson over there," and he pointed to a man in his shirt sleeves,
playing billiards with a young fellow whom Joe recognized, from having
seen his picture in the papers, as 'Slim' Cooney, one of the St. Louis
pitchers.

"Mr. Watson?" inquiringly asked Joe, waiting until the manager had made,
successfully, a difficult shot, and stood at rest on his cue.

"That's my name," and a pair of steel-blue eyes looked straight at our
hero. "What can I do for you?"

"I'm Joe Matson, and----"

"Oh, yes, the new recruit I signed up from Pittston. Well, this is the
first time I've seen you. Took you on the report of one of my men. Glad
to meet you," and he held out a firm hand. "Slim," he went on to his
opponent at billiards, "let me make you acquainted with one of your
hated rivals--Joe Matson. Matson, this is our famous left-hand twirler."

Joe laughed and shook hands. He liked the manager and the other player.
I might state, at this point, that in this book, while I shall speak of
the players of the Cardinals, and of the various National League teams,
I will not use their real names, for obvious reasons. However, if any of
you recognize them under their pseudonyms, I cannot help it.



CHAPTER XI

GOING DOWN SOUTH


"Well, are you going to help us win the pennant, Matson?" asked Manager
Watson, when he had introduced Joe to a number of the other St. Louis
players, who were lounging about the billiard room. It was a cold and
blustery day outside, and the hotel, where the team had lately taken up
quarters, ready for the trip to the South, offered more comfort than the
weather without.

"I'm going to do my best," replied Joe modestly, and he blushed, for
most of the other players were older than he, many of them seasoned
veterans, and the heroes of hard-fought contests.

"Well, we sure do need help, if we're to get anywhere," murmured Hal
Doolin, the snappy little first baseman. "We sure do!"

"You needn't look at me!" fired back Slim Cooney. "I did my share of the
work last season, and if I'd had decent support----"

"Easy now, boys!" broke in Mr. Watson. "You know what the papers said
about last year--that there were too many internal dissensions among the
Cardinals to allow them to play good ball. You've got to cut that out if
I'm going to manage you."

I might add that Sidney Watson, who had made a reputation as a
left-fielder, and a hard hitter on the Brooklyn team, had lately been
offered the position as manager of the Cardinals, and had taken it. This
would be his first season, and, recognizing the faults of the team, he
had set about correcting them in an endeavor to get it out of the
"cellar" class. Quarrels, bickerings and disputes among the players had
been too frequent, he learned, and he was trying to eliminate them.

"Have a heart for each other, boys," he said to the men who gathered
about him, incidentally to covertly inspect Joe, the recruit. "It wasn't
anybody's fault, in particular, that you didn't finish in the first
division last season. But we're going to make a hard try for it this
year. That's why I've let some of your older players go, and signed up
new ones. I'm expecting some more boys on in a few days, and then we'll
hike for the Southland and see what sort of shape I can pound you into."

"Don't let me keep you from your game," said Joe to the manager. "Oh,
I'll let Campbell finish it for me, he's better at the ivories than I
am," and Watson motioned for the centre fielder to take the cue. "I'll
see what sort of a room we can give you," the manager went on. "Nothing
like being comfortable. Did you have a good trip?"

"Yes, indeed."

"Contract satisfactory, and all that?"

"Oh, yes. And, by the way, Mr. Watson, if it isn't asking too much I'd
like to know how you came to hear of me and sign me up?"

"Oh, I had scouts all over last fall," said the manager with a smile.
"One of them happened to see you early in the season, and then he saw
the game you pitched against Clevefield, winning the pennant. You looked
to him like the proper stuff, so I had you drafted to our club."

"I hope you won't repent of your bargain," observed Joe, soberly.

"Well, I don't think I will, and yet baseball is pretty much of a chance
game after all. I've often been fooled, I don't mind admitting. But,
Matson, let me tell you one thing," and he spoke more earnestly, as they
walked along a corridor to the lobby of the hotel. "You mustn't imagine
that you're going in right off the reel and clean things up. You'll have
to go a bit slow. I want to watch you, and I'll give you all the
opportunity I can.

"But you must remember that I have several pitchers, and some of them
are very good. They've been playing in the big leagues for years. You're
a newcomer, and, unless I'm much mistaken, you'll have a bit of stage
fright at first. That's to be expected, and I'm looking for it. I won't
be disappointed if you fall down hard first along. But whatever else you
do, don't get discouraged and--don't lose your nerve, above all else."

"I'll try not to," promised Joe. But he made up his mind that he would
surprise the manager and make a brilliant showing as soon as possible.
Joe had several things to learn about baseball as it is played in the
big leagues.

"I guess I'll put you in with Rad Chase," said Manager Watson, as he
looked over the page of the register, on which were the names of the
team. "His room is a good one, and you'll like him. He's a young chap
about your age."

"Was he in there?" asked Joe, nodding toward the billiard room, where he
had met several of the players.

"No. I don't know where he is," went on the manager. "Is Rad out?" he
asked of the clerk.

That official, stroking his small blonde mustache, turned to look at the
rack. From the peg of room 413 hung the key.

"He's out," the clerk announced.

"Well, you might as well go up and make yourself at home," advised the
manager. "I'll tell Rad you're quartered with him. Have his grip taken
up," went on Mr. Watson to the clerk.

"Front!" called the young man behind the desk, and when the same
freckle-faced lad, who had pointed out to Joe the manager, came
shuffling up, the lad took our hero's satchel, and did a little one-step
glide with it toward the elevator.

"Tanks," mumbled the same lad, as Joe slipped a dime into his palm, when
the bellboy had opened the room door and set the grip on the floor by
the bed. "Say, where do youse play?" he asked with the democratic
freedom of the American youth.

"Well, I'm supposed to be a pitcher," said Joe.

"Left?"

"No, right."

"Huh! It's about time the Cardinals got a guy with a right-hand
delivery!" snorted the boy. "They've been tryin' southpaws and been
beaten all over the lots. Got any speed?"

"Well, maybe a little," admitted Joe, smiling at the lad's
ingenuousness.

"Curves, of course?"

"Some."

"Dat's th' stuff! Say, I hopes you make good!" and the lad, spinning
the dime in the air, deftly caught it, and slid out of the room.

Joe looked after him. He was entering on a new life, and many emotions
were in conflict within him. True, he had been at hotels before, for he
had traveled much when he was in the Central League. But this time it
was different. It seemed a new world to him--a new and big world--a much
more important world.

And he was to be a part of it. That was what counted most. He was in a
Big League--a place of which he had often dreamed, but to which he had
only aspired in his dreams. Now it was a reality.

Joe unpacked his grip. His trunk check he had given to the clerk, who
said he would send to the railroad station for the baggage. Then Joe
changed his collar, put on a fresh tie, and went down in the elevator.
He wanted to be among the players who were to be his companions for the
coming months.

Joe liked Rad Chase at once. In a way he was like Charlie Hall, but
rather older, and with more knowledge of the world.

"Do you play cards?" was Rad's question, after the formalities of
introduction, Joe's roommate having come in shortly after our hero went
down.

"Well, I can make a stab at whist, but I'm no wonder," confessed Joe.

"Do you play Canfield solitaire?"

"Never heard of it."

"Shake hands!" cried Rad, and he seemed relieved.

"Why?" asked Joe.

"Well, the fellow I roomed with last year was a fiend at Canfield
solitaire. He'd sit up until all hours of the morning, trying to make
himself believe he wasn't cheating, and I lost ten pounds from not
getting my proper sleep."

"Well, I'll promise not to keep you awake that way," said Joe with a
laugh.

"Do you snore?" Rad wanted next to know.

"I never heard myself."

Rad laughed.

"I guess you'll do," he said. "We'll hit it off all right."

Joe soon fell easily into the life at the big hotel. He met all the
other players, and while some regarded him with jealous eyes, most of
them welcomed him in their midst. Truth to tell, the St. Louis team was
in a bad way, and the players, tired of being so far down on the list,
were willing to make any sacrifices of professional feeling in order to
be in line for honors, and a share in the pennant money, providing it
could be brought to pass that they reached the top of the list.

Joe spent a week at the hotel while Manager Watson was arranging matters
for the trip South. One or two players had not yet arrived, "dickers"
being under way for their purchase.

But finally the announcement was made that the start for the training
camp, at Reedville, Alabama, would be made in three days.

"And I'm glad of it!" cried Rad Chase, as he and Joe came back one
evening from a moving picture show, and heard the news. "I'm tired of
sitting around here doing nothing. I want to get a bat in my hands."

"So do I," agreed Joe. "It sure will be great to get out on the grass
again. Have you ever been in Reedville?"

"No, but I hear it's a decent place. There's a good local team there
that we brush up against, and two or three other teams in the vicinity.
It'll be lively enough."

"Where do you like to play?" asked Joe.

"Third's my choice, but I hear I'm to be soaked in at short. I hate it,
too, but Watson seems to think I fill in there pretty well."

"I suppose a fellow has to play where he's considered best, whether he
wants to or not," said Joe. "I hope I can pitch, but I may be sent out
among the daisies for all that."

"Well, we've got a pretty good outfield as it is," went on Rad. "I
guess, from what I hear, that you'll be tried out on the mound, anyhow.
Whether you stick there or not will be up to you."

"It sure is," agreed Joe.

A box-party was given at the theatre by the manager for the players, to
celebrate their departure for the South. The play was a musical comedy,
and some of the better known players were made the butt of jokes by the
performers on the stage.

This delighted Joe, and he longed for the time when he would be thought
worthy of such notice. The audience entered into the fun of the
occasion, and when the chief comedian came out, and, in a witty address,
presented Manager Watson with a diamond pin, and wished him all success
for the coming season, there were cheers for the team.

"Everybody stand up!" called Toe Barter, one of the veteran pitchers.
"Seventh inning--everybody stretch!"

The players in the two boxes arose to face the audience in the theatre,
and there were more cheers. Joe was proud and happy that he was a part
of it all.

That night he wrote home, and also to Mabel, telling of his arrival in
St. Louis, and all that had happened since.

"We leave for the South in the morning," he concluded.

The departure of the players on the train was the occasion for another
celebration and demonstration at the depot. A big crowd collected,
several newspaper photographers took snapshots, and there were cheers
and floral emblems.

Joe wished his folks could have been present. Compared to the time when
he had gone South to train for the Pittston team, this was a big
occasion.

A reporter from the most important St. Louis paper was to accompany the
team as "staff correspondent," for St. Louis was, and always has been, a
good "fan" town, and loyal to the ball teams.

"All aboard!" called the conductor.

There were final cheers, final good-byes, final hand-shakes, final
wishes of good luck, and then the train pulled out. Joe and his
teammates were on their way South.

It was the start of the training season, and of what would take place
between that and the closing Joe little dreamed.



CHAPTER XII

THE QUARRELING MAN


Quite a little family party it was the St. Louis players composed as
they traveled South in their private car, for they enjoyed that
distinction. This was something new for Joe, as the Pittston team was
not blessed with a wealthy owner, and an ordinary Pullman had sufficed
when Joe made his former trip. Now it was travel "de luxe."

The more Joe saw of Rad Chase the more he liked the fellow, and the two
soon became good friends, being much in each other's company, sharing
the upper and lower berths by turns in their section, eating at the same
table, and fraternizing generally.

Some of the older players were accompanied by their wives, and after the
first few hours of travel everyone seemed to know everyone else, and
there was much talk and laughter.

"Can't you fellows supply me with some dope?" asked a voice in the aisle
beside the seats occupied by Joe and Rad. "I've gotten off all the
departure stuff, and I want something for a lead for to-morrow. Shoot
me some new dope; will you?"

"Oh, hello, Jim!" greeted Rad, and then, as Joe showed that he did not
recognize the speaker, the other player went on: "This is the
_Dispatch-Times's_ staff correspondent, Jim Dalrymple. You want to be
nice to him, Joe, and he'll put your name and picture in the paper. Got
anything you can give him for a story?"

"I'm afraid not," laughed Joe.

"Oh, anything will do, as long as I can hang a lead on it," said
Dalrymple hopefully. "If you've never tried to get up new stuff every
day at a training camp of a ball team, you've no idea what a little
thing it takes to make news. Now you don't either of you happen to have
a romance about you; do you?" he inquired, pulling out a fold of copy
paper. (Your real reporter never carries a note book. A bunch of paper,
or the back of an envelope will do to jot down a few facts. The rest is
written later from memory. Only stage reporters carry note books, and,
of late they are getting "wise" and abstaining from it.)

"A romance?" repeated Joe. "Far be it from me to conceal such a thing
about my person."

"But you _have_ had rather a rapid rise in baseball; haven't you, Joe?"
insinuated Rad. "You didn't have to wait long for promotion. Why not
make up a yarn about that?" went on Rad, nodding at the reporter.

"Sure I'll do it. Give me a few facts. Not too many," the newspaper man
said with a whimsical smile. "I don't want to be tied down too hard. I
like to let my fancy have free play."

"He's all right," whispered Rad in an aside to Joe. "One of the best
reporters going, and he always gives you a fair show. If you make an
error he'll debit you with it, but when you play well he'll feature you.
He's been South with the team a lot of times, I hear."

"But I don't like to talk about myself," objected Joe.

"Don't let that worry you!" laughed Rad. "Notoriety is what keeps
baseball where it is to-day, and if it wasn't for the free advertising
we get in the newspapers there would not be the attendance that brings
in the dollars, and lets us travel in a private car. Don't be afraid of
boosting yourself. The reporters will help you, and be glad to. They
have to get the stuff, and often enough it's hard to do, especially at
the training camp."

In some way or other, Joe never knew exactly how, Dalrymple managed to
get a story out of him, about how Joe had been drafted, how he had begun
playing ball as a boy on the "sand lots," how he had pitched Yale to
victory against Princeton, and a few other details, with which my
readers are already familiar.

"Say, this'll do first rate!" exulted the reporter, as he went to a
secluded corner to write his story, which would be telegraphed back to
his daily newspaper. "I'm glad I met you!" he laughed.

Dalrymple was impartial, which is the great secret of a newspaper
reporter's success. Though he gave Joe a good "show," he also "played
up" some of the other members of the team. So that when copies of the
paper were received later, they contained an account of Joe's progress,
sandwiched in between a "yarn" of how the catcher had once worked in a
boiler factory, where he learned to catch red-hot rivets, and how one of
the outfielders had inherited a fortune, which he had dissipated, and
then, reforming, had become a star player. So Joe had little chance to
get a "swelled head," which is a bad thing for any of us.

The first part of the journey South was made in record time, but after
the private car was transferred to one of the smaller railroad lines
there were delays that fretted the players.

"What's the matter?" asked Manager Watson of the conductor as that
official came through after a long stop at a water tank station, "won't
the cow get off the track?" and he winked at the players gathered about
him.

"That joke's a hundred years old," retorted the ticket-taker. "Think up
a new one! There's a freight wreck ahead of us, and we have to go slow."

"Well, as long as we get there some time this week, it will be all
right, I reckon," drawled the manager.

Reedville was reached toward evening of the second day, and the
travel-weary ball-tossers piled out of their coach to find themselves at
the station of a typical Southern town.

Laziness and restfulness were in the air, which was warm with the heat
of the slowly setting sun. There was the odor of flowers. Colored men
were all about, shuffling here and there, driving their slowly-ambling
horses attached to rickety vehicles, or backing them up at the platform
to get some of the passengers.

"Majestic Hotel right this yeah way, suh! Right over yeah!" voiced the
driver of a yellow stage. "Goin' right up, suh!"

"That's our place, boys," announced the manager. "Pile in, and let me
have your checks. I'll have the baggage sent up."

Joe and the others took their place in the side-seated stage. A little
later, the manager having arranged for the transportation of the
trunks, they were driven toward the hotel that was to be their
headquarters while in the South.

They were registering at the hotel desk, and making arrangements about
who was to room with who, when Joe heard the hotel clerk call Mr. Watson
aside.

"He says he's with your party, suh," the clerk spoke. "He arrived
yesterday, and wanted to be put on the same floor with your players.
Says he's going to be a member of the team."

"Huh! I guess someone is bluffing you!" exclaimed the manager. "I've got
all my team with me. Who is the fellow, anyhow?"

"That's his signature," went on the clerk, pointing to it on the hotel
register.

"Hum! Wessel; eh?" said Mr. Watson. "Never heard of him. Where is he?"

"There he stands, over by the cigar counter."

Joe, who had heard the talk, looked, and, to his surprise, he beheld the
same individual who had tried to pick a quarrel with him the night of
the sleigh ride.



CHAPTER XIII

UNDER SUNNY SKIES


"That man!" exclaimed Mr. Watson, as he gave the stranger a quick
glance. "No, I don't know him, and he certainly isn't a member of my
team. He isn't going to be, either; as far as I know. I'm expecting some
other recruits, but no one named Wessel."

Joe said nothing. He was wondering if the man would recognize him, and,
perhaps, renew that strange, baseless quarrel. And, to his surprise, the
man did recognize him, but merely to bow. And then, to Joe's further
surprise, the individual strolled over to where the manager and some of
the players were standing, and began:

"Is this Mr. Watson?"

"That's my name--yes," but there was no cordiality in the tone.

"Well, I'm Isaac Wessel. I used to play short on the Rockpoint team in
the Independent League. My contract has expired and I was wondering
whether you couldn't sign me up."

"Nothing doing," replied Mr. Watson, tersely. "I have all the material I
need."

"I spoke to Mr. Johnson about it," naming one of the owners of the St.
Louis team, "and he said to see you."

"Did he tell you to tell me to put you on?"

"No, I wouldn't go so far as to say that," was the hesitating reply.

"And did he say I was to give you a try-out?"

"Well, he--er--said you could if you wanted to."

"Well, I _don't_ want to," declared the manager with decision. "And I
want to say that you went too far when you told the clerk here you
belonged to my party. I don't know you, and I don't want anything to do
with a man who acts that way," and Mr. Watson turned aside.

"Well, I didn't mean any harm," whined Wessel. "The--er--I--er--the
clerk must have misunderstood me."

"All right. Let it go at that," was all the answer he received.

"Then you won't give me a chance?"

"No."

The man evidently realized that this was the end, for he, too, turned
aside. As he did so he looked sneeringly at Joe, and mumbled:

"I suppose you think you're the whole pitching staff now?"

Joe did not take the trouble to answer. But, though he ignored the man,
he could not help wondering what his plan was in coming to the training
camp. Could there be a hidden object in it, partly covered by the
fellow's plea that he wanted to get on the team?

"Do you often have cases like that, Mr. Watson?" Joe asked the manager
when he had a chance.

"Like what, Matson?"

"Like that Wessel."

"Oh, occasionally. But they don't often get as fresh as he did. The idea
of a bush-leaguer thinking he could break into the majors like that. He
sure had nerve! Well, now I hope we're all settled, and can get to work.
We've struck good weather, anyhow."

And indeed the change from winter to summer was little short of
marvelous. They had come from the land of ice and snow to the warm
beauty of sunny skies. There was a feeling of spring in the air, and the
blood of every player tingled with life.

"Say, it sure will be great to get out on the diamond and slam the ball
about; won't it?" cried Joe to Rad Chase, as the two were unpacking in
their hotel room.

"That's what! How are you on stick work?"

"Oh, no better than the average pitcher," replied Joe, modestly. "I had
a record of .172 last season."

"That's not so worse," observed Rad.

"What's yours?" asked Joe.

"Oh, it runs around .250."

"Good!" cried Joe. "I hope you get it up to .300 this year."

"Not much chance of that. I was picked because I'm pretty good with the
stick--a sort of pinch hitter. But then that's not being a star
pitcher," he added, lest Joe feel badly at the contrast in their batting
averages.

"Oh, I'm far from being a star, but I'd like to be in that class.
There's my best bat," and he held out his stick.

"Oh, you like that kind; eh?" spoke Rad. "Well, I'll show you what I
favor," and then the two plunged into a talk that lasted until meal
time.

The arrival of the St. Louis team in the comparatively small town of
Reedville was an event of importance. There was quite a crowd about the
hotel, made up mostly of small boys, who wanted a chance to see the
players about whom they had read so much.

After the meal, as Joe, Rad and some of the others strolled out for a
walk about the place, our hero caught murmurs from the crowd of lads
about the entrance.

"There's 'Toe' Barter," one lad whispered, nodding toward a veteran
pitcher.

"Yes, and that fellow walking with him is 'Slim' Cooney. He pitched a
no-hit, no-run game last year."

"Sure, I know it. And that fellow with the pipe in his mouth is 'Dots'
McCann, the shortstop. He's a peach!"

And so it went on. Joe's name was not mentioned by the admiring throng.

"Our turn will come later," said Rad, with a smile.

"I guess so," agreed his chum, somewhat dubiously.

Reedville was a thriving community, and boasted of a good nine, with
whom the St. Louis team expected to cross bats a number of times during
the training season. Then, too, in nearby towns, were other teams, some
of them semi-professional, who would be called on to sacrifice
themselves that the Cardinals might have something to bring out their
own strong and weak points.

"Let's go over to the grounds," suggested Joe.

"I'm with you," agreed Rad.

"Say, you fellows won't be so anxious to head for the diamond a little
later in the season," remarked "Doc" Mullin, one of the outfielders.
"You'll be only too glad to give it the pass-up; won't they?" he
appealed to Roger Boswell, the trainer and assistant manager.

"Well, I like to see young fellows enthusiastic," said Boswell, who had
been a star catcher in his day. But age, and an increasing deposit of
fat, had put him out of the game. Now he coached the youngsters, and
when "Muggins," as Mr. Watson was playfully called, was not on hand he
managed the games from the bench. He was a star at that sort of thing.

"Go to it, boys," he advised Joe and Rad, with a friendly nod. "You
can't get too much baseball when you're young."

The diamond at Reedville was nothing to boast of, but it would serve
well enough for practice. And the grandstand was only a frail, wooden
affair, nothing like the big one at Robison Field, in St. Louis.

Joe and Rad walked about the field, and longed for the time when they
would be out on it in uniform.

"Which will be about to-morrow," spoke Rad, as Joe mentioned his desire.
"We'll start in at light work, batting fungo and the like, limbering up
our legs, and then we'll do hard work."

"I guess so," agreed Joe.

The weather could not have been better. The sun shone warmly from a
blue sky, and there was a balmy spiciness to the southern wind.

Rad and Joe walked about town, made a few purchases, and were turning
back to the hotel when they saw "Cosey" Campbell, the third baseman,
standing in front of a men's furnishing store.

"I say, fellows, come here," he called to the two. They came. "Do you
think that necktie is too bright for a fellow?" went on Campbell,
pointing to a decidedly gaudy one in the show window.

"Well, it depends on who's going to wear it," replied Rad, cautiously.

"Why, I am, of course," was the surprised answer. "Who'd you s'pose?"

"I didn't know but what you were buying it to use for a foul line flag,"
chuckled Rad, for Campbell's weakness for scarfs was well known. He
bought one or two new ones every day, and, often enough, grew
dissatisfied with his purchase before he had worn it. Then he tried to
sell it to some other member of the team, usually without success.

"Huh! Foul flag!" grunted Campbell. "Guess you don't know a swell tie
when you see it. I'm going to get it," he added rather desperately, as
though afraid he would change his mind.

"Go ahead. We'll go in and see fair play," suggested Joe, with a smile.

The tie was purchased, and the clerk, after selling the bright scarf,
seeing that Campbell had a package in his hand, inquired:

"Shall I wrap them both up together for you?"

"If you don't mind," replied the third baseman. And, in tying up the
bundle, the one Campbell had been carrying came open, disclosing three
neckties more gaudy, if possible, than the one he had just purchased.

"For the love of strikes!" cried Rad. "What are you going to do; start a
store?"

"Oh, I just took a fancy to these in a window down street," replied
Campbell easily. "Rather neat; don't you think?" and he held up a red
and green one.

"Neat! Say, they look like the danger signals in the New York subway!"
cried Rad. "Shade your eyes, Joe, or you won't be able to see the ball
to-morrow!"

"That shows how much taste you fellows have," snapped Campbell. "Those
are swell ties."

But the next day Joe heard Campbell trying to dispose of some of the
newly purchased scarfs to "Dots" McCann.

"Go ahead, 'Dots,' take one," pleaded the baseman. "You need a new tie,
and I've got more than I want. This red and green one, now; it's real
swell."

"Go on!" cried the other player. "Why I'd hate to look at myself in a
glass with that around my neck! And you'd better not wear it, either--at
least, not around town."

"Why not?" was the wondering answer.

"Because you might scare some of the mules, and there'd be a runaway.
Tie a stone around it, Campbell, and drown it. It makes so much noise I
can't sleep," and with that McCann walked off, leaving behind him a very
indignant teammate.

That night notice was given that all the players would assemble at the
baseball diamond in uniform next morning.

"That's the idea!" cried Joe. "Now for some real work."



CHAPTER XIV

HARD WORK


The rooms of the ball players were all in one part of the hotel, along
the same hall. Joe and Rad were together, near the stairway going down.

That night, their first in the training camp, there was considerable
visiting to and fro among the members of the team, and some little
horse-play, for, after all, the players were like big boys, in many
respects.

Rad, who had been in calling on some of his fellow players, came back to
the room laughing.

"What's up?" asked Joe, who was writing a letter.

"Oh, Campbell is still trying to get rid of that hideous tie we helped
him purchase. He wanted to wish it on to me."

"And of course you took it," said Joe, with a smile.

"Of course I did _not_. Well, I guess I'll turn in. We'll have plenty to
do to-morrow."

"That's right. I'll be with you as soon as I finish this letter."

But Rad was sound asleep when Joe had finished his correspondence, and
slipped downstairs to leave it at the desk for the early mail. Joe
looked around the now almost deserted lobby, half expecting to see the
strange man, Wessel, standing about. But he was not in sight.

"I wonder what his game is, after all?" mused Joe. "I seem to have been
running into two or three queer things lately. There's Shalleg, who
bears me a grudge, though I don't see why he should, just because I
couldn't lend him money, and then there's this fellow--I only hope the
two of them don't go into partnership against me. I guess that's hardly
likely to happen, though."

But Joe little realized what was in store for him, and what danger he
was to run from these same two men.

Joe awakened suddenly, about midnight, by hearing someone moving around
the room. He raised himself softly on his elbow, and peered about the
apartment, for a dim light showed over the transom from the hall
outside. To Joe's surprise the door, which he had locked from the inside
before going to bed, now stood ajar.

"I wonder if Rad can be sick, and have gone out?" Joe thought. "Maybe he
walks in his sleep."

He looked over toward his chum's bed, but could not make out whether or
not Rad was under the covers. Then, as he heard someone moving about
the apartment he called out:

"That you, Rad?"

Instantly the noise ceased, to be resumed a moment later, and Joe felt
sure that someone, or something, went past the foot of his bed and out
into the hall.

"That you, Rad?" he called again.

"What's that? Who? No, I'm here," answered the voice of his chum.
"What's the matter?"

Joe sprang out of bed, and in one bound reached the corridor. By means
of the one dim electric lamp he saw, going down the stairs, carrying a
grip with him, the mysterious man who had tried to quarrel with him. He
was evidently taking "French leave," going out in the middle of the
night to "jump" his hotel bill.

"What's up?" asked Rad, as he, too, left his bed. "What is it, Joe?"

The young pitcher came back into the room, and switched on a light. A
quick glance about showed that neither his baggage, nor Rad's, had been
taken.

"It must have been his own grip he had," said Joe.

"His? Who do you mean--what's up?" demanded Rad.

"It was Wessel. He's sneaking out," remarked Joe in a low voice. "Shall
we give the alarm?"

"No, I guess not. We don't want to be mixed up in a row. And maybe he's
going to take a midnight train. You can't tell."

"I think he was in this room," went on Joe.

"He was? Anything missing?"

"Doesn't seem to be."

"Well, then, don't make a row. Maybe he made a mistake."

"He'd hardly unlock our door by mistake," declared Joe.

"No, that's so. Did you see him in here?"

"No, but I heard someone."

"Well, it wouldn't be safe to make any cracks. Better not make a row, as
long as nothing is gone."

Joe decided to accept this advice, and went back to bed, after taking
the precaution to put a chair-back under the knob, as well as locking
it. It was some time before he got to sleep, however. But Rad was
evidently not worried, for he was soon in peaceful slumber.

Rad's theory that Wessel had gone out in the middle of the night to get
a train was not borne out by the facts, for it became known in the
morning that he had, as Joe suspected, "jumped" his board bill.

"And he called himself a ball player!" exclaimed Mr. Watson in disgust.
"I'd like to meet with him again!"

"Maybe you will," ventured Joe, but he did not know how soon his
prediction was to come to pass.

"Well, boys, we'll see how we shape up," said the manager, a little
later that morning when the members of the team, with their uniforms on,
had assembled at the ball park. "Get out there and warm up. Riordan, bat
some fungoes for the boys. McCann, knock the grounders. Boswell, you
catch for--let's see--I guess I'll wish you on to Matson. We'll see what
sort of an arm he's got."

Joe smiled, and his heart beat a trifle faster. It was his first trial
with the big league, an unofficial and not very important trial, to be
sure, but none the less momentous to him.

Soon was heard the crack of balls as they bounded off the bats, to be
followed by the thuds as they landed in the gloves of the players. The
training work was under way.

"What sort of ball do you pitch?" asked the old player pleasantly of
Joe, as they moved off to a space by themselves for practice.

"Well, I've got an in, an out, a fadeaway and a spitter."

"Quite a collection. How about a cross-fire?"

"I can work it a little."

"That's good. Now let's see what you can do. But take it easy at first.
You don't want to throw out any of your elbow tendons so early in the
season."

"I guess not," laughed Joe.

Then he began to throw, bearing in mind the advice of the veteran
assistant manager. The work was slow at first, and Joe found himself
much stiffer than he expected. But the warm air, and the swinging of his
arm, limbered him up a bit, and soon he was sending in some swift ones.

"Go slow, son," warned Boswell. "You're not trying to win a game, you
know. You're getting a little wild."

Joe felt a bit chagrined, but he knew it was for his own good that the
advice was given.

Besides the pitching and batting practice, there was some running around
the bases. But Manager Watson knew better than to keep the boys at it
too long, and soon called the work off for the day.

"We'll give it a little harder whack to-morrow," he said. And then Joe,
as he went to the dressing rooms, overheard the manager ask Boswell:

"What do you think of Matson?"

"Oh, he's not such a wonder," was the not very encouraging reply. "But
I've seen lots worse. He'll do to keep on your string, but he's got a
lot to learn. It's a question of what he'll do when he faces the big
teams, and hears the crowd yelling: 'He's rotten! Take him out!' That's
what's going to tell."

"Yes, I suppose so. But I heard good reports of him--that gameness was
one of his qualities."

"Well, he'll need it all right," declared the veteran player.

Then Joe passed on, not wanting to listen to any more. Truth to tell, he
rather wished he had not heard that much. His pride was a little hurt.
To give him credit, Joe had nothing like a "swelled head." He knew he
had done good work in the Central League, and there, perhaps, he had
been made more of than was actually good for him. Here he was to find
that, relatively, he counted for little.

A big team must have a number of pitchers, and not all of them can be
"first string" men. Some must be kept to work against weak teams, to
spare the stars for tight places. Joe realized this.

"But if hard work will get me anywhere I'm going to arrive!" he said to
himself, grimly, as the crowd of players went back to the hotel.

The days that followed were given up to hard and constant practice. Each
day brought a little more hard work, for the time was approaching when
practice games must be played with the local teams, and it was necessary
that the Cardinals make a good showing.

Life in the training camp of a major league team was different than Joe
had found it with the Pittstons. There was a more business-like tone to
it, and more snap.

The newspaper men found plenty of copy at first, in chronicling the
doings of the big fellows, telling how this one was working up his
pitching speed, or how that one was improving his batting. Then, too,
the funny little incidents and happenings about the diamond and hotel
were made as much of as possible.

The various reporters had their own papers sent on to them, and soon, in
some of these, notably the St. Louis publications, Joe began to find
himself mentioned occasionally. These clippings he sent home to the
folks. He wanted to send some to Mabel, but he was afraid she might
think he was attaching too much importance to himself, so he refrained.

Some of the reporters did not speak very highly of Joe's abilities, and
others complimented him slightly. All of them intimated that some day he
might amount to something, and then, again, he might not. Occasionally
he was spoken of as a "promising youngster."

It was rather faint praise, but it was better than none. And Joe
steeled himself to go on in his own way, taking the well-intentioned
advice of the other baseball players, Boswell in particular.

Joe had other things besides hard work to contend against. This was the
petty jealousy that always crops up in a high-tensioned ball team. There
were three other chief pitchers on the nine, Toe Barter, Sam Willard and
Slim Cooney. Slim and Toe were veterans, and the mainstays of the team,
and Sam Willard was one of those chaps so often seen in baseball, a
brilliant but erratic performer.

Sometimes he would do excellently, and again he would "fall down"
lamentably. And, for some reason, Sam became jealous of Joe. Perhaps he
would have been jealous of any young pitcher who he thought might, in
time, displace him. But he seemed to be particularly vindictive against
Joe. It started one day in a little practice game, when Sam, after some
particularly wild work, was replaced by our hero.

"Huh! Now we'll see some real pitching," Sam sneered as he sulked away
to the bench.

Joe turned red, and was nervous as he took his place.

Perhaps if Joe had made a fizzle of it Willard might have forgiven him,
but Joe, after a few rather poor balls, tightened up and struck out
several men neatly, though they were not star batters.

"The Boy Wonder!" sneered Willard after the game. "Better order a cap a
couple of sizes larger for him after this, Roger," he went on to the
coach.

"Oh, dry up!" retorted Boswell, who had little liking for Willard.

And so the hard work went on. The men, whitened by the indoor life of
the winter, were beginning to take on a bronze tan. Muscles hardened and
become more springy. Running legs improved. The pitchers were sending in
swifter balls, Joe included. The fungo batters were sending up better
flies. The training work was telling.



CHAPTER XV

ANOTHER THREAT


"Play ball!"

"Batter up!"

"Clang! Clang!"

The old familiar cries, and the resonant sound of the starting gong,
were heard at the Reedville diamond. It was the first real game of the
season, and it was awaited anxiously, not only by the players, but by
Manager Watson, the coach, and by the owners back home. For it would
give a "line" on what St. Louis could do.

Of course it was not a league contest, and the work, good, bad or
indifferent, would not count in the averages. Joe hoped he would get a
chance to pitch, at least part of the game, but he was not likely to,
Boswell frankly told him, as it was desired to let Barter and Cooney
have a fairly hard work-out on this occasion.

"But your turn will come, son," said the coach, kindly. "Don't you fret.
I think you're improving, and, to be frank with you, there's lots of
room for it. But you've got grit, and that's what I like to see."

Reedville was a good baseball town, which was one of the reasons why
Manager Watson had selected it as his training camp. The townspeople
were ardent supporters of the home team, and they welcomed the advent of
the big leaguers. In the vicinity were also other teams that played good
ball.

The bleachers and grandstand were well filled when the umpire gave his
echoing cry of:

"Play ball!"

The ball-tossers had been warming up, both the Cardinals and the home
team, which proved to be a husky aggregation of lads, with tremendous
hitting abilities, provided they could connect with the ball. And that
was just what the St. Louis pitchers hoped to prevent.

"Willard, you can lead off," was the unexpected announcement of Mr.
Watson, as he scanned his batting order. "McCann will catch for you. Now
let's see what you can do."

"I'll show 'em!" exclaimed the "grouchy" pitcher as he unbuttoned his
glove from his belt. He had been warming up, and had come to the bench,
donning a sweater, with no hope of being put in the game at the start
off. But, unexpectedly, he had been called on.

"Play ball!" cried the umpire again.

Joe wished, with all his heart, that he was going in, but it was not to
be.

In order to give the home team every possible advantage, they were to go
to bat last. And there was some little wonder when the first St. Louis
player faced the local pitcher. There were cries of encouragement from
the crowd, for Robert Lee Randolph--the pitcher in question--had
aspirations to the big league. He was a tall, lanky youth, and, as the
Cardinal players soon discovered, had not much except speed in his box.
But he certainly had speed, and that, with his ability, or inability, to
throw wildly, made him a player to be feared as much as he was admired.

He hit three players during the course of the game, and hit them hard.

"If they can't beat us any other way they're going to cripple us," said
Rad grimly to Joe, as they sat on the bench.

"It does look that way; doesn't it?" agreed our hero.

The game went on, and, as might have been expected, the St. Louis team
did about as they pleased. No, that is hardly correct. Even a country
aggregation of players can sometimes make the finest nine of
professionals stand on its mettle. And, in this case, for a time, the
contest was comparatively close.

For Mr. Watson did not send in all his best players, and, from the fact
that his men had not been in a game since the former season closed,
whereas the Reedville team had been at the game for two months or more,
the disadvantage was not as great as it might have seemed.

But there was one surprise. When Willard first went in he pitched
brilliantly, and struck out the local players in good order, allowing
only a few scattering hits.

Then he suddenly went to pieces, and was severely pounded. Only
excellent fielding saved him, for he was well backed-up by his fellow
players.

"Rexter will bat for you, Willard," said Manager Watson, when the inning
was over. "Cooney, you go out and warm up."

"What's the matter. Ain't I pitching all right?" angrily demanded the
deposed one.

"I'm sorry to say you're not. I'm not afraid of losing the game, but I
don't want any more of this sort of stuff going back home," replied the
manager, as he nodded over to where the newspaper reporters were
chuckling among themselves over the comparatively poor exhibition the
St. Louis Cardinals had so far put up.

So Willard went to the bench, while crafty Cooney, with his left-hand
delivery, went to warm up. And how Joe did wish _he_ would get a chance!

But he did not, and the game ended, as might have been expected, with
the Cardinals snowing under their country opponents.

Hard practice followed that first exhibition game, and there were some
shifts among the players, for unexpected weakness, as well as strength
had by this time developed in certain quarters.

"I wonder when I'll get a chance to show what I can do?" spoke Joe to
Rad, as they were on their way back to the hotel, after a second contest
with Reedville, in which our hero had still stuck to the bench.

"Oh, it's bound to come," his chum told him. Personally, he was joyful,
for he had been given a try-out, and had won the applause of the crowd
by making a difficult play.

"Well, it seems a long time," grumbled Joe, with a sigh.

The practice became harder, as the opening of the season drew nearer.
Some recruits joined the Cardinals at their training camp, and further
shifts were made.

Joe was finally given a chance to pitch against a team from Bottom
Flats--a team, by the way, not as strong as the Reedville nine. And that
Joe made good was little to his credit, as he himself knew.

"I could have fanned them without any curves," he told Rad afterward.

"Well, it's good you didn't take any chances," his chum said. "You never
can tell."

Again came a contest with Reedville, but Joe was not called on. Toe
Barter, who had gained his nickname from the queer habit he had of
digging a hole for his left foot, before delivering the ball, opened the
contest, and did so well that he was kept in until the game was "in the
refrigerator." Then Joe was given his chance, but there was little
incentive to try, with the Cardinals so far ahead.

Nevertheless, our hero did his best, and to his delight, he knocked a
two-bagger, sliding to second amid a cloud of dust, to be decided safe
by the umpire, though there was a howl of protest from the "fans."

The Cardinals won handily, and as Joe was walking to the club house with
Rad, eagerly talking about the game, he saw, just ahead of him in the
crowd of spectators a figure, at the sight of which he started.

"That looks like Shalleg," he said, half aloud.

"What's that?" asked Rad.

"Oh, nothing. I just thought I saw someone I knew. That is, I don't
exactly know him, but----"

At that moment the man at whose back Joe had been looking turned
suddenly, and, to our hero's surprise, it was Shalleg. The man, with an
impudent grin on his face, spoke to a companion loudly enough for Joe to
hear.

"There's the fellow who wouldn't help me out!" Shalleg exclaimed. "He
turned me down cold. Look at him."

The other turned, and Joe's surprise was heightened when he saw Wessel,
the man who had tried to quarrel with him, and who had "jumped" his bill
at the hotel.

"Oh, I know him all right," Wessel responded to Shalleg. "I've seen him
before."

Joe and Rad, with the two men, were comparatively alone now. The
attitude and words of the fellows were so insulting that Joe almost made
up his mind to defy them. But before he had a chance to do so Shalleg
snapped out:

"You want to look out for yourself, young man. I'll get you yet, and
I'll get even with you for having me turned down. You want to look out.
Bill Shalleg is a bad man to have for an enemy. Come on, Ike," and with
that they turned away and were soon lost in the throng.



CHAPTER XVI

JOE'S TRIUMPH


"Well, what do you know about that?" cried Rad, with a queer look at
Joe.

"I don't know what to think about it, and that's the truth," was the
simple but puzzled answer.

"But who are they--what do they mean? The idea of them threatening you
that way! Why, that's against the law!"

"Maybe it is," agreed Joe. "As for who those men are, you know Wessel,
of course."

"Yes. The fellow who jumped his board bill at the hotel. Say, I guess
the proprietor would like to see him. He has nerve coming back to this
town. I've a good notion to tell the hotel clerk he's here. Mr. Watson
would be glad to know it, too, for he takes it as a reflection on the
team that Wessel should claim to be one of us, and then cheat the way he
did."

"Maybe it would be a good plan to tell on him," agreed Joe.

"And who's the other chap, and why did he threaten you?" his chum asked.

"That's another queer thing," the young pitcher went on. "He's angry at
me, as near as I can tell, because I had to refuse him a loan," and he
detailed the circumstances of his meeting with Shalleg.

"But it's odd that he and Wessel should be chumming together. I've said
little about it, but I've been wondering for a long time why Wessel
quarreled with me. I begin to see a light now. It must have been that
Shalleg put him up to it."

"A queer game," admitted Rad. "Well, I think I'll put the hotel
proprietor wise to the fact that he can collect that board bill from Ike
Wessel."

But Joe and Rad found their plans unexpectedly changed when they went to
put them into effect. They were a little late getting back to the hotel
from the grounds, as Joe had some purchases to make. And, as the two
chums entered the lobby, they saw standing by the desk the two men in
question. Mr. Watson was addressing Shalleg in no uncertain tones.

"No, I tell you!" he exclaimed. "I won't have you on the team, and this
is the last time I'll tell you. And I don't want you hanging around,
either. You don't do us any good."

"Is that your last word?" asked Shalleg, angrily.

"Yes, my last word. I want you to clear out and leave us alone."

"Huh! I guess you can't keep me away from games!" sneered Shalleg. "This
is a free country."

"Well, you keep away from my club," warned Mr. Watson, with great
firmness. "I wouldn't have you as a bat-tender."

The flushed and ill-favored face of Shalleg grew more red, if that were
possible, and he growled:

"Oh, don't let that worry you. Some day you may be glad to send for me
to help pull your old club out of the cellar. Someone has been talking
about me, that's the trouble; and if I find out who it is I'll make 'em
sweat for it!" and he glared at Joe, who was too amazed at the strange
turn of affairs to speak.

Then the two cronies turned and started out of the hotel lobby. But Rad
was not going to be foiled so easily. He slipped over to the clerk and
whispered:

"Say, that's the fellow who jumped his board bill, you know," and he
nodded at Wessel.

"Yes, I know," the clerk replied. "He just came in to settle. He
apologized, and said he had to leave in a hurry," and the clerk winked
his eye to show how much belief he placed in the story.

"Hum!" mused Rad. "That's rather queer. He must have wanted to square
matters up so he could come back to town safely."

"Looks so," returned the clerk.

Joe talked the matter over with his roommate, as to whether or not it
would be advisable to tell Mr. Watson how Shalleg had threatened the
young pitcher, and also whether to speak about the queer actions of
Wessel.

"But I think, on the whole," concluded Joe, "that I won't say anything;
at least not yet a while. The boss has troubles enough as it is."

"I guess you're right," agreed Rad.

"But what about him being in our room that night?" asked Joe. "I wonder
if I hadn't better speak of that?"

"Oh, I don't know as I would," replied his chum. "In the first place, we
can't be absolutely sure that it was he, though I guess you're pretty
certain. Then, again, we didn't miss anything, and he could easily claim
it was all a mistake--that he went in by accident--and we'd be laughed
at for making such a charge."

"Probably," agreed Joe. "As you say, I can't be dead sure, though I'm
morally certain."

"One of the porters might have opened our door by mistake," went on Rad.
"You know the hotel workers have pass-keys. Better let it drop." And
they did. Joe, however, often wondered, in case Wessel had entered his
room, what his object could have been. But it was not until some time
later that he learned.

Shalleg and his crony were not seen around the hotel again, nor, for
that matter, at the ball grounds, either--at least during the next week.

Practice went on as usual, only it grew harder and more exacting. Joe
was made to pitch longer and longer each day, and, though he did not get
a chance to play in many games, and then only unimportant ones, still he
was not discouraged.

There were many shifts among the out and infield staff, the manager
trying different players in order to get the best results. The pitching
staff remained unchanged, however. Some more recruits were received,
some of them remaining after a gruelling try-out, and others "falling by
the wayside."

In addition to pitching balls for Boswell to catch, and doing some stick
work, Joe was required to practice with the other catchers of the team.

"I want you to get used to all of them, Matson," said the manager.
"There's no telling, in this business, when I may have to call on my
youngsters. I want you to be always ready."

"I'll try," promised Joe, with a smile.

"You're coming on," observed Boswell, after a day of hard pitching,
which had made Joe's arm ache. "You're coming on, youngster. I guess
you're beginning to feel that working in a big league is different than
in a minor; eh?"

"It sure is!" admitted Joe, rubbing his aching muscles.

"Well, you're getting more speed and better control," went on the
veteran. "And you don't mind taking advice; that's what I like about
you."

"Indeed I'd be glad of any tips you could give me," responded Joe,
earnestly.

He did indeed realize that there was a hard road ahead of him, and he
was a little apprehensive of the time when he might be called on to
pitch against such a redoubtable team as the Giants.

"Most folks think," went on Boswell, "that the chief advantage a pitcher
has over a batter is his speed or his curves. Well, that isn't exactly
so. The thing of it is that the batter has to guess whether the ball
that's coming toward him is a swift straight one, or a comparatively
slow curve. You see, he's got to make up his mind mighty quickly as to
the speed of the horsehide, and he can't always do it.

"Now, if a batter knew in advance just what the pitcher was going to
deliver--whether a curve or a straight one, why that batter would have
a cinch, so to speak. You may be the best twirler in the league, but you
couldn't win your games if the batters knew what you were going to hand
them--that is, knew in advance, I mean."

"But that's what signals are for," exclaimed Joe. "I watch the catcher's
signals, and if I think he's got the right idea I sign that I'll heave
in what he's signalled for. If not, I'll make a switch."

"Exactly," said the old player, "and that's what I'm coming to. If your
signals are found out, where are you? Up in the air, so to speak. So you
want to have several sets of signals, in order to change them in the
middle of an inning if you find you're being double-crossed. There's
lots of coaches who are fiends at getting next to the battery signs, and
tipping them off to their batters. Then the batters know whether to step
out to get a curve, or lay back to wallop a straight one. The signal
business is more important than most players think."

Joe believed this, and, at his suggestion, and on the advice of Boswell,
a little later, a new signal system was devised between the pitchers and
catchers. Joe worked hard to master it, for it was rather complicated.
He wrote the system out, and studied it in his room nights.

"Well, boys, a few weeks more and we'll be going home for the opening
of the season," said Mr. Watson in the hotel lobby one day. "I see the
Boston Braves are about through training, the Phillies are said to be
all primed, and the Giants are ready to eat up all the rest of us."

"Whom do we open with?" asked Joe.

"The Cincinnati Reds," answered the manager. "The exact date isn't set
yet, but it will be around the last of April. We've got some hard games
here yet. I'm going to play some exhibitions on the way up North, to
break you in gradually."

More hard work and practice, and the playing of several games with the
Reedville and other local nines soon brought the time of departure
nearer.

"This is our last week," Mr. Watson finally announced. "And I'm going to
put you boys up against a good stiff proposition. We'll play the Nipper
team Saturday, and I want to warn you that there are some former big
leaguers on it, who can still hit and run and pitch, though they're not
qualified for the big circuit. So don't go to the grounds with the idea
that it'll be a cinch. Play your best. Of course I know you will, and
win; but don't fall down!"

Joe hoped he would be called on to pitch, but when the game started,
before the biggest crowd that had yet assembled at the Reedville
grounds, the umpire announced the Cardinal battery as Slim Cooney and
Rob Russell.

"Play ball!" came the signal, and the game was under way.

To make the contest a little more even the St. Louis team were to bat
first, giving the visitors the advantage of coming up last in the ninth
inning.

"Doolin up!" called the score keeper, and the lanky left-handed hitter
strolled up to the plate, while Riordan, who was on deck, took up a
couple of bats, swinging them about nervously to limber his arms.

"Strike one!" bawled the umpire, at the first delivery of the visiting
pitcher.

Doolin turned with a look of disgust and stared at the arbiter, but said
nothing. There was an exchange of signals between catcher and pitcher,
and Joe watched to see if he could read them. But he could not.

"Ball," was the next decision, and this time the pitcher looked pained.

It got to be three and two, and the St. Louis team became rather
interested.

Doolin swung at the next with vicious force--and missed.

"Strike three--batter's out!" announced the umpire, as the ball landed
with a thud in the deep pit of the catcher's mitt.

Doolin threw down his bat hard.

"What's he got?" whispered Riordan, as he went forward.

"Aw, nothing so much! This light bothers me, or I'd have hit for a
three-sacker, believe me!"

Riordan smiled, but he did little better. He hit, but the next man flied
out. Rad was up next and hit a twisting grounder that just managed to
evade the shortstop, putting Rad on first and advancing Riordan.

But that was the end. The next man was neatly struck out, and a
goose-egg went up in St. Louis's frame.

"Got to get 'em, boys," announced the manager grimly, as the team went
to the field.

Cooney did not allow a hit that inning, but he was pounded for two when
he was on the mound again, St. Louis in the meanwhile managing to get a
run, through an error.

"Say, this is some little team," declared Boswell admiringly.

"I told you they were," replied the manager. "I want to see our boys
work."

And work they had to.

The best pitcher in the world has his off days, and the best pitcher in
the world may occasionally be pounded, as Slim Cooney was hit that day.
How it happened no one could say, but the Nippers began to slide ahead,
chiefly through hard hitting and excellent pitching.

"This won't do," said Manager Watson as the sixth inning saw the score
tied. "Matson, go out and warm up. I'm going to see what you can do. I'm
taking a chance, maybe; but I'll risk it."

Joe's heart beat fast. Here was his chance. Willard, who sat near him on
the bench, muttered angrily under his breath.

"If I can only do something!" thought Joe, anxiously.



CHAPTER XVII

"PLAY BALL!"


"Come on, Joe, I'll catch for you," good-naturedly offered Doc Mullin,
who had been "warming" the bench, Russell being behind the bat. "That'll
give Rob a chance to rest, and he can take you on just before we go
out."

"Thanks," replied the young pitcher, and, flushing with pleasure, in
this his triumph, though it was but a small one, he went out to the
"bull-pen," to get some practice.

"Huh! He'll make a fine show of us!" sneered Willard.

"He can't make a much worse show than we've made of ourselves already,"
put in Cooney quickly. "I sure am off my feed to-day. I don't know what
makes it."

"Trained a little too fine, I guess," spoke the manager. "We'll take it
a bit easy after this."

"Speed 'em in, Joe. Vary your delivery, and don't forget the signals,"
advised Mullin, as the two were warming up. "And don't get nervous.
You'll do all right."

"I'm sure I hope so," responded Joe.

He was getting more confidence in himself, but at that, when he stood on
the mound, and had the ball in his hand he could not help a little
twinge of "stage fright," or something akin to it.

The batter stepped back, to allow the usual interchange of balls between
pitcher and catcher, and then, when Joe nodded that he was ready, moved
up to the plate, where he stood, swinging his bat, and waiting for the
first one.

The catcher, Russell, signalled for a swift, straight one, and, though
Joe would rather have pitched his fadeaway, he nodded his head to show
that he accepted.

The ball whizzed from Joe's hand, and he felt a wave of apprehension, a
second later, that it was going to be slammed somewhere out over the
centre field fence. But, to his chagrin, he heard the umpire call:

"Ball one!"

The batter grinned cheerfully at Joe.

"That won't happen again!" thought our hero fiercely.

This time the catcher signalled for a teasing curve, and again Joe
signified that he would deliver it. He did, and successfully, too. The
batter made a half motion, as though he were going to strike at it, and
then refrained, but the umpire called, in tones that were musical to
Joe's ear:

"Strike--one!"

"He's feedin' 'em to 'em!" joyfully exclaimed Boswell to the manager.
"Joe's feedin' 'em in, all right."

"Too early to judge," replied the cautious manager. "Wait a bit."

But Joe struck out his man, and a little applause came from his fellow
players on the bench.

"That's the way to do it, boy!"

"Tease 'em along!"

"We only need two more!"

Thus they called encouragingly to him.

Joe was hit once that half of the inning, and no runs came in. The score
was still tie.

"Now, boys, we've got to bat!" said the manager when his team came in.
"We need three or four runs, or this game will make us ashamed to go
back to St. Louis."

There was a noticeable improvement as the Cardinals went to bat. Tom
Dugan slammed out one that was good for three bases, and Dots McCann, by
a double, brought in the needed run. The St. Louis boys were themselves
again. The fact that the visiting pitcher was "going to pieces" rather
helped, too.

The Cardinals were two runs to the good when the inning ended.

"Now we want to hold them there. It's up to you, Joe, and the rest of
you boys!" exclaimed Mr. Watson as the leaguers again took the field.

Joe had more confidence in himself now, though it oozed away somewhat
when the first man up struck the ball savagely. But it was only a foul,
and, though Russell tried desperately to get it, he could not.

It was a case of three and two again, and Joe's nerves were tingling.

"Hit it now, Red!" the friends of the visiting player besought him.
"Bang it right on the nose!"

"He hasn't anything on you!"

"Nothing but a slow out!"

"Slam out a home run!"

There was a riot of cries.

Joe calmed himself by an effort, and then sent in his fadeaway. It
completely fooled the batter, who struck at it so hard that he swung
around in a circle.

"You're out!" called the umpire. Joe's heart beat with pride.

But I must not dwell too long on that comparatively unimportant game, as
I have other, and bigger ones, of which to write. Sufficient to say
that, though there were a few scattering hits made off Joe, the visitors
did not get another run, though they tried desperately in the last half
of the ninth.

But it was not to be, and St. Louis had the game by a good margin.

"That's fine work, boys!" the manager greeted them. "Matson, you're
coming on. I won't promise to pitch you against the Giants this season,
unless all my other pitchers get 'Charlie-horse,'" he went on, "but I'll
say I like your work."

"Thanks!" murmured Joe, his heart warming to the praise.

"Congratulations, old man!" cried Rad, as they went to the dressing
rooms together. "You did yourself proud!"

"I'm glad you think so. I wonder what sort of a story it will be when I
go up against a big league team?"

"Oh, you'll go up against 'em all right!" predicted his chum, "and
you'll win, too!"

Preparations for leaving Reedville were made. The training was over;
hard work was now ahead for all. Nothing more was seen of Shalleg and
Wessel, though they might have been at that last game, for all Joe knew.

In order not to tire his players by a long jump home, especially as they
were not to open at once on Robison Field, Manager Watson planned
several exhibition games to be played in various cities and towns on the
way.

Thus the journey would occupy a couple of weeks.

The players were on edge now, a little rest from the Nipper game having
put them in fine trim.

"They're ready for Giants!" energetically declared Boswell, who took
great pride in his training work.

"Hardly that," replied the manager, "but I think we can take care of the
Cincinnati Reds when we stack up against them on opening day."

The journey North was enjoyed by all, and some good games took place.
One or two were a little close for comfort, but the Cardinals managed to
pull out in time. Joe did some pitching, though he was not worked as
often as he would have liked. But he realized that he was a raw recruit,
in the company of many veterans, and he was willing to bide his time.

Joe had learned more about baseball since getting into the big league
than he ever imagined possible. He realized, as never before, what a
really big business it was, involving, as it did, millions of dollars,
and furnishing employment to thousands of players, besides giving
enjoyment to millions of spectators.

The home-coming of the Cardinals, from their trip up from the South, was
an event of interest.

St. Louis always did make much of her ball teams, and though the
American Brown nine had arrived a day or so before our friends, and had
been noisily welcomed, there was a no less enthusiastic reception for
the Cardinals. There was a band, a cheering throng at the station, and
any number of reporters, moving picture men and newspaper photographers.

"Say, it's great; isn't it?" cried Joe to Rad.

"It sure is, old man!"

Joe wrote home an enthusiastic account of it all, and also penned a note
to Mabel, expressing the hope that she and her brother would get to St.
Louis on the occasion of some big game.

"And I hope I pitch in it," Joe penned.

A day of rest, then a week of practice on their own grounds, brought the
opening date nearer for St. Louis. Joe and the other players went out to
the park the morning of the opening day of the season. The grounds were
in perfect shape, and the weather man was on his good behavior.

"What kind of ball have the Reds been playing?" asked Joe of Rad, who
was a "fiend" on baseball statistics.

"Snappy," was the answer. "We'll have our work cut out for us!"

"Think we can do 'em?"

"Nobody can tell. I know we're going to try hard."

"If I could only pitch!" murmured Joe.

The grandstand was rapidly filling. The bleachers were already
overflowing. The teams had marched out on the field, preceded by a
blaring band. There had been a presentation of a floral horseshoe to
Manager Watson.

Then came some fast, snappy practice on both sides. Joe, who had only a
faint hope of being called on, warmed up well. He took his turn at
batting and catching, too.

"They look to be a fast lot," observed Joe to Rad, as they watched the
Reds at work.

"Oh, yes, they're there with the goods."

The game was called, and, as is often done, a city official pitched the
first ball. This time it was the mayor, who made a wild throw. There was
laughter, and cheers, the band blared out, and then the umpire called:

"Play ball!"



CHAPTER XVIII

HOT WORDS


That opening game, between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati
Reds, was not remarkable for good playing. Few opening games are, for
the teams have not that fierce rivalry that develops later in the
pennant season, and, though both try hard to win, they are not keyed up
to the pitch that makes for a brilliant exhibition.

So that opening game was neither better nor worse than hundreds of
others. But, as we have to deal mostly with Baseball Joe in this book, I
will centre my attention on him.

His feelings, as he watched his fellow players in the field, the pitcher
on the mound, and the catcher, girded like some ancient knight, may well
be imagined. I fancy my readers, even if they are not baseball players,
have been in much the same situation.

Joe sat on the bench, "eating his heart out," and longing for the chance
that he had small hopes would come to him. How he wished to get up
there, and show what he could do, only he realized.

But it was not to be.

Manager Watson's Cardinals went into the game with a rush, and had three
runs safely stowed away in the ice box the first inning, after having
gracefully allowed the Reds to score a goose egg.

Then came an uninteresting period, with both pitchers working their
heads off, and nothing but ciphers going up on the score board.

"By Jove, old man, do you think we'll win?" asked Cosey Campbell, as he
came to the bench after ingloriously striking out, and looked at Joe.

"I don't see why we shouldn't," responded Joe. "We've got 'em going."

"Yes, I know, but you never can tell when we may strike a slump."

"You seem terribly worried," laughed Joe. "Have you wagered a new
necktie on the result?"

"No," he answered, "but I am anxious. You see, Matson, there's a girl--I
could point her out to you in one of the boxes; but maybe she wouldn't
like it," he said, craning his neck and going out from under the shelter
of the players' bench and looking at the crowd in the grandstand.

"Oh, that's all right, I'll take your word for it," said Joe, for he
appreciated the other's feelings.

"A girl, you understand, Matson. She's here to see the game," went on
Campbell. "I sent her tickets, and I told her we were sure to win. She's
here, and I'm going to take her out to supper to-night. I've got the
stunningest tie----"

He fumbled in his pocket.

"Thought I had a sample of it here with me," he said. "But I haven't.
It's sort of purple--plum color--with a shooting of gold, and it
shimmers down into a tango shade. It's a peach! I was going to wear it
to-night, but, if we don't win----"

His face showed his misery.

"Oh, cut it out!" advised Rad, coming up behind him. "We can't lose.
Don't get mushy over an old tie."

"It isn't an old tie!" stormed Campbell. "It's a new one I had made to
order. Cost me five bones, too. It's a peach!"

"Well, you'll wear it, all right," said Joe with a laugh. "I don't see
how we can lose."

The Cardinals were near it, though, in the seventh inning, when, with
only one out, and three on bases, Slim Cooney was called on to face one
of the hardest propositions in baseball.

But he made good, and not a man crossed home plate.

And so the game went on, now and then a bit of sensational fielding, or
a pitcher tightening up in a critical place, setting the crowd to
howling.

It was nearing the close of the contest. It looked like the Cardinals,
for they were three runs to the good, and it was the ending of the
eighth inning. Only phenomenal playing, at this stage, could bring the
Reds in a winner.

Some of the crowd, anticipating the event, were already leaving,
probably to catch trains, or to motor to some resort.

"Well, it's a good start-off," said Rad to Joe, as he started out to the
field, for the beginning of the ninth.

"Yes, but it isn't cinched yet."

"It will be soon."

The Reds were at bat, and Joe, vainly wishing that he had had a chance
to show what he could do, pulled his sweater more closely about him, for
the day was growing cool.

Then Batonby, one of the reserve players, strolled up to him.

"You didn't get in, either," he observed, sitting down.

"No. Nor you."

"But I've been half-promised a chance in the next game. Say, it's fierce
to sit it out; isn't it?"

"It sure is."

"Hear of any new players coming to us?" Batonby wanted to know.

"Haven't heard," said Joe.

The game was over. The Cardinals did not go to bat to end the last
inning, having the game by a margin of three runs.

The players walked across the field to the clubhouse, the spectators
mingling with them.

"Did you hear anything about a fellow named Shalleg, who used to play in
the Central League, coming to us?" asked Batonby, as he caught up to Joe
and Rad, who had walked on ahead.

"No," answered Joe quickly. "That is, I have heard of him, but I'm
pretty sure he isn't coming with us."

"What makes you think so?"

"Why, I heard Mr. Watson tell him----"

"Say, if I hear you retailing any more stuff about me I'll take means to
make you stop!" cried an angry voice behind Joe, and, wheeling around,
he beheld the inflamed face of Shalleg, the man in question.

"I've heard enough of your talk about me!" the released player went on.
"Now it's got to quit. I won't have it! Cut it out! I'll settle with
you, Matson, if I hear any more out of you," and he shook his fist
angrily at Joe.



CHAPTER XIX

JOE GOES IN


Batonby looked wonderingly, first at Joe, and then at Shalleg. The
latter's crony did not seem to be with him.

"What's the row, old top?" asked Batonby easily. "Who are you, anyhow,
and what's riled you?"

"Never you mind what's riled me! You'll find out soon enough," was the
sharp answer. "I heard you two chaps talking about me, and I want it
stopped!"

"Guess you're a little off, sport. I wasn't talking about you, for I
haven't the doubtful honor of your acquaintance."

"None of your impudence!" burst out Shalleg. Joe had not yet spoken.

"And I don't want any of yours," fired back Batonby, slapping his glove
from one hand to the other. "I say I wasn't talking about you!"

"I say you were. My name is Shalleg!"

Batonby let out a whistle of surprise.

"Is that the one?" he asked of Joe.

The latter nodded.

"Well, all I've got to say," went on Batonby, "is that I hope you don't
get on our team. And, for your information," he went on, as he saw that
Shalleg was fairly bursting with passion, "I'll add that all I said
about you was that I heard you were trying to get on the Cardinals. As
for Matson, he said even less about you."

"That's all right, but you fellows want to look out," mumbled Shalleg,
who seemed nonplused on finding that he had no good grounds for a
quarrel.

"And I want to add," broke in Joe, who felt that he had a right to say
something in his own behalf, "I want to add that I'm about through with
hearing threats from you, Mr. Shalleg," and he accented the prefix. "I
haven't said anything against you, and I don't expect to, unless you
give me cause. You've been following me about, making unjustified
remarks, and it's got to stop!"

"Hurray!" cried Batonby. "That's the kind of mustard to give him. Heave
at it again, Joe!"

The young pitcher stood facing his enemy fearlessly, but he had said
enough. Shalleg growled out:

"Well, somebody's been talking about me to the manager, giving me a bad
name, and it's got to stop. If I find out who did it, he'll wish he
hadn't," and he glared vindictively at Joe.

"I guess his own actions have given him the bad name," remarked Batonby,
as the dismissed player turned aside and walked off to join the throng
that had surged away from the little group.

"That's about it," agreed Joe, as Rad came up and joined them. "Good
work, old man!" said our hero, for Rad had done well.

"I came mighty near making an error, though, toward the last," Rad
responded. "Guess I'm not used to such strenuous life as playing nine
innings in a big game. My heart was in my throat when I saw that fly
ball coming toward me."

"But you froze on to it," said Batonby.

"Hello, what's up?" asked Rad quickly, for Joe's face still showed the
emotion he felt at the encounter with Shalleg. "Had a row?" asked Rad.

"Rather," admitted the young pitcher. "Shalleg was on deck again."

"Say, that fellow, and his side partner, Wessel, ought to be put away
during the ball season!" burst out Rad. "They're regular pests!"

Joe heartily agreed with him, as he related the circumstances of the
last affair. Then the friends passed on to the clubhouse, where the game
was played over again, as usual, a "post-mortem" being held on it. Only,
in this case the Cardinals, being winners, had no excuses to make for
poor playing. They were jubilant over the auspicious manner in which the
season had opened.

"Boys. I'm proud of you!" exclaimed Manager Watson as he strolled
through. "Do this often enough, and we'll have that pennant sure."

"Yes, a fat chance we have!" muttered Willard, sulkily.

"That's no way for a member of the team to talk!" snapped "Muggins."

Willard did not reply. It was clear that he was disgruntled because he
had not had a chance to pitch.

Then the splashing of the shower baths drowned other talk, and presently
the players, fresh and shining from their ablutions, strolled out of the
clubhouse.

"Got anything on to-night?" asked Rad of Joe, as they reached the hotel.

"Nothing special--why?"

"Let's go down to the Delaware Garden, and hear the Hungarian orchestra.
There's good eating there, too."

"I'm with you. Got to write a letter, though."

"Tell her how the game went, I s'pose?" laughed Rad.

"Something like that," agreed Joe, smiling.

He bought an evening paper, which made a specialty of sporting news. It
contained an account of the opening game, with a skeletonized outline
of the plays, inning by inning. The Cardinals were properly
congratulated for winning. Joe wished he could have read his name in the
story, but he felt he could bide his time.

Joe and Rad enjoyed their little excursion to the Delaware Garden that
evening, returning to the hotel in good season to get plenty of sleep,
for they were to play the Reds again the next day. There were four games
scheduled, and then the Cardinals would go out on the circuit, remaining
away about three weeks before coming back for a series on Robison Field.

The tables were turned in the next game. The Cincinnati team, stinging
from their previous defeat, played strong ball. They sent in a new
pitcher, and with a lead of three runs early in the contest it began to
look bad for the Cardinals.

"I'll get no chance to-day," reasoned Joe, as he saw a puzzled frown on
Mr. Watson's face. Joe knew that only a veteran would be relied on to do
battle now, and he was right.

Mr. Watson used all his ingenuity to save the game. He put in pinch
hitters, and urged his three pitchers to do their best.

Willard was allowed to open the game, but was taken out after the first
inning, so fiercely was he pounded. Cooney and Barter had been warming
up, and the latter went in next.

"You go warm up, too, Matson," directed Boswell, "though it's doubtful
if we'll have to use you."

Joe hoped they would, but it was only a faint hope.

Barter did a little better, but the Reds had a batting streak on that
day, and found his most puzzling curves and drops. Then, too, working
the "hit and run" feature to the limit and stealing bases, which in
several cases was made possible by errors on the part of the Cardinals,
soon gave the Reds a comfortable lead of five runs.

"I'm afraid they've got us," grumbled the manager, as he substituted a
batter to enable Cooney to go in the game. "You've got to pull us out,
Slim," he added.

Slim grinned easily, not a whit disconcerted, for he was a veteran. But
though he stopped the winning streak of the Reds, he could not make
runs, and runs are what win ball games.

With his best nine in the field the manager tried hard to overcome the
advantage of his opponents. It looked a little hopeful in the eighth
inning, when there were two men on bases, second and third, and only one
out, with "Slugger" Nottingham at the plate.

"Now, then, a home run, old man!" pleaded the crowd.

"Soak it on the nose!"

"Over the fence!"

"A home run means three tallies, old man. Do it now!"

Nottingham stood easily at the plate, swinging his bat. There was an
interchange of signals between catcher and pitcher--a slight difference
of opinion, it seemed. Then the ball was thrown.

There was a resounding crack, and the crowd started to yell.

"Go it, old man, go it!"

"That's the pie!"

"Oh, that's a beaut!"

But it was not. It was a nice little fly, to be sure, but the centre
fielder, running in, had it safely before the batter reached first.
Then, with Nottingham out, the ball was hurled home to nip the runner at
the plate.

Dugan, who had started in from third, ran desperately, and slid in a
cloud of dust.

"You're out!" howled the umpire, waving him to the bench.

"He never touched me!" retorted Dugan. "I was safe by a mile!"

"Robber!" shrieked the throng in the bleachers.

"Get a pair of glasses!"

"He was never out!"

The umpire listened indifferently to the tirade. Dugan dusted off his
uniform, and, losing his temper, shook his fist at the umpire, sneering:

"You big fat----" and the rest of it does not matter.

"That'll cost you just twenty-five dollars, and you can go to the
clubhouse," said the umpire, coolly.

Dugan's face fell, and Manager Watson flushed. He bit his lips to keep
from making a retort. But, after all, the umpire was clearly within his
rights.

In silence Dugan left the field, and the Reds, who were jubilant over
the double play, came in from the diamond.

"The fat's in the fire now, for sure," sighed Rad, "with Dugan out of
the game. Hang it all, anyhow!"

"Oh, we can't win every time," and Joe tried to speak cheerfully.

And so the Reds won the second of the first series of games. There was a
rather stormy scene in the clubhouse after it was over, and Mr. Watson
did some plain talking to Dugan. But, after all, it was too common an
occurrence to merit much attention, and, really, nothing very serious
had occurred.

The contest between the Reds and Cardinals was an even break, each team
taking two. Then came preparations for the Cardinals taking the road. A
series of four games with the Chicago Cubs was next in order, and there,
in the Windy City, St. Louis fared rather better, taking three.

"I wonder if I'm ever going to get a chance," mused Joe, who had been
sent to the "bull-pen" many times to warm up, but as yet he had not been
called on.

After games with the Pittsburg Pirates, in which an even break was
registered, the Cardinals returned to St. Louis. As they had an open
date, a game was arranged with one of the Central League teams, the
Washburgs.

"Say, I would like to pitch against them!" exclaimed Joe.

And he had his chance. When the practice was over Manager Watson, with a
smile at our hero, said, with a friendly nod:

"Joe, you go in and see what you can do."

Joe was to have his first big chance.



CHAPTER XX

STAGE FRIGHT


Joe was a little nervous at first, but it was like being among old
friends to work against the Washburg team.

"How's your head, Joe?" asked some of the players whom he knew well,
from having associated with them in the Central League.

"Had to get larger sized caps?" asked another.

"Don't you believe it!" exclaimed the Washburg catcher. "Joe Matson
isn't that kind of a chap!" and Joe was grateful to him.

The game was not so easy as some of the Cardinal players had professed
to believe it would be. Not all of the first string men went in, but
they were in reserve, to be used if needed. For baseball is often an
uncertainty.

Joe looked around at the grandstands and bleachers as he went out for
warm-up practice.

There was a fair-sized crowd in attendance, but nothing like the throng
that would have been present at a league game.

"But I'll pitch before a big crowd before I'm through the season!"
declared Joe to himself, though it was not clear how this was to be
brought about.

Washburg had a good team, and knew how to make everything tell. They led
off with a run, which, however, was due to an error on the part of two
of the Cardinals. Joe was a little put out by it, for he had allowed
only scattering hits that inning.

"Better try to tighten up--if you can," advised Boswell, as our hero
came to the bench. "They're finding you a bit."

"They won't--any more!" exclaimed Joe, fiercely.

The Washburg pitcher was a good one, as Joe knew, so it was not
surprising that he was not so very badly batted. In fact, it was hard
work for the Cardinals to garner three runs during their half of the
first inning. But they got them.

Joe had the advantage of knowing considerable about the various batters
who faced him, so it was easier than it would have been for another
pitcher to deceive them. He varied his delivery, used his fadeaway and
his cross-fire, and had the satisfaction of pitching three innings
during which he did not allow a hit.

"That's the way to do it!" exclaimed his friend Boswell, the coach.
"Hold 'em to that, and you'll have a look-in at a big game, soon."

And Joe did. In vain did the Washburgs send in their best pinch hitters;
in vain did they try to steal bases. Twice Joe nipped the man at first,
who was taking too big a lead, and once the young pitcher stopped a hot
liner that came driving right at him.

Then the story was told, and the Cardinals romped home easy winners. Joe
had done well, even though the Washburgs were not exactly big leaguers.

In the weeks that followed, Joe worked hard. There was constant morning
practice, when the weather allowed it, and the work on the circuit was
exacting. Occasionally Joe went in as relief pitcher, when the game was
safe in the "ice box," but the chance he wanted was to pitch against the
New Yorks at St. Louis.

For the Giants were at the top of the league now, and holding on to
their pennant place with grim tenacity. In turn Joe and his fellow
players went to Philadelphia, New York and Boston, eventually playing
all around the circuit, but, as yet, the young pitcher had had no real
chance to show what he could do.

It was irksome--it was even heart-breaking at times; but Joe had to
stand it. Sometimes he felt that he could do better than Barter, Willard
and Cooney, the seasoned veterans, and especially was this so when the
game went against the Cardinals.

For the St. Louis team was falling sadly behind. They were next to the
tail-enders for some time, and the outlook was dubious. The papers
alternately roasted and poked fun at the Cardinals, and Manager Watson
was urged to "do something."

Various remedies were suggested. New players might be had, and in fact
some exchanges were made. Another catcher was imported, from the
Detroits, and a new shortstop engaged in a trade. But the pitching staff
remained unchanged.

Then some reporter, looking for "copy," saw a chance in Joe, and in a
snappy little article reviewed Joe's career, ending with:

"If Mr. Watson wants to see his Cardinals crawl up out of the subway why
doesn't he give Matson a chance? The youngster can pitch good ball, and
the line of twirling that has been handed out by the Cardinals thus far
this season would be laughable, were it not lamentable."

Of course that article made trouble for Joe, especially with the
pitching staff.

"Say, how much did you slip that reporter to pull off that dope about
you?" inquired Willard with a sneer.

"What do you mean?" asked Joe indignantly.

"I mean how much coin did you pay him?"

"You know I didn't have anything to do with it!" our hero fired back.
"He asked me for my record, and I gave it to him. I didn't know he was
going to write that."

"A likely story," grumbled Willard.

The other pitchers did not say so much, but it was clear they did not
like the "roasting" they got. But it was not Joe's doing.

There were shifts and re-shifts, there were hard feelings manifested,
and gotten over. But nothing could disguise the fact that the Cardinals
were in a "slump."

Loyal as the St. Louis "fans" were to their teams, when they were on the
winning side, it was not in human nature to love a losing nine.

So that it got to be the fashion to refer to the Cardinals as "losing
again." And this did not make for good ball playing, either. There were
sore hearts among the players when they assembled in the clubhouse after
successive defeats.

Not that the Cardinals lost all the time. No team could do that, and
stay in the big league. But they never got to the top of the second
division, and even that was not much of an honor to strive for. Still,
it was better than nothing.

Joe pitched occasionally, and, when he did there was a little
improvement, at times. But of course he was not a veteran, and once or
twice he was wild.

Then the paper which bore the least friendliness to the Cardinals took
a different tack. It laughed at the manager for sending in a young
pitcher when a veteran was needed.

"Say, I'd like to know just what those fellows want me to do!" Mr.
Watson exclaimed one day, after a particularly severe roast. "I can't
seem to please 'em, no matter what I do."

"Don't let 'em get your goat," advised his coach. "Go on. Keep going.
We'll strike a winning streak yet, and mark my words, it will be Joe
Matson who'll pull us out of a hole."

"He hasn't done so well yet," objected Mr. Watson, dubiously.

"No, and it's because he hasn't exactly found himself. He is a bit
nervous yet. Give him time."

"And stay in the cellar?"

"Well, but what are you going to do?" reasoned the other. "Cooney and
Barter aren't pitching such wonderful ball."

"No, that's true, but they can generally pull up in a tight place. I'd
send Matson in oftener than I do, only I'm afraid he'll blow up when the
crises comes. He is a good pitcher, I admit that, but he isn't seasoned
yet. The Central League and the National are a wide distance apart."

"That's true. But I'd like to see him have his chance."

"Well, I'll give it to him. We play Boston next week. They happen to be
in the second division just at present, although they seem to be going
up fast. I'll let Joe go up against them."

"That won't be as good as letting him go against New York," said
Boswell.

"Well, it'll have to do," decided the manager, who could be very set in
his ways at times.

The Braves proved rather "easy," for the Cardinals and, as Boswell had
indicated, there was little glory for Joe in pitching against them. He
won his game, and this, coupled with the fact that the reporter friendly
to Joe made much of it, further incensed the other pitchers.

"Don't mind 'em," said Rad, and Joe tried not to.

The season was advancing. Try as the Cardinals did, they could not get
to the top of the second division.

"And if we don't finish there I'll feel like getting out of the game,"
said the manager gloomily, after a defeat.

"Pitch Matson against the Giants," advised the coach.

"By Jove! I'll do it!" cried the manager, in desperation. "We open with
New York at St. Louis next week for four games. I'll let Matson see what
he can do, though I reckon I'll be roasted and laughed at for taking
such a chance."

"Well, maybe not," the coach replied, chuckling.

In the meanwhile Joe had been working hard. Under the advice of Boswell
he adopted new training tactics, and he had his arm massaged by a
professional between games. He was surprised at the result of the new
treatment, and he found he was much fresher after a hard pitching battle
than he had been before.

"He thinks he's going to be a Boy Wonder," sneered Willard.

"Oh, cut it out!" snapped Boswell. "If some of you old stagers would
take better care of yourselves there'd be better ball played."

"Huh!" sneered Willard.

The Cardinals came back to St. Louis to play a series with New York.

"Wow!" exclaimed Rad as he and Joe, discussing the Giants' record, were
sitting together in the Pullman on their way to their home city, "here's
where it looks as if we might get eaten up!"

"Don't cross a bridge before you hear it barking at you," advised Joe.
"Maybe they won't be so worse. We're on our own grounds, that's sure."

"Not much in that," decided his chum, dubiously.

When Joe reached the hotel he found several letters awaiting him. One,
in a girl's handwriting, he opened first.

"Does she still love you?" laughed Rad, noticing his friend's rapt
attention.

"Dry up! She's coming on to St. Louis."

"She is? Good! Will she see you play?"

"Well, I don't know. It doesn't look as though I was going to get a
game--especially against New York."

"Cheer up! There might be something worse."

"Yes, I might have another run-in with Shalleg."

"That's so. Seen anything of him lately?"

"No, but I hear he's been writing letters to Mr. Watson, intimating that
if the boss wants to see the team come up out of the subway, Shalleg is
the man to help."

"Some nerve; eh?"

"I should say so!"

It was a glorious sunny day, perhaps too hot, but that makes for good
baseball, for it limbers up the players. The grandstand and bleachers
were rapidly filling, and out on the well-kept diamond of Robison Field
the rival teams--the Cardinals and the Giants--were practicing.

Mabel Varley and her brother had come to St. Louis, stopping off on
business, and Joe had called on them.

"I'm coming out to see you play," Mabel announced after the greetings at
the hotel.

"I'm afraid you won't," said Joe, somewhat gloomily.

"Why not?" she asked in surprise. "Aren't you on the pitching staff?"

"Yes, but perhaps you haven't been keeping track of where the Cardinals
stand in the pennant race."

"Oh, yes, I have!" she laughed, and blushed. "I read the papers every
day."

"That's nice. Then you know we're pretty well down?"

"Yes, but the season isn't half over yet. I think you'll do better."

"I sure do hope so," murmured Joe. "But, for all that, I am afraid you
won't see me pitch to-day. Mr. Watson won't dare risk me, though I think
I could do some good work. I'm feeling fine."

"Oh, I do hope you get a chance!" Mabel exclaimed enthusiastically.
"Anyhow, I'm going to have one of the front boxes, and there are to be
some girl friends with me. You know them, I think--Hattie Walsh and Jean
Douglass."

"Oh, yes, I remember them," Joe said. "Well, I hope you see us win, but
I doubt it."

And now, as the game was about to start, Joe looked up and saw, in one
of the front boxes, Mabel and her friends. He went over to speak to
them, as he walked in from practice.

"For good luck!" said Mabel softly, as she gave him one of the flowers
she was wearing.

"Thanks," and Joe blushed.

As yet the battery of the Cardinals had not been announced. Clearly
Manager Watson was in a quandary. He and Boswell consulted together,
while the players waited nervously. Some of the newspaper reporters,
anxious to flash some word to their papers, asked who was to pitch.

"I'll let you know in a few minutes," was the manager's answer.

And then, as the time for calling the game approached, Mr. Watson handed
his batting order to the umpire.

The latter stared at it a moment before making the announcement. He
seemed a trifle surprised.

"Batteries!" he called through his megaphone. "For New York, Hankinson
and Burke--for St. Louis--Matson and Russell."

Joe was to pitch, and in the biggest game he had ever attempted!

There was a rushing and roaring in his ears, and for a moment he could
not see clearly.

"Go to it, Matson," said the manager. "I'm going to try you out."

Joe's lips trembled. He was glad his teammates could not know how he
felt. Nervously he walked out to the mound, and caught the new ball
which the umpire divested of its foil cover and tossed to him. Russell
girded himself in protector and mask, and the batter stepped back to
allow the usual practice balls.

Someone in a box applauded. Joe could not see, but he knew it was Mabel.

"Oh, Joe's going to pitch!" she exclaimed to her girl friends. "I hope
he strikes them all out!"

"Not much chance," her brother said, rather grimly.

Joe sent the first ball whizzing in. It went so wild that the catcher
had to jump for it. There was a murmur from the stands, and some of the
Giants grinned at one another.

Russell signalled to Joe that he wanted to speak to him. Pitcher and
catcher advanced toward one another.

"What's the matter?" Russell wanted to know, while some in the crowd
laughed at the conference. "Got stage fright?"

"Ye--yes," stammered Joe. Poor Joe, he had a bad case of nerves.

"Say, look here!" exclaimed Russell with a intentional fierceness. "If
you don't get over it, and pitch good ball, I'll give you the best
beating up you ever had when we get to the clubhouse! I'm not going to
stand being laughed at because you're such a rotten pitcher! Do you get
me!" and he leered savagely at Joe.

The effect on the young pitcher was like an electric shock. He had never
been spoken to like that before. But it was just the tonic he needed.

"I get you," he said briefly.

"It's a good thing you do!" said Russell brutally, and, as he walked
back to his place his face softened. "I hated to speak that way to the
lad," he murmured to himself, "but it was the only way to get him over
his fright."



CHAPTER XXI

A QUEER MESSAGE


The next practice ball Joe sent in went cleanly over the plate, and
landed with a thud in the catcher's glove. Russell nodded at Joe, to
indicate that was what he wanted.

"Play ball!" directed the umpire, and the batter moved up closer to the
plate.

Stooping low, and concealing his signal with his big glove, Russell
called for a straight, swift ball. Joe gave it, and as it was in the
proper place, though the striker did not attempt to hit it, the umpire
called:

"Strike--one!"

Indignantly the batter looked around, but it was only done for effect.
He knew it was a strike.

"That's the way. Now we've got 'em!" cried Boswell from the coaching
line.

"Ball one," was the next decision of the umpire, and Joe felt a little
resentment, for he had made sure it went over the plate. But there was
little use to object.

A curve was next called for, and Joe succeeded in enticing the batter
to strike at it. But the stick missed the horsehide cleanly. It was two
strikes.

"Pretty work! Oh, pretty work!" howled Boswell.

A foul next resulted, and Russell missed it by inches. The batter had
still another chance. But it availed him little, for Joe fooled him on
the next one.

"Good!" nodded the catcher to the young pitcher, and Joe felt his vision
clearing now. He looked over toward where Mabel was sitting. She smiled
encouragingly at him.

The New Yorks got one hit off Joe that inning, but, though the man on
first stole second, after Joe had tried to nip him several times, the
other two men struck out, and a goose egg went up in the first frame.

"Well, if you can do that eight more times the game is ours, if we can
only get one run," said Manager Watson, as Joe came up to the bench,
smiling happily.

"I'll try," was all he said.

But the Cardinals did not get their run that inning, nor the next nor
the next nor next. The game ran along for five innings with neither side
crossing home plate, and talk of a "pitchers' battle" began to be heard.
Joe was pitching remarkably well, allowing only scattering hits. The
Giants could not seem to bunch them.

Then, as might have been expected, Joe had a bit of bad luck. There had
been hard work for him that day--hard and nervous work, and it told on
him. He was hit for a two-bagger, and the next man walked, though Joe
thought some of the decisions unfair.

Then the runner attempted to steal third. There was a wild throw, and
the man came in, scoring the first run. Joe felt a wave of chagrin sweep
over him. He felt that the game was going.

"Tighten up! Tighten up!" he heard Boswell call to him. By a determined
effort he got himself well in hand, and then amid the cheers of the
crowd he succeeded in striking out the other men up, so that only the
one run was in.

But the pace was telling on Joe. He gave two men their base on balls the
next time he pitched, and by a combination of circumstances, two more
runs were made before the Giants were retired.

"This won't do," murmured Mr. Watson. "I'm afraid I'll have to take Joe
out."

"Don't," advised Boswell. "He'll be all right, but if you take him out
now you'll break him all up. I think he could have a little better
support."

"Possibly. The fielding is a bit shaky. I'll send in Lawson to bat for
Campbell."

This change resulted in a marked improvement With a mighty clout Lawson
knocked a home run, and, as there was a man on third, that two. From
then on the Cardinals seemed to find themselves. They began coming back
in earnest, and everyone "got the habit." Even Joe, proverbially poor
hitters as pitchers are supposed to be, did his share, and, by placing a
neat little drive, that eluded the shortstop, he brought in another
needed run.

"One ahead now! That's fine!" cried Rad to his chum, though Joe "died"
on second. "If we can only hold 'em down----" and he looked
questioningly at the young pitcher.

"I'll do it!" cried Joe, desperately.

It did not look as though he would, though, when the first man up, after
receiving three and two, was allowed to walk. Joe felt a bit shaky, but
he steeled himself to hold his nerve. The man at first was a notorious
base-stealer, and Joe watched him closely. Twice he threw to the initial
sack, hoping to nip him, and he almost succeeded. Then he slammed in a
swift one to the batter, only to know that the runner started for
second.

But it did him little good to do it, for though he made third, Joe
struck out his three men amid a wave of applause.

"One more like that, and we've got the game!" cried Mr. Watson. "It's up
to you, Joe. But if you can't stand it I'll send in Slim."

"I'll stand it," was the grim answer, though Joe's arm ached.

And stand it Joe did. He was hit once in that last inning, and one man
got his base on balls. And then and there Joe gave a remarkably nervy
exhibition. He nipped the man on first, and then in quick succession
succeeded in fooling the two batters next up.

"That's the eye!"

"The Cardinals win!"

"What's the matter with Joe Matson?"

"He's all right!"

The crowd went wild, as it had a right to do, and Joe's face was as red
with pleasure as the nickname of his team. For he had had a large share
in defeating the redoubtable Giants, though to the credit of that team
be it said that several of its best players were laid up, and, at a
critical part in the game their best hitter was ruled out for abusing
the umpire.

But that took away nothing from Baseball Joe's glory.

"Oh, I'm so glad you won!" cried Mabel, as he passed her box. "Isn't it
glorious?"

"It sure is," he admitted with a smile.

"Can't you take dinner with us at the hotel?" she went on, and Joe
blushingly agreed. The other girls smiled at him, and Reggie nodded in a
friendly manner.

"Great work, old man!" called Mabel's brother. "It was a neat game."

Then Joe hurried off to have a shower, and dress, and in the clubhouse
he was hailed genially by his fellow players.

"Good work, Joe!"

"I didn't think you had it in you."

"This sure will make the Giants feel sore."

As for Manager Watson, he looked at Joe in a manner that meant much to
the young pitcher.

"I told you so!" said the old coach to the manager, later that day.

"Yes, you did," admitted the latter. "Of course I knew Joe had good
stuff in him, but I didn't think it would come out so soon. He may help
pull us up out of the cellar yet."

Joe enjoyed the little dinner with Mabel and her friends that night, as
he had seldom before taken pleasure in a gathering. Rad was one of the
guests, and later they went to the theatre, as there was no game next
day.

But if the Cardinals expected to repeat their performance they were
disappointed. Joe was started in another contest, and he was glad Mabel
was not present, for somehow he could not keep control of the balls, and
following a rather poor exhibition, he was taken out after the fourth
inning. But it was too late to save the game.

"Never mind, we got one of the four, and it was due to you," consoled
Rad, when the series was over. "And you've found out what it is to stack
up against the Giants."

Joe had had his "baptism of fire," and it had done him good. The St.
Louis team was to take the road again, after a time spent in the home
town, where they had somewhat improved their standing.

"Got anything to do this evening?" asked Rad, as they were coming back
from the ball park, after a final game with Boston.

"No."

"Then let's go to the Park Theatre. There's a good hot-weather show on."

"I'm with you."

"All right. I've got to go down town, but I'll be back before it's time
to go," Rad went on.

Joe dressed, and waited around the hotel lobby for his friend to return.
It grew rather late, and Joe glanced uneasily at the clock. He was
rather surprised, as he stood at the hotel desk, to hear his name spoken
by a messenger boy who entered.

"Matson? There he is," and the clerk indicated our hero.

"Sign here," said the boy, shortly. Joe wondered if the telegram
contained bad news from home. Giving the lad a dime tip, Joe opened the
envelope with fingers that trembled, and then he read this rather queer
message:

"If you want to do your friend Rad a good turn, come to the address
below," and Joe recognized the street as one in a less desirable section
of the city.



CHAPTER XXII

IN DANGER


"Bad news?" asked the hotel clerk, as he noticed the look on Joe's face.

"No--yes--well, it's unexpected news," hesitated Joe, as he made up his
mind, on the instant, not to tell the contents of the note. He wanted a
little time to think. Rapidly he read the message over again. The boy
was just shuffling out of the hotel.

"Wait a minute!" Joe called after him. "Where'd you get this note?" the
young pitcher asked.

"At de office."

"Yes, I know. But who brought it in?"

"I dunno. Youse'll have to see de manager."

"Oh, all right," Joe assented, and then he turned aside. He was still in
a quandary as to what to do.

Once more he read the note.

"'If you want to do your friend Rad a good turn,'" he repeated. "Of
course I do, but what does it mean? Rad can't be in trouble, or he'd
have sent me some word himself. That isn't a very good neighborhood at
night, but I guess I can take care of myself. The trouble is, though, if
I go out, and Rad comes back here in the meanwhile, what will happen?"

Joe was thinking hard, trying to find some solution of the mystery, and
then a flash came to him.

"Baseball!" he whispered to himself. "Maybe it is something to do with
baseball! Someone may be scouting for Rad, and want to find out, on the
quiet, if he's willing to help in making a shift to some other team.
They want me to aid them, perhaps."

Joe had been long enough in organized baseball to know that there are
many twists and turns to it, and that many "deals" are carried on in
what might be considered an underhand manner. Often, when rival
organizations in the baseball world are at war, the various managers,
and scouts, go to great lengths, and secretly, to get some player they
consider valuable.

"Maybe some rival club is after Rad and doesn't want its plans known,"
mused Joe. "That must be it. They know he and I are chums, and they come
to me first. Well, I sure do want to help Rad, but I don't want to see
him leave the Cardinals. I guess I'll take a chance and go down there.
I'll leave word at the desk that I'll meet Rad at the theatre. That
will be the best. I can telephone back to the hotel, after I go to this
address, and find out if Rad has been back here. I'll go."

Stuffing the queer note into his pocket, Joe started off, catching a car
that would take him near the address given. Before leaving, he arranged
with the hotel clerk to tell Rad that he would meet him at the theatre.

It was a rather dark, and quite lonesome, street in which Joe found
himself after leaving the street car. On either side were tall buildings
that shut out much of the light by day, while at night they made the
place a veritable canyon of gloom. There were big warehouses and
factories with, here and there, a smaller building, and some ramshackle
dwellings that had withstood the encroachment of business.

Some of these latter had fallen into decay, and others were being used
as miserable homes by those who could afford no better. In one or two,
saloons held forth, the light from their swinging doors making yellow
patches on the dark pavement.

"I wouldn't like to have to live down here," mused Joe, as he picked his
way along, looking, as best he could, for the number given in the note.
"It's a queer place to appoint a meeting, but I suppose the baseball
fellows don't want to be spied on. I'll be glad when I'm through."

Joe walked on a little farther. The neighborhood seemed to become more
deserted and lonesome. From afar off came the distant hum and roar of
the city, but all around Joe was silence, broken, now and then, by the
sound of ribald laughter from the occasional saloons.

"Ah, here's the place!" exclaimed Joe, as he stood in front of one of
the few dwellings in the midst of the factories. "It looks gloomy
enough. I wonder who can be waiting to see me here about Rad? Well,
there's a light, anyhow."

As Joe approached the steps of the old house he saw, at one side of the
door, a board on which were scrawled the words:

    _Peerless Athletic Club_

"Hum! Must be a queer sort of club," mused Joe. "I guess they do more
exercise with their tongues, and with billiard cues, than with their
muscles."

For, as he mounted the steps, he heard from within the click of billiard
and pool balls, and the noise of talk and laughter. It was one of the
so-called "athletic" clubs, that often abound in low neighborhoods,
where the name is but an excuse for young "toughs" to gather. Under the
name, and sometimes incorporation of a "club," they have certain rights
and privileges not otherwise obtainable. They are often a political
factor, and the authorities, for the sake of the votes they control,
wink at minor violations of the law. It was to such a place as this that
Joe had come--or, in view of what happened afterward, had been lured
would be the more proper term.

"Well, what do youse want?" asked an ill-favored youth, as Joe entered
the poorly lighted hall. The fellow had his hat tilted to one side, and
a cigarette was glued to one lip, moving up and down curiously as he
spoke.

"I don't know who I want," said Joe, as pleasantly as he could. "I was
told to come here to do my friend Rad Chase a favor. I'm Joe Matson, of
the Cardinals, and----"

"Oh, yes. He's expectin' youse. Go on in," and the fellow nodded toward
a back room, the door of which stood partly open. Joe hesitated a
moment, while the youth who had spoken to him went out and stood on the
half-rotting steps. Then, deciding that, as he had come thus far, he
might as well see the thing through, Joe started for the rear room.

But, as he reached the door, and heard a voice speaking, he hesitated.
For what he heard was this:

"S'posin' he don't come?"

"Aw, he'll come all right, Wessel," said another voice. "He sure is
stuck on his friend Rad, and he'll want to know what he can do for him.
He'll come, all right."

"Shalleg!" gasped Joe, as he recognized the tones. "It's a trick. He
thinks he can trap me here!"

As he turned to go, Joe heard Wessel say:

"There won't be no rough work; will there?"

"Oh, no! Not too rough!" replied Shalleg with a nasty laugh.

Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, Joe was hastening
away when he accidentally knocked over a box in the hall. Instantly the
door to the rear room was thrown wide open, giving the young pitcher, as
he turned, a glimpse of Shalleg, Wessel and several other men seated
about a table, playing cards.

"Who's there?" cried Shalleg. Then, as he saw Joe hurrying away, he
added: "Hold on, Matson. I sent for you. I want to see you!"

"But I don't want to see you!" Joe called back over his shoulder.

"Say, this is straight goods!" cried Shalleg, pushing back his chair
from the table, the legs scraping over the bare boards of the floor.
"It's all right. I've got a chance to do your friend Rad Chase a good
turn, and you can help in it. Wait a minute!"

But Joe fled, unheeding. Then Shalleg, seeing that his plans were about
to miscarry, yelled:

"Stop him, somebody!"

Joe was running along the dim hallway. As he reached the outside steps
the youth who had first accosted him turned, and made a grab for him.

"What's your hurry?" he demanded. "Hold on!"

Joe did not answer, but, eluding the outstretched hands, made the
sidewalk in a jump and ran up the street. He was fleet of foot--his
training gave him that--and soon he was safe from pursuit, though, as a
matter of fact, no one came after him. Shalleg and his tools were hardly
ready for such desperate measures yet, it seemed.

Joe passed a side street, and, looking up it, saw at the other end, a
more brilliantly lighted thoroughfare. Arguing rightly that he would be
safer there, Joe turned up, and soon was in a more decent neighborhood.
His heart was beating rapidly, partly from the run, and partly through
apprehension, for he had an underlying fear that it would not have been
for his good to have gone into the room where Shalleg was.

"Whew! That was a happening," remarked Joe, as he slowed down. "I wonder
what it all meant? Shalleg must be getting desperate. But why does he
keep after me? Unless he thinks I am responsible for his not getting a
place on the Cardinals. It's absurd to think that, but it does seem so.
I wonder what I'd better do?"

Joe tried to reason it out, and then came the recollection of Rad.

"I'll telephone to the hotel, and see if he's come back," he said.
"Then, when I meet him, I'll tell him all that happened. It's a queer
go, sure enough."

A telephone message to the hotel clerk brought the information that Rad
had telephoned in himself, saying that he had been unexpectedly
detained, and would meet Joe at the theatre entrance.

"That's good!" thought our hero. For one moment, after running away from
the gloomy house, he had had a notion that perhaps Rad had also been
lured there. Now he knew his friend was safe.

"Sorry I couldn't come back to the hotel for you," Rad greeted Joe, as
they met in front of the theatre. "But my business took me longer than I
counted on. We're in time for the show, anyhow. It starts a little later
in summer."

"That's all right," said Joe. "As a matter of fact I have been away from
the hotel myself, for some time."

"So the clerk said. Told me you'd gone out and left a message for me.
Say, what's up, Joe? You look as though something had happened," for
now, in the light, Rad had a glimpse of his chum's face, and it wore a
strange look.

"Something did happen," said Joe in a low voice. "I believe I was in
danger. I'll tell you all about it," which he did, in a low voice,
between the acts of the play.

It is doubtful if either Joe or Rad paid much attention to what occurred
on the stage that evening.



CHAPTER XXIII

A LAME ARM


"But, great Scott, Joe!" exclaimed Rad, when he had been given all the
facts of the strange occurrence, "that was a raw sort of deal!"

"I think so myself."

"Why don't you get the police after them?"

"What would be the good? Nothing really happened, and just because I
have an idea it would have, if I'd given them the chance to get at me,
doesn't make them liable to arrest. I would look foolish going to the
police."

"Maybe so. But then there's that note. They didn't have any idea of
doing me a good turn. That was almost a forgery."

"The trouble is we can't prove it, though. I think the only thing I can
do is to let it go, and be more careful in the future."

"Well, maybe it is," agreed Rad slowly. "But what do you think was their
object?"

"I haven't the least idea," replied Joe. "That is, the only thing I can
imagine is that Shalleg wanted to scare me; or, perhaps, threaten me
for what he imagines I have done to him."

"And that is?" questioned Rad.

"That I've been spreading false reports about him to our manager, in
order to keep him off the team. As a matter of fact, I don't believe I
have ever mentioned him to Mr. Watson. It's all imagination on Shalleg's
part."

"What condition was he in to-night?" asked Rad, as he and Joe were on
their way to the hotel after the play.

"As far as I could judge, he was about as he has been most of the time
lately--scarcely sober. That, and his gambling and irregular living,
took him off the team, you know."

"And he thinks, with that record behind him, that he can get on the
Cardinals!" exclaimed Rad. "He's crazy!"

"He's dangerous, too," added Joe. "I'm going to be more careful after
this."

"And you thought you were doing me a favor, old man?"

"I sure did, Rad. I thought maybe some scout from another club was
trying to secure your valuable services."

"Now you're stringing me!"

"No, I'm not, really. You know there are queer doings in baseball."

"Yes, but none as queer as that. Well, I'm much obliged, anyhow. But
after this you stick to me. If there's any danger we'll share it
together!"

"Thanks!" exclaimed Joe warmly.

"Going to say anything to the boss about this?" asked Rad, after a
pause.

"I think not. Would you?"

"Well, perhaps we might just as well keep still about it," agreed Rad.
"We'll see if we can't trap this Shalleg and his crony, and put a stop
to their game."

"All they have been is a nuisance, so far," spoke Joe. "But there's no
telling when they might turn to something else."

"That's so. Well, we'll keep our weather eyes open."

Joe was not a little unnerved by his experience, and he was glad there
was not a game next day.

The Cardinals had crept up a peg. They were now standing one from the
top of the second division of clubs, and there began to be heard talk
that they would surely lead their column before many more games had been
played.

"And maybe break into the first division!" exclaimed Trainer Boswell.
"If you keep on the way you've started, Matson, we sure will do it!"

"I'll do my best," responded Joe.

In a series of four games with the Brooklyn Superbas the Cardinals broke
even, thus maintaining their position. But they could not seem to climb
any higher. Joe's pitching helped a lot, and he was regarded as a coming
star. He was acquiring more confidence in himself, and that, in playing
big baseball, helps a lot.

Of course I am not saying that Joe did all the work for his team. No
pitcher does, but a pitcher is a big factor. It takes batters to make
hits and runs, however, and the Cardinals had their share of them. They
could have done better with more, but good players brought high prices,
and Manager Watson had spent all the club owners felt like laying out.

The other pitchers of the Cardinals worked hard. It must not be imagined
that because I dwell so much on Joe's efforts that he was the "whole
show."

Far from it. At times Joe had his "off days" as well as did the others,
and there were times when he felt so discouraged that he wanted to give
it all up, and go back to a smaller league.

But Joe had grit, and he stuck to it. He was determined to make as great
a name for himself as is possible in baseball, and he knew he must take
the bitter with the sweet, and accept defeat when it came, as it is
bound to now and then.

Nor did his determination to overcome obstacles fail of its object.
With the other members of the team, Joe played so surprisingly well that
suddenly the Cardinals took one of those remarkable "braces" that
sometimes come in baseball, and from eighth position the club leaped
forward into fifth, being aided considerably by some hard luck on the
part of the other teams. In other words, "things broke right" for the
Cardinals and the St. Louis "fans" began to harbor hopes of a possible
pennant.

Joe had several incentives for doing his best. There were his folks. He
wanted to justify his father's faith in him, and also his sister's. Joe
knew that his mother, in spite of her kind and loving ways, was secretly
disappointed that he had quit his college career to become a baseball
player.

"But I'll show her that it's just as honorable as one of the learned
professions, and that it pays better in a great many cases," reasoned
Joe. "Though of course the money end of it isn't the biggest thing in
this world," he told himself. "Still it is mighty satisfactory."

Then there was another reason why Joe wanted to make good. Or, rather,
there was another person he wanted to have hear of his success. I guess
you know her name.

And so the young pitcher kept on, struggling to perfect himself in the
technicalities of the big game, playing his position for all it was
capable of. As the season went on Joe's name figured more and more often
in the papers.

"He's got reporters on his staff!" sneered Willard.

"Well, I wish we all had," observed Manager Watson. "Publicity counts,
and I want all I can get for my players. It's a wonder some of you
fellows wouldn't have your name in the papers oftener."

"I don't play to the grandstand," growled the grouchy pitcher.

"Maybe it would help some if you did," the manager remarked quietly.

The baseball practice and play went on. Joe was called on more often now
to pitch a game, as Mr. Watson was kind enough to say some of the club's
success was due to him, and while of course he was not considered the
equal of the veteran pitchers, he was often referred to as a "comer."

What Joe principally lacked was consistency. He could go in and pitch a
brilliant game, but he could not often do it two days in succession. In
this respect he was not unlike many celebrated young pitchers. Joe was
not fully developed yet. He had not attained his full growth, and he had
not the stamina and staying power that would come with added years. But
he was acquiring experience and practice that would stand him in good
stead, and his natural good health, and clean manner of living, were in
his favor.

The Cardinals had come back to St. Louis in high spirits over their
splendid work on the road.

"We ought to take at least three from the Phillies," said Boswell, for
they were to play four games with the Quaker City nine. "That will help
some."

"If we win them," remarked Joe, with a smile.

"Well, we're depending on you to help," retorted the trainer.

Joe only smiled.

There was some discussion in the papers as to who would pitch the first
game against the Phillies, and it was not settled until a few minutes
before the game was called, when Slim Cooney was sent in.

"I guess Mr. Watson wants to make sure of at least the first one,"
remarked Joe, as he sat on the bench.

"Oh, you'll get a chance," Boswell assured him. "You want to keep
yourself right on edge. No telling when you'll be called on."

It was a close game, and it was not until the eleventh inning that the
home team pulled in the winning run. Then, with jubilant faces, the
members hurried to the clubhouse.

"Whew!" whistled Cooney, as he swung his southpaw arm about. "I sure
will be lame to-morrow."

"You can have a rest," the manager informed him. "And be sure to have
your arm massaged well. This is going to be a stiffer proposition than I
thought."

"Did you see him at the game?" asked Rad of Joe, as they walked along
together.

"See who?"

"Shalleg."

"No. Was he there?"

"He sure was! I had a glimpse of him over in the bleachers when I ran
after that long drive of Mitchell's. He was with that Wessel, but they
didn't look my way."

"Humph!" mused Joe. "Well, I suppose he's got a right to come to our
games. If he bothers me, though, I'll take some action."

"What?"

"I don't know, yet. But I'm through standing for his nonsense."

"I don't blame you."

If Joe could have seen Shalleg and Wessel talking to a certain "tough"
looking character, after the game, and at the same time motioning in his
direction, he would have felt added uneasiness.

"Oh, let's go out to some summer garden and cool off," proposed Rad
after supper. It was a hot night, and sitting about the hotel was
irksome.

"All right," agreed Joe, and they started for a car. The same "tough"
looking character who had been talking with Wessel and Shalleg took the
car as well.

Coming back, after sitting through an open-air moving picture
performance, Joe and Rad found all the cars crowded. It was an open one,
and Joe and Rad had given their seats to ladies, standing up and holding
to the back of the seat in front of them. Just beyond Joe was a burly
chap, the same one who had left the hotel at the time they did. He kept
his seat.

Then, as the car reached a certain corner, this man got up hurriedly.

"Let me past! I want to get off!" he exclaimed, in unnecessarily rough
tones to Joe, at the same time pressing hard against him.

"Certainly," the young pitcher replied, removing his hands from the seat
in front of him. At that moment the car stopped with a sudden jerk, and
the fellow grabbed Joe by the right arm, twisting it so that the ball
player cried out, involuntarily.

"'Scuse me!" muttered the fellow. "I didn't mean to grab youse so hard.
I didn't know youse was so tender," he sneered.

"Seems to me you could have grabbed the seat," objected Joe, wincing
with pain.

The other did not answer, but afterward Rad said he thought he saw him
wink and grin maliciously.

"Hurt much?" asked Rad of Joe, as the fellow got off and the car went on
again.

"It did for a minute. It's better now."

"It looked to me as though he did that on purpose," said Rad.

"He certainly was very clumsy," spoke one of the ladies to whom Joe and
Rad had given their places. "He stepped on my foot, too."

Joe worked his arm up and down to limber the muscles, and then thought
little more about the incident. That is, until the next morning. He
awoke with a sudden sense of pain, and as he stretched out his pitching
arm, he cried out.

"What's the matter?" asked Rad.

"My arm's sore and lame!" complained Joe. "Say, this is tough luck! And
maybe I'll get a chance to pitch to-day."



CHAPTER XXIV

A TIGHT GAME


Rad gave a look at his chum, and then, sliding out of bed, ran to the
window.

"No luck!" he exclaimed.

"What do you mean?" asked Joe.

"I mean it isn't raining."

"What has that got to do with it?" the young pitcher wanted to know, as
he moved his sore arm back and forth, a little frown of pain showing on
his face at each flexing movement.

"Why, if it rained we wouldn't have any game, and you'd get a chance to
rest and get in shape. It's a dead cinch that you or Barter will be
called on to-day. Willard has 'Charlie-horse,' and he can't pitch. So
it's you or Barter."

"Then I guess it will have to be Barter," said Joe with a grimace. "I'm
afraid I can't go in. And yet I hate to give up and say I can't pitch.
It's tough luck!"

"Does it hurt much?" Rad wanted to know.

"Enough, yes. I could stand it, ordinarily, but every time I move it
will make it worse."

"Is it where that fellow pinched you, in getting off the car last
night?"

"He didn't pinch me," said Joe, "it was a deliberate twist."

"Deliberate?" questioned Rad in surprise.

"It sure was!" exclaimed the young pitcher decidedly. "The more I think
of it the more I'm certain that he did it deliberately."

"But why should he?" went on Rad. "You didn't prevent him from getting
out of the car. There was plenty of room for him to pass. Why should he
try to hurt you?"

"I don't know," answered Joe, "unless he was put up to it by----"

"By Jove! Shalleg! Yes!" cried Rad. "I believe you're right. Shalleg is
jealous of you, and he wants to see you kept out of the game, just
because he didn't make the nine. And I guess, too, he'd be glad to see
the Cardinals lose just to make Manager Watson feel sore. That's it,
Joe, as sure as you're a foot high!"

"Oh, I don't know as he thought the Cardinals would lose because I
didn't pitch," said Joe, slowly, "but he may have been set on me by
Shalleg, out of spite. Well, there's no use thinking about that now.
I've got to do something about this arm. I think I'll send word that I
won't be in shape to-day."

"No, don't you do it!" cried Rad. "Maybe we can fix up your arm. I know
how to make a dandy liniment that my mother used on me when I was a
small chap."

"Liniment sounds good," said Joe with a smile. "But I guess I'd better
have Boswell look at it. He's got some of his own----"

"Yes, and then you'd have to admit that you're lame, and give the whole
thing away!" interrupted Rad. "Don't do it. Leave it to me. There's some
time before the game and I can give you a good rubbing, meanwhile. I'll
send out to the drug store, get the stuff made up, and doctor you here.

"There'll be no need to tell 'em anything about it if I can get you into
shape, and then, if you're called on, you can go in and pitch. If they
think you're crippled they won't give you a chance."

"That's so," admitted Joe.

"Still, you wouldn't go in if you didn't think you could do good work,"
went on his chum.

"Certainly I would not," agreed Joe. "That would be too much like
throwing the game. Well, see what you can do, Rad. I'd like to get a
good whack at the fellow who did this, though," he went on, as he worked
his arm slowly back and forth.

Rad rang for a messenger, and soon had in from a drug store a bottle of
strong-smelling liniment, with which he proceeded to massage Joe's arm.
He did it twice before the late breakfast to which they treated
themselves, and once afterward, before it was time to report at the park
for morning practice.

"Does it feel better?" asked Rad, as his chum began to do some pitching
work.

"A whole lot, yes."

It was impossible to wholly keep the little secret from Boswell. He
watched Joe for a moment and then asked suddenly:

"Arm stiff?"

"A bit, yes," the pitcher was reluctantly obliged to admit.

"You come in the clubhouse and have it attended to!" ordered the
trainer. "I can't have you, or any of the boys, laid up."

Then, as he got out his bottle of liniment, and looked at Joe's arm, one
of the ligaments of which had been strained by the cruel twist, Boswell
said, sniffing the air suspiciously:

"You've been using some of your own stuff on that arm; haven't you?"

"Yes," admitted Joe.

"I thought so. Well, maybe it's good, but my stuff is better. I'll soon
have you in shape."

He began a scientific massage of the sore arm, something of which, with
all his good intentions, Rad was not capable. Joe felt the difference at
once, and when he went back to practice he was almost himself again.

"How about you?" asked Rad, when he got the chance.

"I guess I'll last out--if I have to pitch," replied Joe. "But it's not
certain that I shall go in."

"The Phillies are out to chew us up to-day," went on his chum. "It's
going to be a tight game. Don't take any chances."

"I won't; you may depend on that."

There was a conference between Boswell and the manager.

"Who shall I put in the box?" asked the latter, for he often depended in
a great measure on the old trainer.

"Let Barter open the ball, and see how he does. It's my notion that he
won't stand the pace, for he's a little off his feed. But I want to take
a little more care of Matson, and this will give him a couple of innings
to catch up."

"Matson!" cried the manager. "Has he----"

"Just a little soreness," said Boswell quickly, for that was all he
imagined it to be. He had not asked Joe how it happened, for which the
young pitcher was glad. "It'll be all right with a little more rubbing."
He knew Joe's hope, and wanted to do all he could to further it.

"All right. Announce Barter and Russell as the battery. And you look
after Matson; will you?"

"I sure will. I think Joe can pitch his head off if he gets the chance."

"I hope he doesn't lose his head," commented the manager grimly. "It's
going to be a hard game."

Which was the opinion of more than one that day.

Joe was taken in charge by Boswell, and in the clubhouse more attention
was given to the sore arm.

"How does it feel now?" asked the trainer, anxiously.

"Fine!" replied Joe, and really the pain seemed all gone.

"Then come out and warm up with me. You'll be needed, if I am any
judge."

To Joe's delight he found that he could send the ball in as swiftly as
ever, and with good aim.

"You'll do!" chuckled Boswell. "And just in time, too. There goes a home
run, and Barter's been hit so hard that we'll have to take him out."

It was the beginning of the third inning, and, sure enough, when it came
the turn of the Cardinals to bat, a substitution was made, and the
manager said:

"Get ready, Joe. You'll pitch the rest of the game."

Joe nodded, with a pleased smile, but, as he raised his arm to bend it
back and forth, a sharp spasm of pain shot through it.

"Whew!" whistled Joe, under his breath. "I wonder if the effects of that
liniment are wearing off? If they are, and that pain comes back, I'm
done for, sure. What'll I do?"

There was little time to think; less to do anything. Joe would not bat
that inning, that was certain. He took a ball, and, nodding to Rad, who
was not playing, went out to the "bull-pen."

"What's up?" asked Rad, cautiously.

"I felt a little twinge. I just want to try the different balls, and
find which I can deliver to best advantage to myself. You catch."

Rad nodded understandingly. To Joe's delight he found that in throwing
his swift one, the spitter, and his curves he had no pain. But his
celebrated fadeaway made him wince when he twisted his arm into the
peculiar position necessary to get the desired effect.

"Wow!" mused Joe. "I can't deliver that, it's a sure thing. Well, I'm
not going to back out now. I'll stay in as long as I can. But it's going
to hurt!"

He shut his teeth, and, trying to keep away from his face the shadow of
pain, threw his fadeaway to Rad again.

The pain shot through his arm like a sharp knife.

"But I'll do it!" thought Joe, grimly.



CHAPTER XXV

IN NEW YORK


"That's good," called Rad, as he caught a swift one. "You'll do, Joe."

But only the young pitcher knew what an effort it was going to cost him
to stay in that game. And stay he must.

It was time for the Cardinals to take the field. The Phillies were two
runs ahead, and that lead must be cut down, and at least one more tally
made if the game were to be won.

"Can we do it?" thought Joe. He felt the pain in his arm, but he ground
his teeth and muttered: "I'm going to do it!"

The play started off with the new pitcher in the box. The news went
flashing over the telegraph wires from the reporters on the ground to
the various bulletin boards through the country, and to the newspaper
offices. Baseball Joe was pitching for the Cardinals.

But Joe was not thinking of the fame that was his. All he thought of was
the effort he must make to pitch a winning game.

Fortunately for him three of the weakest batters on the Phillies faced
him that inning. Joe knew it, and so did the catcher, for he did not
signal for the teasing fadeaway, for which Joe was very glad.

Joe tried a couple of practice balls, but he did not slam them in with
his usual force, at which the man in the mask wondered. He had not heard
of Joe's lame arm, and he reasoned that his partner was holding back for
reasons best known to himself.

"Ball one!" yelled the umpire when Joe had made his first delivery to
the batter. Joe winced, partly with pain, and partly because of the
wasted effort that meant so much to him.

"The next one won't be a ball!" he muttered fiercely. He sent in a
puzzling curve that enticed the batter.

"Strike one!"

"That's better!" yelled Boswell, from the coaching line. "Serve 'em some
more like that, Joe."

And Joe did. No one but himself knew the effort it cost him, but he kept
on when it was agony to deliver the ball. Perhaps he should not have
done it, for he ran the chance of injuring himself for life, and also
ran the chance of losing the game for his team.

But Joe was young--he did not think of those things. He just
pitched--not for nothing had he been dubbed "Baseball Joe."

"You're out!" snapped the umpire to the first batter, who turned to the
bench with a sickly grin.

Joe faced the next one. To his alarm the catcher signalled for a
fadeaway. Joe shook his head. He thought he could get away with a
straight, swift one.

But when the batter hit it Joe's heart was in his throat until he saw
that it was a foul. By a desperate run Russell caught it. Joe pitched
the next man out cleanly.

"That's the way to do it!"

"Joe, you're all right!"

"Now we'll begin to do something!"

Thus cried his teammates.

And from then on the Phillies were allowed but one more tally. This
could not be helped, for Joe was weakening, and could not control the
ball as well as at first. But the run came in as much through errors on
the part of his fellow players as from his own weakness.

Meanwhile the Cardinals struck a batting streak, and made good, bunching
their hits. The ending of the eighth inning saw the needed winning run
go up in the frame of the Cardinals, and then it was Joe's task to hold
the Phillies hitless in their half of the ninth.

How he did it he did not know afterward. His arm felt as though someone
were jabbing it with a knife. He gritted his teeth harder and harder,
and stuck it out. But oh! what a relief it was when the umpire, as the
third batter finished at the plate, called:

"You're out!"

The Cardinals had won! Joe's work for the day was finished. But at what
cost only he knew. Pure grit had pulled him through.

"Say, did you pitch with that arm?" asked Boswell in surprise as he saw
Joe under the shower in the clubhouse later.

"Well, I made a bluff at it," said Joe, grimly and gamely.

"Well, I'll be Charlie-horsed!" exclaimed the trainer. "Say, you won't
do any more pitching for a week! I've got to take you in hand."

Of course the story of Joe's grit got out, and the papers made much of
how he had pitched through nearly a full game, winning it, too, which
was more, with a badly hurt arm.

"But don't you take any such chances as that again!" cried Manager
Watson, half fiercely, when he heard about it. "I can't have my pitchers
running risks like that. Pitchers cost too much money!"

This was praise enough for Joe.

And so he had a much-needed rest. Under the care of Boswell the arm
healed rapidly, though, for some time, Joe was not allowed to take part
in any big games, for which he was sorry.

Whether it was the example of Joe's grit, or because they had improved
of late was not made manifest, but the Cardinals took three of the four
games with the Phillies, which made Manager Watson gleeful.

"They called us tail-enders!" he exulted, "but if we don't give the
Giants a rub before the end of the season I'll miss my guess!"

The Cardinals were on the move again. They went from city to city,
playing the scheduled games, winning some and losing enough to keep them
about in fifth place. Joe saw much of life, of the good and bad sides.
Many temptations came to him, as they do to all young fellows, whether
in the baseball game, or other business or pleasure. But Joe "passed
them up." Perhaps the memory of a certain girl helped him. Often it
does.

The Cardinals came to New York, once more to do battle with the
redoubtable Giants.

"But you won't get a game!" declared Manager McGraw to "Muggins" Watson.

"Won't we? I don't know about that. I'm going to spring my colt slab
artist on you again."

"Who, Matson?"

"Um," said the manager of the Cardinals.

"Um," responded the manager of the Giants, laughing.

St. Louis did get one game of a double-header, and Joe, whose arm was in
perfect trim again, pitched. It was while he was on the mound that a
certain man, reputed to be a scout for the Giants, was observed to be
taking a place where he could watch the young pitcher to advantage.

"Up to your old tricks; eh, Jack?" asked a man connected with the
management of the Cardinals. "Who are you scouting for now?"

"Well, that little shortstop of yours looks pretty good to me," was the
drawling answer. "What you s'pose you'll be asking for him."

"He's not for sale. Now if you mentioned the centre fielder, Jack----"

"Nothing doing. I've got one I'll sell you cheap."

"I don't suppose you want to make an offer for Matson; do you?" asked
the Cardinal man with a slow wink.

"Oh, no, we've got all the pitchers we can use," the Giant scout
responded quickly. It is thus that their kind endeavor to deceive one
another.

But, as the game went on, it might have been observed that the Giant
scout changed his position, where he could observe Joe in action from
another angle.

"Didn't see anything of Shalleg since we struck Manhattan; did you,
Joe?" asked Rad, as he and his chum, taking advantage of a rainy day in
New York, were paying a visit to the Museum of Natural History.

"No," replied Joe, pausing in front of a glass case containing an
immense walrus. "I don't want to see him, either. I'm sure he planned to
do me some harm, and I'm almost positive that some of his tools had to
do with my sore arm. But I can't prove it."

"That's the trouble," admitted Rad. "Well, come on, I want to see that
model of the big whale. They say it's quite a sight."

The rain prevented games for three days, and the players were getting a
bit "stale" with nothing to do. Then the sun came out, the grounds dried
up and the series was resumed. But the Cardinals were not very lucky.

Philadelphia was the next stopping place, and there, once again, the
Cardinals proved themselves the masters of the Quakers. They took three
games straight, and sweetened up their average wonderfully, being only a
game and a half behind the fourth club.

"If we can only keep up the pace!" said the manager, wistfully. "Joe,
are you going to help us do it?"

"I sure am!" exclaimed the young pitcher.

There was one more game to play with the Phillies. The evening before it
was scheduled, which would close their stay in the Quaker City, Joe left
the hotel, and strolled down toward the Delaware River. He intended to
take the ferry over to Camden, in New Jersey, for a friend of his mother
lived there, and he had promised to call on her.

Joe did not notice that, as he left the hotel, he was closely followed
by a man who walked and acted like Wessel. But the man wore a heavy
beard, and Wessel, the young pitcher remembered was usually
smooth-shaven.

But Joe did not notice. If he had perhaps he would have seen that the
beard was false, though unusually well adjusted.

Joe turned his steps toward the river front. It was a dark night, for
the sky was cloudy and it looked like rain.

Joe just missed one ferryboat, and, as there would be some little time
before the other left, he strolled along the water front, looking at
what few sights there were. Before he realized it, he had gone farther
than he intended. He found himself in a rather lonely neighborhood, and,
as he turned back a bearded man, who had been walking behind the young
pitcher for some time, stepped close to him.

"I beg your pardon," the man began, speaking as though he had a heavy
cold, "but could you direct me to the Reading Terminal?"

"Yes," said Joe, who had a good sense of direction, and had gotten the
"lay of the land" pretty well fixed in his mind. "Let's see now--how I
can best direct you?"

He thought for a moment. By going a little farther away from the ferry
he could put the stranger on a thoroughfare that would be more direct
than traveling back the way he had come.

"If you wouldn't mind walking along a little way," said the man eagerly.
"I'm a stranger here, and----"

"Oh, I'll go with you," offered Joe, good-naturedly. "I'm not in any
hurry."

Be careful, Joe! Be careful!



CHAPTER XXVI

ADRIFT


"There," said Baseball Joe, coming to a halt at a dark street corner,
the stranger close beside him, "if you go up that way, and turn as I
told you to, it will take you directly to the Reading Terminal."

"I don't know how to thank you," mumbled the other. He seemed to be
fumbling in his pocket. "I'll give you my card," he went on. "If you are
ever in San Francisco----"

But it was not a card that he pulled from the inner pocket of his coat.
It was a rag, that bore a strange, faint odor. Joe stepped back, but not
quickly enough. He suspected something wrong, but he was too late.

An instant later the stranger had thrown one powerful arm about
the young pitcher, and, with his other hand he pressed the
chloroform-saturated rag to Joe's nose and mouth.

Joe tried to cry out, and struggled to free himself. But his senses
seemed leaving him under the influence of the powerful drug.

At that moment, as though it had been timing itself to the movements of
the man who had followed Joe, there drove up a large ramshackle cab, and
out of it jumped two men.

"Did you get him, Wes?" one asked eagerly.

"I sure did. Here, help me. He's gone off. Get him into the cab."

Poor Joe's senses had all but left him. He was an inert mass, but he
could hear faintly, and he recognized the voice of Shalleg.

He tried to rouse himself, but it was as though he were in a heavy
sleep, or stupor. He felt himself being lifted into a cab. The door
slammed shut, and then he was rattled away over the cobbles.

"I wonder what they're going to do with me?" Joe thought. He had enough
of his brain in working order to do that. Once more he tried to
struggle.

"Better tie him up," suggested a voice he now recognized as that of the
fellow who had twisted his arm on the street car.

"Yes, I guess we had," agreed Shalleg. "And then to the Delaware with
him!"

Joe was too weak, and too much under the influence of the drug, to care
greatly what they did with him--that is, in a sense, though a feeling of
terror took possession of him at the words.

"The river!" gasped Wessel. "I thought you said there'd be no violence,
Shalleg."

"And there won't!" promised the leader of the conspirators.

"But you said to tie him, and then to the river with him."

"You don't s'pose I'm going to chuck him in; do you?" was the angry
question.

"I don't know."

"Well, I'm not! I'm just going to put him out of the way for a time. I
told him I'd get even with him for not helping me out of a hole, and
then for spreading reports about me, that kept me from getting a place
on the Cardinals, as well as on any other team. I told him I'd fix him!"

So, this was the secret of Shalleg's animosity! He had a fancied
grievance against Joe, and was taking this means of gratifying his
passion for revenge. Joe, dimly hearing, understood now. He longed to be
able to speak, to assure Shalleg that he was all wrong, but they had
bound a rag about his mouth, and he could not utter a sound, even had
not the chloroform held his speech in check.

"Pass over those ropes," directed Shalleg to his cronies in the cab,
which lurched and swayed over the rough stones. The cab held four, on a
pinch, and Joe was held and supported by one of the men. The gag in the
young pitcher's mouth was made tighter, and ropes were passed about his
arms and feet. He could not move.

"What's the game?" asked Wessel, as the trussing-up was finished.

"Well, I don't want to do him any real harm," growled Shalleg, "but I'm
going to put him out of the game, just as I was kept out of it by his
tattling tongue. I'm going to make him fail to show up to-morrow, and
the next day, too, maybe. That'll put a crimp in his record, and in the
Cardinals', too, for he's been doing good work for them. I'll say that
about him, much as I hate him!"

Joe heard this plot against him, heard it dimly, through his half-numbed
senses, and tried to struggle free from his bonds. But he could not.

On rattled the cab. Joe could not tell in which direction they were
going, but he was sure it was along the lonely river front. The effects
of the chloroform were wearing off, but the gag kept him silent, and the
ropes bound his hands and feet.

"Have any trouble trailing him?" asked Shalleg of Wessel, who had
disguised himself with a false beard.

"Not a bit," was the answer. "It was pie! I pretended I had lost my
way."

The men laughed. Either they thought Joe was still incapable of hearing
them, or they did not care if their identity and plans were known.

A multitude of thoughts rushed through Joe's head. He did not exactly
understand what the men were going to do with him. They had spoken of
taking him to the river. Perhaps they meant to keep him prisoner on a
boat until his contract with the St. Louis team would be void, because
of his non-appearance. And Joe knew how hard it would be to get back in
the game after that.

True, he could explain how it had happened, and he felt sure he would
not be blamed. But when would he get a chance to make explanations? And
there was the game to-morrow! He knew he would be called on to pitch,
for Mr. Watson had practically told him so. And Joe would not be on
hand.

"Aren't we 'most there?" asked Wessel.

"Yes," answered Shalleg, shortly.

"What are we to do?" asked the other.

"You'll know soon enough," was the half-growled reply.

The cab rattled on. Then it came to a stop. Joe could smell the dampness
of the river, and he realized that the next act in the episode was about
to be played.

He felt himself being lifted out of the cab, and he had a glimpse of a
street, but it was too dark to recognize where it was, and Joe was not
well enough acquainted with Philadelphia to know the neighborhood. Then
a handkerchief was bound over his eyes, and he was in total darkness.

He heard whispered words between Shalleg and the driver of the cab, but
could not make out what they were. Then the vehicle rattled off.

"Catch hold of him now," directed Shalleg to his companions. "We'll
carry him down to the river."

"To the river!" objected Wessel, and Joe felt a shiver go through him.

"Well, to the boat then!" snapped Shalleg. "Don't talk so much."

Joe felt himself being carried along, and, a little later, he was laid
down on what he felt was the bottom of a boat. A moment later he could
tell by the motion of the craft that he was adrift on the Delaware.



CHAPTER XXVII

THE RESCUE


For a few moments Joe was in a sort of daze. He was extremely
uncomfortable, lying on the hard bottom of the boat, and there seemed to
be rough water, for the craft swayed, and bobbed up and down.

Joe wondered if he was alone, for he did not hear the noise of oars in
the locks, nor did he catch the voices of the three rascals.

But it soon developed that they were with him, for, presently Wessel
asked:

"Where are we going with him?"

"Keep still!" snapped Shalleg in a tense whisper. "Do you want someone
to hear us?"

"Who, him?"

"No, someone on these ships. We're right alongside of 'em yet. Keep
still; can't you!"

Wessel subsided, but one of Joe's questions was answered. There were
other problems yet unsolved, though. What were they going to do with
him? He could only wait and learn.

The bandage was still over his eyes, and he tried, by wrinkling the
skin of his forehead, to work it loose. But he could not succeed. He
wished he could have some glimpse, even a faint one, in the darkness, of
where he was, though perhaps it would have done him little good.

"Take the oars now," directed Shalleg, after a pause. "I guess it's safe
to row out a bit. There aren't so many craft here now. But go easy."

"Hadn't we better show a light?" asked the man who had twisted Joe's
arm. "We might be run down!"

"Light nothing!" exclaimed Shalleg, who now spoke somewhat above a
whisper. "I don't want some police launch poking her nose up here. It's
light enough for us to see to get out of the way if anything comes
along. I'm not going to answer any hails."

"Oh, all right," was the answer.

Joe's head was beginning to clear itself from the fumes of the
chloroform, and he could think more clearly. He wondered more and more
what his fate was to be. Evidently the men were taking him somewhere in
a rowboat. But whether he was to be taken wherever they were going, in
this small craft, or whether it was being used to transport them to a
larger boat, he could not, of course, determine.

The men rowed on for some time in silence.

"It's getting late," ventured Wessel at length.

"Not late enough, though," growled Shalleg.

Joe went over, in his mind, all the events that had been crowded into
the last few hours. He had told Rad that he was going to see his
mother's friend in Camden, but had given no address.

"They won't know but what I'm staying there all night," he reasoned.
"And they won't start to search for me until some time to-morrow. When I
don't show up at the game they'll think it's queer, and I suppose
they'll fine me. I wouldn't mind that if they only come and find me. But
how can they do it? There isn't a clue they could follow, as far as I
know. Not one!"

He tried to think of some means by which he could be traced, and rescued
by his friends, but he could imagine none. No one who knew him had seen
him come down to the ferry, or walk through the deserted neighborhood.
And, as far as he knew, no one had seen the bearded stranger accost him.

"I'll just have disappeared--that's all," mused poor Joe, lying on the
hard and uncomfortable bottom of the boat.

For some time longer the three men, or rather two of them, rowed on,
paying no attention to Joe. Then Shalleg spoke.

"I guess we're far enough down the river," he said. "We can go ashore
now."

"And take him with us?" asked Wessel.

"Well, you don't think I'm going to chuck him overboard; do you?"
demanded Shalleg. "I told you I wasn't going to do anything violent."

"But what are you going to do?"

"Wait, and you'll see," was the rather unsatisfactory answer.

Joe wished it was settled. He, too, was wondering.

The course of the boat seemed changed. By the motion the men were rowing
across a choppy current, probably toward shore. Joe found this to be so,
a little later, for the boat's side grated against what was probably a
wooden pier.

"Light the lantern," directed Shalleg.

"But I thought you didn't want to be seen," objected Wessel.

"Do as I tell you," was the sharp rejoinder. "We're not going to be
seen. We're going to leave the boat."

"And leave him in it?" asked the other man.

"Yes, I'm going to turn him adrift down the river," went on the chief
conspirator. "I'll stick a light up, though, so he won't be run down. I
don't wish him that harm."

"Are you going to leave him tied?" Wessel wanted to know.

"I sure am!" was the rejoinder. "Think I want him giving the alarm, and
having us nabbed? Not much!"

Dimly, from beneath the handkerchief over his eyes, Joe saw the flash
as a match was struck, and the lantern lighted. Then he heard it being
lashed to some upright in the boat. A little later Joe felt the craft in
which he lay being shoved out into the stream, and then he realized that
he was alone, drifting down the Delaware, toward the bay, and tied hand
and foot, as well as being gagged. He was practically helpless.

"There, I guess that'll teach him not to meddle in my affairs any more!"
said Shalleg bitterly. Then Joe heard no more, save the lapping of the
waves against the side of the craft.

For a time his senses seemed to leave him under the terrible strain, and
when he again was in possession of his faculties he could not tell how
long he had been drifting alone, nor had he any idea of the time, save
that it was still night.

"Well, I've got to do something!" decided Joe. "I've got to try and get
rid of this gag, and yell for help, and to do that I've got to have the
use of my hands."

Then he began to struggle, but the men who had trussed him up had done
their evil work well, and he only cut his wrists on the cruel bonds. He
was on his back, and he wished there was some rough projection in the
bottom of the boat, against which he could rub his rope-entangled
wrists. But there was none.

How the hours of darkness passed Joe never knew. He was thankful for one
thing--that there was a light showing in his boat, for he would not be
run down in the darkness by some steamer, or motor craft. By daylight he
hoped the drifting boat might be seen, and picked up. Then he would be
rescued. Even now, if he could only have called, he might have been
saved.

Gradually Joe became aware that morning had come. He could see a film of
light beneath the bandage over his eyes. The boat was bobbing up and
down more violently now.

"I must be far down the bay," thought Joe.

He was cramped, tired, and almost parched for a drink. He had dozed
fitfully through the night, and his eyes smarted and burned under the
bandage.

Suddenly he heard voices close at hand, above the puffing of a
motorboat.

"Look there!" someone exclaimed. "A boat is adrift. Maybe we can work
that into the film."

"Maybe," assented another voice. "Let's go over and see, anyhow. We want
this reel to be a good one."

Dimly Joe wondered what the words meant. He heard the voices, and the
puffing of the motor coming nearer. Then the latter sound ceased. Some
craft bumped gently against his, and a man cried:

"Someone is in this boat!"



CHAPTER XXVIII

MOVING PICTURES


For a moment silence followed the announcement that meant so much to
Joe. He could hear murmurs of surprise, and the violent motion of the
craft in which he lay, bound helpless and unseeing, told him that the
work of rescue was under way. The motor boat, he reflected, must be
making fast to the other. The bandage over Joe's eyes prevented him from
seeing what went on. Then came a series of exclamations and questions,
and, to Joe's surprise, the voices of women and girls mingled with those
of men.

"My, look, Jackson!" a man's voice exclaimed. "He's bound, and gagged.
There's been some crime here!"

"You're right. We must get him aboard our boat."

Joe could tell, by the motion of the boat which contained him, that some
of the rescue party were getting into it to aid him. Then he felt the
bandage being taken from his eyes, and the gag from his mouth.

"Hand me a knife, somebody!" called a man. "I'll cut these ropes."

Joe opened his eyes, and closed them again with a feeling of pain. The
sudden light of a bright, sunny morning was too much for him.

"He's alive, anyhow," a girl's voice said.

Joe half opened his eyes this time, and saw a strange sight. Alongside
his boat was a cabin motor craft, and on the rear deck he could see
gathered a number of men, women and girls. What took Joe's attention
next was a queer oblong box, with a crank at one side, and a tube
projecting from it, mounted on a tripod. Then, as his eyes became more
accustomed to the light, Joe saw bending over him in the boat, two men.

One of them had a knife, with which he quickly cut the ropes that bound
Joe's arms and feet. It was a great relief.

He sat up and looked about him. The motor boat was a large and fine one,
and was slowly drifting down into Delaware Bay, for Joe could see a vast
stretch of water on all sides.

"Too bad we can't work this rescue into a scene," spoke one of the men
on the motor craft.

Joe looked at him wonderingly, and then at the machine on the bow of the
boat. All at once he realized what it was--a moving picture camera. He
had seen them before.

"Are you folks in the movies?" he asked as he stood up, with the help of
the two men.

"That's what we are," was the answer. "We came out early this morning to
do a bit of 'water stuff,' when we saw your boat adrift. We put over to
it, and were surprised to see you tied in it. Can you tell us what
happened?"

"Yes," answered Joe, "I was practically kidnapped!"

"Come aboard, and have some coffee," urged a motherly-looking woman of
the party.

"Yes, do," added another member of the company. "We have just had
breakfast."

The aroma of coffee was grateful to Joe, and soon he was aboard the
motorboat, sipping a steaming cup.

"Kidnapped; eh?" remarked one of the men. "Then we'd better save that
boat for you. It will be a clue to those who did it."

"Oh, I know who did it, all right," answered Joe, who was rapidly
feeling more like himself. "I don't need the boat for evidence. But,
since you have been so kind to me, I wish you'd do one thing more."

"Name it," promptly said the man who seemed to be in charge of the
company.

"Get me somewhere so I can send word to Philadelphia--to Manager Watson
of the St. Louis Cardinals. I want to explain what happened, so he won't
expect me in the game to-day."

"Are you a member of the St. Louis team?" asked one of the men,
quickly.

"One of the pitchers--my name is Matson."

The two leading men of the company looked at each other in an odd
manner.

"It couldn't have happened better; could it, Harry?" one asked.

Our hero was a trifle mystified until the man called Harry explained.

"You see, it's this way," he said. "My name is Harry Kirk, and this is
James Morton," nodding toward the other man. "We manage a moving picture
company, most of whom you now see," and he indicated those about him.
"We have been doing a variety of stuff, and we want to get some baseball
pictures. We've been trying to induce some of the big teams to play an
exhibition game for us, but so far we haven't been successful. Now if
you would use your influence with your manager, and he could induce some
other team to play a short game, why we'd be ever so much obliged."

"Of course I'll do all I can!" cried Joe. "I can't thank you enough for
your rescue of me, and the least I could do would be to help you out!
I'm pretty sure I can induce Mr. Watson to let his team give an
exhibition, anyhow."

"That's all we want--an opening wedge," said Mr. Kirk, "but we couldn't
seem to get it. Our finding of you was providential."

"It was for me, anyhow," said Joe. "I don't know what might have
happened to me if I had drifted much farther."

Joe explained how it had happened, and the unreasoning rage of Shalleg
toward him.

"He ought to be sent to jail for life, to do such a thing as that!"
burst out Mr. Kirk. "You'll inform the police; won't you?"

"I think I had better," said Joe, thoughtfully.

The motor began its throbbing, and the big boat cut through the water,
towing the small craft, in which Joe had spent so many uncomfortable
hours.

The young pitcher was himself again, thanks to a good breakfast, and
when the dock was reached was able to talk to Manager Watson over the
telephone. It was then nearly noon, and Joe was in no shape to get in
the game that day.

To say that the news he gave the manager astonished Mr. Watson is
putting it mildly.

"You stay where you are," directed his chief. "I'll send someone down to
see you, or come myself. We'll get after this Shalleg and his gang. This
has gone far enough!"

"What about the game to-day?" asked Joe.

"Don't you worry about that. We'll beat the Phillies anyhow, though I
was counting on you, Joe. But don't worry."



CHAPTER XXIX

SHALLEG'S DOWNFALL


Plans to capture Shalleg and his cronies were carefully made, but were
unsuccessful, for, it appeared, the scoundrel and his cronies had fled
after putting Joe into the boat.

The moving picture people readily agreed to keep silent about the
affair, and Manager Watson said he would explain Joe's absence from the
game in a way that would disarm suspicion.

Joe soon recovered from his unpleasant and dangerous experience and,
true to his promise, used his influence to induce Mr. Watson to play an
exhibition game for the moving picture people.

"Of course we'll do it!" the manager exclaimed. "That would be small pay
for what they did for you. I'll see if we can't play the Phillies right
here. Of course it will have to be arranged with the high moguls, but I
guess it can be."

And it was. The game was not to count in the series, for some changes
and new rules had to be adopted to make it possible to get it within the
scope of the moving picture cameras. And the picture managers agreed to
pay a sum that made it worth while for the players, Joe included, to put
up a good game of ball.

To his delight Joe was selected to pitch for his side, and fully himself
again, he "put up a corking good game," to quote his friend Rad.

"Well, I'm not sorry to be leaving Philadelphia," remarked Joe to Rad,
when their engagement in the Quaker City was over, and they were to go
on to Brooklyn. "I always have a feeling that Shalleg will show up
again."

"I only wish he would!" exclaimed Rad.

"I don't!" said Joe, quickly.

"I mean and be captured," his chum added, quickly.

"Oh, that's different," laughed Joe.

Taking three of the four games from the Superbas, two of them on the
same day, in a double-header, the St. Louis team added to their own
prestige, and, incidentally, to their standing in the league, gaining
fourth place.

"I think we have a good chance of landing third place," the manager
exulted when they started West. They were to play Chicago in their home
town, then work their way to New York for a final set-to with the
Giants, and end the season on Robison Field.

And in St. Louis something happened that, for a long time, took Shalleg
out of Joe's path.

The first game with Chicago had been a hard one, but by dint of hard
work, and good pitching (Joe going in at the fourth inning to replace
Barter), the Cardinals won.

"And we'll do the same to-morrow," good-naturedly boasted Manager
Watson, to Mr. Mandell of the Cubs.

"Well, maybe you will, but I have a good chance to put it all over you,"
said the Chicago manager, and there was that in his manner which caused
Mr. Watson to ask quickly:

"What do you mean?"

"Just this. How much chance do you think you'd have to win if our men
knew your battery signals?"

"Not much, of course, but the thing is impossible!"

"Is it?" asked the other, quietly. "Not so impossible as you suppose. I
have just received an offer to have the signals disclosed to me before
the game to-morrow."

"By whom?" cried Manager Watson. "If any of my players is trying to
throw the team----"

"Go easy," advised the other with a smile. "It's nothing like that. The
offer came from a man, who, I understand, tried unsuccessfully to become
a member of the Cardinals."

"Not Shalleg!"

"That's who it was."

"Where can I get him?" asked Mr. Watson, eagerly. "He's wanted on a good
deal more serious charge than that. Where can I get him?"

"I thought you might want to see him," said the Chicago manager, "so I
put him off. I've made an appointment with him----"

"Which the police and I will keep!" interrupted Mr. Watson.

"Perhaps that would be better," agreed Mr. Mandell.

So the plot for the downfall of Shalleg was laid. It appeared that he
had come back to St. Louis, and, by dint of careful watching, and by his
knowledge of the game, he had managed to steal the signal system used
between the Cardinal pitchers and catchers. This he proposed disclosing
to the Chicago team, but of course the manager would have nothing to do
with the scheme.

Shalleg had named a low resort for the transfer of the information he
possessed, he to receive in exchange a sum of money. He was in desperate
straits, it appeared.

The Cubs' manager, Joe and Mr. Watson, with a detective, went to the
appointed meeting place. The manager went in alone, but the others were
hiding, in readiness to enter at a signal.

"Did you bring the money?" asked Shalleg, eagerly, as he saw the man
with whom he hoped to make a criminal "deal."

"I have the money, yes," was the cool answer. "Are you prepared to
disclose to me the Cardinal battery signals?"

"Yes, but don't speak so loud, someone might hear you!" whined Shalleg.

"That's just what I want!" cried the manager in loud tones, and that was
the signal for the officer to come in. He, Joe and Mr. Watson had heard
enough to convict Shalleg.

"Ha! A trap!" cried the released player, as he saw them close in on him.
He made a dash to get away, but, after a brief struggle, the detective
overpowered him, for Shalleg's manner of life was not such as to make
him a fighter.

He saw that it was no use to bluff and bluster, and, his nerve
completely gone, he made a full confession.

After his unsuccessful attempt to borrow money of Joe, he really became
imbued with the idea that our hero had injured him, and was spreading
false reports about him. So he set out to revenge himself on Joe.

It was Shalleg who induced Wessel to pick a quarrel with Joe, hoping to
disable the pitcher so he could not play ball that season. It was a mean
revenge to plot. And it was Shalleg's idea, in luring Joe to the lonely
house, on the plea of helping Rad, to involve him in a fight that might
disable, or disgrace, him so that he would have to resign from the
Cardinals. Likewise it was a tool of Shalleg's who kept track of Joe,
who boarded the same car as did our hero, and who so cruelly twisted his
arm, hoping to put him out of the game.

Shalleg denied having induced Wessel to enter Joe's room that night in
question, but his denial can be taken for what it was worth. As to
Weasel's object, it could only be guessed at. It may have been robbery,
or some worse crime.

And then, when all else failed, Shalleg tried the desperate plan of
kidnapping Joe, but, as he explained, he did not really intend bodily
harm. And perhaps he did not. He was a weak and criminally bad man, but
perhaps there was a limit.

"Well, this is the end!" the former ball player said, bitterly, as he
was handcuffed, and led away. "I might have known better."

Some time afterward, when the ball season had closed, Shalleg was tried
on the charge of mistreating Joe, and was convicted, being sentenced to
a long term. His cronies were not caught, but as they were only tools
for Shalleg no one cared very much whether or not they were punished.



CHAPTER XXX

THE HARDEST BATTLE


Filled to overflowing were the big bleachers. Crowded were the
grandstands. Above the noise made by the incoming elevated trains, and
the tramp of thousands of feet along the boarded run-ways leading to the
big concrete Brush Stadium at the Polo Grounds, could be heard the
shrill voices of the vendors of peanuts, bottled ginger ale and ice
cream cones.

Out on the perfect diamond, laid out as though with rule and compass,
men in white and other men in darker uniforms were practicing. Balls
were being caught, other balls were being batted.

It was a sunny, perfect day, hot enough to make fast playing possible,
and yet with a refreshing breeze.

"Well, Joe, are we going to win?" asked Rad, as he and his chum went to
the bench after their warm-up work.

"I don't know," answered the young pitcher slowly. "They're a hard team
to beat."

It was the final game between the Giants and the Cardinals. To win it
meant for the St. Louis team that they would reach third place. And if
they did get third position, it was practically certain that they could
keep it, for their closing games in St. Louis were with the tail-enders
of the league.

"Are you going to pitch, Joe?"

"I don't know that, either. Haven't heard yet," was the answer.

Just then a messenger came up to Joe.

"There's somebody in that box," he said, indicating one low down, and
just back of home plate, "who wants to speak to you."

Joe looked around, and a delighted look came over his face as he saw his
father and mother, Clara, and one other.

"Mabel!" exclaimed Joe, and then he hurried over.

"Say, this is great!" he cried, with sparkling eyes. "I didn't know you
folks were coming," and he kissed his mother and sister, and wished--but
there! I said I wouldn't tell secrets.

"Your father found he had some business in New York," explained Mrs.
Matson, "so we thought we would combine pleasure with it, and see you
play."

"And they looked me up, and brought me along," added Mabel. "I just
happened to be in town. Now we want to see you win, Joe!"

"I don't even know that I'll play," he said, wistfully.

Joe felt that he could bide his time, and yet he did long to be the one
to open the game, as it was an important one, and a record-breaking
crowd was on hand to see it.

But it was evident that Manager Watson's choice of a pitcher must be
changed. It needed but two innings to demonstrate that, for the Giants
got four hits and three runs off Slim Cooney, who, most decidedly, was
not in form.

The substitution of a batter was made, and the manager nodded at Joe.

"You'll pitch!" he said, grimly. "And I want you to win!"

"And I want to," replied Joe, as he thought of those in the box watching
him.

It was to be Baseball Joe's hardest battle. Opposed to him on the mound
for the Giants was a pitcher of world-wide fame, a veteran, well-nigh
peerless, who had won many a hard-fought game.

I might describe that game to you in detail, but I will confine myself
to Joe's efforts, since it is in him we are most interested. I might
tell of the desperate chances the Cardinals took to gain runs, and of
the exceptionally good stick work they did, against the redoubtable
pitcher of the Giants.

For a time this pitcher held his opponents to scattering hits. Then, for
a fatal moment, he went up in the air. It was a break that was at once
taken advantage of by the Cardinals. They slammed out two terrific hits,
and, as there were men on bases, the most was made of them. Two wild
throws, something exceptional for the Giants, added to the luck, and
when the excitement was over the Cardinals had tied the game.

"Oh, wow!"

"Now, we've got 'em going!"

"Only one run to win, boys!"

"Hold 'em down, Joe!"

Thus came the wild cries from the stands. Excitement was at its height.

There was a hasty consultation between the peerless pitcher and the
veteran catcher. They had gone up in the air, but now they were down to
earth again. From then on, until the beginning of the ninth inning, the
Cardinals did not cross home plate, and they got very few hits. It was a
marvelous exhibition of ball twirling.

But if the Giant pitcher did well, Joe did even better, when you
consider that he was only rounding out his first season in a big league,
and that he was up against a veteran of national fame, the announcement
that he was going to be in the game being sufficient to attract a large
throng.

"Good work, old man! Good work!" called Boswell, when Joe came to the
bench one inning, after having allowed but one hit. "Can you keep it
up?"

"I--I hope so."

It was a great battle--a hard battle. The Giants worked every trick they
knew to gain another run, but the score remained a tie. Goose egg after
goose egg went up on the score board. The ninth inning had started with
the teams still even.

"We've just _got_ to get that run!" declared Manager Watson. "We've just
_got_ to get it. Joe, you are to bat first. See if you can't get a hit!"

Pitchers are proverbially weak hitters. One ingenious theory for it is
that they are so used to seeing the ball shooting away from them, and
toward the batter, that, when the positions are reversed, and they see
the ball coming toward them they get nervous.

"Ball!" was the umpire's first decision in Joe's favor. The young
pitcher was rather surprised, for he knew the prowess of his opponent.

And then Joe decided on what might have proved to be a foolish thing.

"I'm going to think that the next one will be a swift, straight one, and
I'm going to dig in my spikes and set for it," he decided. And he did.
He made a beautiful hit, and amid the wild yells of the crowd he
started for first. He beat the ball by a narrow margin, and was declared
safe.

A pinch hitter was up next, and amid a breathless silence he was
watched. But the peerless pitcher was taking no chances, and walked him,
thinking to get Joe later.

But he did not. For, as luck would have it, Rad Chase made the hit of
his life, a three-bagger, and with the crowd going wild, two runs came
in, giving the Cardinals the game, if they could hold the Giants down.

And it was up to Joe to do this. Could he?

As Joe walked to the mound, for that last momentous inning, he glanced
toward the box where his parents, sister and Mabel sat. A little hand
was waved to him, and Joe waved back. Then he faced his first man.

"Thud!" went the ball in Doc Mullin's big mitt.

"Ball!" droned the umpire.

"Thud!" went another. The batter stood motionless.

"Strike!"

The batter indignantly tapped the rubber.

"Crack!"

"You can't get it!" yelled the crowd, as the ball shot up in a foul.

The umpire tossed a new ball to Joe, for the other had gone too far
away to get back speedily.

Joe wet the horsehide, and sent it drilling in. The batter made a slight
motion, as though to hit it, but refrained:

"Strike! You're out!" said the umpire, stolidly.

"Why, that ball was----"

"You're out!" and the umpire waved him aside, impatiently.

Joe grinned in delight.

But when he saw the next man, "Home Run Crater," facing him, our hero
felt a little shaky. True, the chances were in favor of the Cardinals,
but baseball is full of chances that make or break.

"If he wallops it!" thought Joe.

But Crater did not wallop it. In his characteristic manner he swung at
the first delivery, and connected with it. Over Joe's head it was going,
but with a mighty jump Joe corraled it in one hand, a sensational catch
that set the crowd wild. Joe was playing the game of his life.

"Only one more!"

"Strike him out!"

"The game is ours, Joe!"

But another heavy hitter was up, and there was still work for Baseball
Joe to do.

To his alarm, as he sent in his first ball, there came to his arm that
had been twisted on the car, a twinge of pain.

"My! I hope that doesn't bother me," thought Joe, in anxiety.

"Ball one," announced the umpire.

Joe delivered a straight, swift one. His arm hurt worse, and he gritted
his teeth to keep from crying out.

"Strike!" grunted the umpire, and there was some balm for Joe in that.

The batter hit the next one for a dribbler, and just managed to reach
first.

"If I could only have managed to get him out!" mused Joe. "I'd be done
now. But I've got to do it over again. I wonder if I can last out?"

To his relief the next batter up was one of the weakest of the Giants,
and Joe was glad. And even yet a weak batter might make a hit that would
turn the tables.

"I've got to do it!" murmured Joe, and he wound up for the delivery.

"Strike!" announced the umpire. Joe's heart beat hard.

"Here goes for the fadeaway," he said to himself, "though it will hurt
like fun!"

It did, bringing a remembrance of the old hurt. But it fooled the
batter, and there were two strikes on him.

The game was all but over. With two out, and two strikes called, there
could be but one result, unless there was to be something that occurs
but once in a lifetime. And it did not occur.

"Strike! You're out!" was the umpire's decision, and that was the end.
The Cardinals had won, thanks, in a great measure, to Joe Matson's
splendid work.

"That's the stuff!"

"Third place for ours!"

"Three cheers for Joe Matson--Baseball Joe!" called his teammates, who
crowded around him to clap him on the back and say all sorts of nice
things. Joe stood it, blushingly, for a moment, and then he made his way
over to the box. As he walked along, a certain quiet man who had been
intently watching the game said softly to himself.

"He must be mine next season. I guess I can make a trade for him. He'd
be a big drawing card for the Giants."

"Oh, Joe, it was splendid! Splendid!" cried Mabel, enthusiastically.

"Fine!" said his father.

"Do you get any extra when your side wins?" asked his mother, while the
crowd smiled.

"Well, yes, in a way," answered Joe. "You get treated extra well."

"And it's going to be my treat this time," said Mabel, with a laugh. "I
want you all to come to dinner with me. You'll come; won't you, Joe?"
she asked, pleadingly.

"Of course," he said.

"And bring a friend, if you like," and she glanced at Clara.

"I'll bring Rad," Joe answered.

They lived the great game over again at the table of the hotel where
Mable was stopping.

"Is your arm lame?" asked Mrs. Matson, noticing that her son favored his
pitching member a trifle.

"Oh, I can finish out the season," said Joe. "The remainder will be
easy--only a few more games."

"And then what?" asked Rad.

"Well, a vacation, I suppose, and then get ready for another season with
the Cardinals."

But Joe was not destined to remain with the Western team. The horizon
was widening, and those of you who wish to follow further the adventures
of our hero may do so in the succeeding volume, which will be called
"Baseball Joe on the Giants; Or, Making Good as a Ball Twirler in the
Metropolis."

In that we shall see how Joe rose to even higher fame, through grit,
hard work and ability.

"Well, you turned the trick, old man!" declared Manager Watson, when, a
few days later, the team was on the way back to St. Louis. "You did it.
I felt sure you could."

"Well, _I_ didn't, at one time," was the rejoinder. "My arm started to
go back on me."

"Well, there's one consolation, Shalleg and his crowd will never get
another chance at you," went on the manager. "Now take care of yourself.
I'm only going to let you play one game--the closing one at St. Louis.
We won't need our stars against the tail-enders."

And the Cardinals did not, winning handily with a number of second
string men playing.

"Where are you going, Joe?" asked Rad, as they sat in their hotel room
one evening, for Joe was "dolling up."

"Out to a moving picture show."

"Moving pictures?"

"Yes. That film of the exhibition game we played in Philadelphia is
being shown in town. Come on up."

"Sure," assented Rad; and as they went out together we will take leave
of Baseball Joe.


THE END


       *       *       *       *       *


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