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Title: Baseball Joe, Home Run King - or, The Greatest Pitcher and Batter on Record
Author: Chadwick, Lester
Language: English
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[Illustration: IT WAS THE LONGEST HIT THAT EVER HAD BEEN MADE ON THE
POLO GROUNDS.]


BASEBALL JOE, HOME RUN KING

Or

The Greatest Pitcher and Batter on Record

by

LESTER CHADWICK

Author of
"Baseball Joe of the Silver Stars," "Baseball Joe in the Big League,"
"The Rival Pitchers," "The Eight-Oared Victors," etc.

ILLUSTRATED



New York
Cupples & Leon Company


      *      *      *      *      *      *

BOOKS BY LESTER CHADWICK

=THE BASEBALL JOE SERIES=

=12mo. Cloth. Illustrated.=

  BASEBALL JOE OF THE SILVER STARS
  BASEBALL JOE ON THE SCHOOL NINE
  BASEBALL JOE AT YALE
  BASEBALL JOE IN THE CENTRAL LEAGUE
  BASEBALL JOE IN THE BIG LEAGUE
  BASEBALL JOE ON THE GIANTS
  BASEBALL JOE IN THE WORLD SERIES
  BASEBALL JOE AROUND THE WORLD
  BASEBALL JOE, HOME RUN KING


=THE COLLEGE SPORTS SERIES=

=12mo. Cloth. Illustrated.=

  THE RIVAL PITCHERS
  A QUARTERBACK'S PLUCK
  BATTING TO WIN
  THE WINNING TOUCHDOWN
  FOR THE HONOR OF RANDALL
  THE EIGHT-OARED VICTORS

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, New York

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Copyright, 1922, by CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY

=Baseball Joe, Home Run King=

Printed in U. S. A.



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                              PAGE
      I  A DANGEROUS PLUNGE              1
     II  A SURPRISE                     17
    III  REGGIE TURNS UP                33
     IV  THE ANONYMOUS LETTER           43
      V  "PLAY BALL!"                   54
     VI  GETTING THE JUMP               61
    VII  STEALING HOME                  71
   VIII  A BASEBALL IDOL                79
     IX  AN OLD ENEMY                   87
      X  THREE IN A ROW                 94
     XI  RIGHT FROM THE SHOULDER       101
    XII  JIM'S WINNING WAYS            108
   XIII  A BREAK IN THE LUCK           117
    XIV  A DELIGHTFUL SURPRISE         123
     XV  AN EVENING RIDE               131
    XVI  THE ATTACK ON THE ROAD        136
   XVII  FALLING BEHIND                143
  XVIII  IN THE THROES OF A SLUMP      151
    XIX  A CLOSE CALL                  157
     XX  SPEEDING UP                   163
    XXI  THE WINNING STREAK            170
   XXII  STRIVING FOR MASTERY          178
  XXIII  HOLDING THEM DOWN             184
   XXIV  A CRUSHING BLOW               191
    XXV  LINING THEM OUT               197
   XXVI  THE TIRELESS FOE              203
  XXVII  CHAMPIONS OF THE LEAGUE       210
 XXVIII  THE WORLD SERIES              218
   XXIX  THE GAME OF HIS LIFE          224
    XXX  CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD        230



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

   IT WAS THE LONGEST HIT THAT EVER HAD BEEN MADE
   ON THE POLO GROUNDS.

   THERE WAS NO DOUBT OF THE WARMTH OF THAT WELCOME.

   SUDDENLY PICKING UP THE BALL HE HURLED IT TO SECOND.

   "GREAT SCOTT!" HE CRIED. "WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOUR HAND?"



BASEBALL JOE, HOME RUN KING



CHAPTER I

A DANGEROUS PLUNGE


"I'm going to tie you up in knots, old man," said Jim Barclay, with a
smile, as he picked up the ball and stepped into the box in batting
practice at the training camp.

"I've heard that kind of talk before," retorted Joe Matson, known all
over the country as "Baseball Joe," the king pitcher of the Giants.
"But untying knots is the best thing I do. Give me the best you have in
the shop."

Jim wound up and put one over that just cut the corner of the plate.
Joe made a mighty swing at it, but it was just beyond his reach.

"Nearly broke your back reaching for that one, eh?" laughed Jim, as the
ball was thrown back to him.

"I was just kidding you that time," grinned Joe. "I'm going to kill the
next one."

Again the ball whizzed to the plate. It was a fast, straight ball with
a slight hop to it. Joe caught it near the end of his bat and "leaned
on it" heavily. The ball soared out between right and center, and
the outfielders covering that position gave one look at it and then
turned and ran with the ball. But it kept on and on until it cleared
the fence, and the discomfited fielders threw up their hands and came
slowly back to their positions.

Jim looked sheepish, and Joe, who was his chum and best friend, laughed
outright as he relinquished the bat to the next man in line.

"A sweet home run, Jim," he remarked.

"I should say so!" snorted Jim. "That hit was good for two home runs.
The ball was ticketed for kingdom come."

"Who was it said that pitchers couldn't hit?" laughed Mylert, the burly
catcher of the Giant team, as he took Joe's place.

"I'll tell the world that some of them can!" exclaimed Jim, as he
prepared to try his luck again. "Gee, Joe, if that had happened to me
in a regular game, it would have broken my heart."

Two keen-eyed men in uniform had been standing near the side lines,
watching intently every move of the players, as they tried out their
batting eyes and arms. One was stocky and of medium height, with
hair that had begun to grey at the temples. The other was stout and
ruddy, with a twinkle in his eyes that bespoke good nature. Both were
veterans of many hard-fought baseball campaigns, and both had played
on the Baltimore Orioles when that great organization of stars was the
sensation of the baseball world.

"Did you see that hit, Robbie?" asked McRae, the manager of the Giants,
of his stout companion.

"Not all of it," replied Robson, the coach of the team. "But I followed
it as far as the fence. That was a whale of a wallop. I'll bet the
ball's going yet," and the man chuckled gleefully.

"Of course, this was only in practice," mused McRae. "Perhaps Barclay
wasn't trying over hard."

"Don't kid yourself, Mac," replied Robson. "Barclay wasn't just lobbing
them up. That ball came over like a bullet. It had a hop on it too, but
Joe gauged it just right. I tell you that boy is a wonder. If he wasn't
a wizard in the box, he'd be a terror at the bat."

"I wish there were two of him, Robbie," said the manager, smiling. "One
to cover the mound and the other to use as a pinch hitter or play him
in the outfield. That would make a combination hard to beat."

"It was the best day's work you ever did when you got that lad from St.
Louis," remarked Robson. "I'll bet the Cardinal's manager feels like
throwing a fit every time he thinks what a fool he was to let him go."

"Well," said McRae, "if everybody's foresight in baseball was as good
as his hindsight, there'd be no trading done. I don't mind saying that
I throw out my chest a little for having seen what was in the kid. He's
certainly been the making of the team."

"One thing is certain; and that is that you wouldn't have the World's
Championship tucked away if it hadn't been for his great work in the
Series," rejoined Robson. "He just had those Chicago birds eating out
of his hand."

"Right you are," admitted McRae. "Here's hoping he'll repeat this
season."

"Don't worry a bit about that," was Robson's confident answer. "You can
see for yourself that he's been going great guns in practice. And even
at that he hasn't been letting himself out. He's taking good care of
that old soup-bone of his."

"He was never better in his life," declared McRae. "I'll admit that I
was a little worried for fear that the trip around the world had taken
something out of him. You know what a strain he was under in that
All-Star League affair, Robbie. But it hasn't seemed to affect him at
all."

"He'll need all he's got this year," said Robbie thoughtfully. "We'll
have to depend more on the pitching than we did last year, because
we're not so strong on the batting end. When Burkett quit, it took
away a good deal of our hitting strength, and you've seen that Mylert
is slipping. On the form he's shown in practice this spring, he won't
be good for more than a two hundred and fifty per cent average, and
that's about sixty points below what he showed last year."

"I know it," agreed the manager, a worried look coming into his face.
"And what makes it worse is that Larry, too, is slow in rounding
into form. Instead of lining them out, he's sending them up in the
air. He'll be just pie for the fielders if he keeps it up. I can't
understand the thing at all."

"Oh, well," said Robbie, whose jolly disposition never let him stay
long under a cloud, "here's hoping that they'll come to the scratch
when the season opens. Some of the rookies look pretty good to me, and
if the old-timers fall down we may be able to fill their places all
right. Come along, Mac; let's finish working out that schedule for
the trip north. We'll have to get a hustle on to be in shape to start
to-morrow."

McRae gave the signal to his men that practice time was over, and the
young athletes, nothing loth to drop their work and get down to the
hotel for dinner, began to gather up their bats preparatory to jumping
into the bus which was waiting outside the grounds. But before they got
to it, McRae and Robson had climbed in and given the signal to the
driver to start.

"No, you don't!" he called out with a grin, as the bus started away.
"You fellows leg it down to the hotel. It's only two miles, and you
need the exercise. Get a move on, or Robbie and I will clear the table
before you get there."

There were grunts and groans from the players, for the sun was warm and
the practice had been strenuous. But there was no help for it, and they
dropped into a dog trot that was quickened by the thought of the dinner
that was waiting for them at the end of the journey.

They reached the hotel in good time, took a shower bath, changed into
their regular clothes, and were soon at the table with an appetite that
swept the board and made the colored waiters roll their eyes in wonder,
not unmixed with awe.

After the meal was finished, Joe and Jim were on their way to the
room they shared together when they passed McRae and Robbie, who were
sitting in the lobby enjoying their after-dinner cigars.

McRae beckoned to them, and they went over to where the pair was
sitting.

"Well, boys," said the manager, as he motioned to a couple of chairs
into which they dropped, "our spring practice is over and I don't mind
saying that I'm feeling good over the way you fellows ate up your
work. Both of you look as fit as fiddles."

"That's sure the way we feel," answered Joe, and Jim murmured
acquiescence.

"In fact you look so good," went on McRae, knocking the ashes from
his cigar and settling back comfortably in his chair, "that I'm going
to call training finished, as far as you two are concerned. Just now
you're right at the top of your form, and I don't want to take any
chances on your going stale. So I'm going to let you rest up for
the next week or ten days. All you have to do is to take good care
of yourselves--and I know you boys well enough to be sure you'll do
that--and turn up in shape when the season opens week after next."

Joe and Jim looked at each other, and the same thought was in the mind
of each. This seemed too good to be true!

"We start north to-morrow," went on McRae, "in two lots, playing minor
league teams on the way to keep in practice. The regulars will go along
with me, while Robbie will take the second string men and the rookies.
We'll jog along in easy fashion and hope to reach the Polo Grounds in
the pink of condition."

By this time Joe had found his voice. He smiled broadly.

"That's mighty good of you, Mac," he said. "I suppose you want us then
to go right through to New York."

"That's the idea," replied the manager. "Robbie will see to your
transportation this afternoon."

But just here, Robson, who had been watching the boys' faces, broke
into a laugh.

"For the love of Mike, wake up Mac!" he adjured his friend. "Don't you
know that Joe lives only a couple of hundred miles from here right over
the border? And don't you remember those two pretty girls that were
with us on the World Tour? And didn't we hear Joe telling Jim a few
days ago that his sweetheart was visiting his folks? And here you are
sending the lads straight through to New York with never a stop on the
way. Mac, old man, I'm ashamed of you."

McRae grinned as he looked at the faces of the young men--faces that
had grown suddenly red.

"Robbie hit the nail on the head, did he?" he said, with a chuckle.
"Well, I'm Irishman enough to have a soft spot in my heart for the lads
and their colleens. Fix it up, boys, to suit yourselves. As long as you
report on time, that's all I ask. Get along with you now, as Robbie and
I have got to fix up our routes."

Joe and Jim were only too glad to "get along," and after thanking McRae
hurried to their room, where they indulged in a wild war dance.

"Glory, hallelujah!" shouted Joe. "A whole week or more to ourselves,
and home only two hundred miles away!"

"Your home is," replied Jim. "Mine's more than a thousand miles away."

"You old sardine!" cried Joe, throwing a book at his head. "Isn't my
home yours? Do you think I'd dare show my face there without bringing
you along? Clara would never forgive me. Neither would Mabel. Neither
would Momsey nor Dad. Get a wiggle on now, old man, and hunt up a
time-table."

Jim, with his face jubilant at the thought of soon seeing Joe's
pretty sister, hustled about for the time-table; and with heads close
together the young men were soon poring over the schedules. At last Joe
straightened up with a vexed exclamation.

"Of all the roundabout ways!" he ejaculated. "We'll have to change
three or four different times with all sorts of bad connections, and
can't reach Riverside until to-morrow afternoon."

"Wait a minute," said Jim, running his pencil along a column. "Here's
a line that will get us to Martinsville early to-morrow morning, just
before daylight. How far is Martinsville from Riverside?"

"About fifty miles more or less," replied Joe. "But crickey, Jim, that
gives me an idea! What's the matter with going to Martinsville and
hiring an auto there? I know Hank Bixby who keeps a garage there and
has autos for hire. He used to live in Riverside, and played with me
on the old school nine before his folks moved away. I'll send him a
wire telling him what time we'll get there and asking him to have a
first-class car ready for us."

"You know the road all right, do you?" asked Jim. "Remember it will be
dark when we get there."

"I know it like a book," replied Joe. "I've been over it many a time.
I could travel it in the dark. It's as level as a table until you get
to Hebron. Just beyond that there's a steep hill that will give the car
something to do. But Hank will give me a machine that can climb it,
and, besides, it will be just about daylight by the time we get there.
It's a cinch that we won't have any trouble. I'll bet a hat--what's the
matter, Jim?"

For Jim had risen and moved quickly toward the door, which had been
standing partly open. He put out his head and looked down the corridor.
Not satisfied with that, he went down the hall to the head of the
stairs. Then he slowly retraced his steps.

Joe, who had followed his chum to the door, looked at him with
open-mouthed wonder.

"What's the matter with you?" he queried. "Have you gone daffy?"

"Not exactly," replied Jim. "I thought I saw somebody I knew go past
the door."

"Likely enough," said Joe, with a touch of sarcasm. "It wouldn't be at
all surprising. The hotel is full of our fellows."

"It wasn't one of our boys," returned Jim slowly.

"Well, who was it then?" asked Joe, a little impatiently. "Come out of
your trance, old man."

"I think it was a fellow we know only too well," Jim replied. "I think
it was Braxton."

"Braxton!" exclaimed Joe with sudden interest. "The fellow that was
with us on the World Tour?"

"The same one," affirmed Jim. "The fellow you licked within an inch of
his life in the old Irish castle."

"Are you sure?" asked Joe. "It doesn't seem at all likely that we'd run
across that rascal in this little training-camp town. What on earth
would he be doing down here?"

"That's just what I want to know," replied Jim soberly. "As you say,
it's all against the chances that we should run across him here by
accident. If he's here, he's come with some purpose. And that purpose
means nothing good for you. He's exactly the sort of man that won't
forget that thrashing."

"I guess he won't," replied Joe grimly. "My knuckles ache now when I
think of it. But if he's looking for another licking, he sure can have
it."

"He isn't looking for another," Jim returned. "He's looking to get even
for the first one you gave him. You know he swore at the time that he'd
pay you up for it."

"He's welcome to try," declared Joe indifferently. "But really, Jim, I
think you're mistaken. It seems too improbable. There are plenty of men
in the world who look like Braxton."

"Of course, I wouldn't swear it was he," admitted Jim. "I only saw him
side-face, and he slipped past the door like a ghost."

"Well, we'll keep our eyes open about the hotel and around the town,"
rejoined Joe. "But now let's think of pleasanter things. Our train goes
at six, and we've got lots to do in getting our duds packed. Then, too,
I've got to wire to Hank and must get the tickets for as far as the
cars will carry us."

The afternoon proved a busy one, but by train time they had completed
their packing, said good-by to the rest of the team, who frankly envied
them their luck, and were snugly ensconced in the day coach, as the
little road had no sleeping cars, and even if they had the frequent
changes they had to make would have made a sleeper not worth while. As
it was, they slept in snatches, had luck in their connections, and
about an hour before dawn stepped off the train at the little station
of Martinsville.

Both Baseball Joe and Jim Barclay had expected to find the town asleep,
but were surprised to find a large number of the inhabitants, chiefly
the younger men, at the station. Still another group stood in the
lighted doorway of Hank Bixby's garage, which was directly across the
street.

"What's the big idea?" Jim asked Joe, as he looked in surprise at the
crowd that drew close about them.

"Blest if I know," replied Joe. "Maybe there's been a fire or
something."

But they were soon enlightened, as Hank came bustling across the
street, his face aglow with welcome and self-importance.

"Howdy, Mr. Matson!" he exclaimed, as he wrung Joe's hand.

"Mr. Matson!" laughed Joe, returning the handshake. "Where do you get
that stuff? What's the matter with Joe?"

"Well, Joe, then," beamed Hank. "You see, Joe, you've got to be such a
big fellow now, known all over the United States, that I felt a bit shy
about calling you by your first name. I got your wire and mentioned it
to a fellow or two, and by heck it was all over town in no time that
the greatest pitcher in the country was going to be here. This crowd's
been waiting here all night to say howdy to you."

The people were all crowding around him by now, waiting their turn to
shake hands, and Joe, although embarrassed, as he always was when he
found himself the center of attention, did his best to respond to the
expressions of good will and admiration that were showered upon him.
Jim also came in for his share of the crowd's interest as a promising
and rapidly rising pitcher of the baseball champions of the world.
It was with a sigh of relief that they settled themselves at last in
the speedy car which Hank had provided for them and which he proudly
assured them would "just burn up the road" between Martinsville and
Riverside.

Joe took the wheel and the car started off, amid a waving of hands and
a roar of farewell from the crowd.

"Great day for Martinsville," said Jim mischievously, as he settled
down by the side of his chum and the car purred along over the level
road. "How does it feel to be a hero, Joe?"

"Quit your kidding," replied Joe, with a grin. "If they'd wrung this
old wing of mine much more, McRae would have been minus one of his
pitchers."

"One of the penalties of greatness," chaffed Jim.

"And now for home!" exulted Joe, as he put on added speed and the car
leaped forward.

"And Clara," murmured Jim under his breath, as he thought of Joe's
charming sister.

Joe did not hear him, for his thoughts were engrossed with Mabel, the
girl who had promised to marry him and who he fondly hoped might be at
this moment dreaming of him, as without her knowledge he was speeding
toward her. She had been visiting at his father's home as the guest of
his sister Clara. Since their trip together around the world the two
girls had become almost inseparable, and Mr. and Mrs. Matson already
regarded Mabel as a second daughter.

The day for the marriage of Joe and Mabel had not yet been set, but Joe
was determined that it should take place soon, and he hoped that now he
would be able to get Mabel to set a definite date for that happy event.

Jim, too, had his dreams, and they all centered about Clara. He had
fallen desperately in love with her at their first meeting, and he had
made up his mind that on this visit he would ask the all-important
question, on the answer to which his happiness depended.

The car dashed along at rapid speed, and as they came near Hebron Joe
roused himself from his reverie. The darkness was disappearing, and in
the faint light of the spring morning they could see a steep hill a
little way ahead. At the side of the road ran a little river, of whose
murmur they had been conscious for some time, although in the darkness
they could scarcely see it.

"Here's where we'll see whether Hank was bragging overmuch about this
car," remarked Joe, as he tightened his grasp on the wheel and put his
foot on the accelerator. "I'll give her a good start and see how she
can climb."

The car gathered speed as it neared the bottom of the hill. Joe peered
forward, and then from his lips came a startled shout.

Directly in front of them, completely blocking the road, was a mass of
heavy timbers. To strike them at that speed meant maiming or death!

At one side of the road was a steep cliff. On the other side was the
river.

Joe's brain worked like lightning. There was but one chance. He swung
the wheel around, the car crashed through a fence at the side of the
road, suddenly stopped short, and Joe and Jim were sent headlong into
the river!



CHAPTER II

A SURPRISE


The water was icy and deep, and at this point the current was swift.
The force with which the luckless occupants of the car had been
propelled sent them far beneath the surface and some distance out into
the stream.

A moment later their heads appeared above the water, and they struck
out for the shore. Both were strong swimmers, and in a few strokes they
reached the bank. Fortunately they had escaped striking any part of the
car in their wild hurtling through space, and apart from the chill and
wetting were unharmed.

From the mud at the river's edge, they dragged their dripping feet to
the solid ground of the road. Then they stood still and looked at each
other. The shock and suddenness of it all still affected them, but as
they continued to look at the comical figure that each presented, with
hair plastered over their faces and clothes clinging to their bodies,
their sense of the ludicrous got the better of them and they burst into
laughter.

"Talk about scarecrows!" gurgled Jim, as he dragged a wet handkerchief
from his pocket and mopped his face in a vain attempt to dry it.

"None of them have anything on us," admitted Joe, as he threw off his
coat and wrung one dripping trousers leg after the other.

"If only the team could get a snapshot of us now, they'd kid us for the
rest of our natural lives," remarked Jim.

"You said it," agreed Joe. "But now," he added more soberly, "just
let's take a look at what it was that so nearly killed us or crippled
us for life."

They made their way to the mass of timber in the road. At first Jim
thought that it might have fallen off some wagon, unknown to the
driver. But a closer examination showed that this was an error. The
timbers were piled in a way that could have been done only by human
hands, and what made this certain was the fact that rocks had been
placed on either side to prevent the logs from slipping. It was a
formidable barrier, and if the car had dashed into it at the rate it
was going, the occupants would almost certainly have been killed.

"Whoever put those timbers there meant harm," said Joe solemnly, when
the examination had been completed.

"It looks that way," agreed Jim. "Whoever did it was a scoundrel who
ought to be in jail."

"It might have been the work of a crazy man," suggested Joe.

"As crazy as a fox," rejoined Jim, looking squarely into his chum's
eyes.

"What do you mean?" asked Joe, in some perplexity.

"I mean," said Jim, carefully weighing every word, "that the man who
put that mass of timber there was just as sane as you or I. I mean
that he intended that some one should be seriously hurt. I'll go even
further. That man meant to injure Joe Matson, whom he hated with a
deadly hatred."

"You mean that Braxton did it?" cried Joe.

"I mean that Braxton did it," replied Jim quietly.

They stared at each other with strange emotions stirring in their
hearts. And while they stand there, as if turned to stone, it may be
well, for the benefit of those who have not read the earlier volumes of
this series, to trace the fortunes of Baseball Joe up to the time that
this story opens.

Joe Matson was born in a little inland village of the Middle West,
and grew up in a pleasant home amid wholesome surroundings. His first
experience in the great national game, where he was destined to become
famous as the greatest pitcher of his time, was gained on the simple
diamond of his home town, and his natural aptitude was such that
he soon became known as a rising player all over the county. What
obstacles he met and surmounted at that time are related in the first
volume of the series, entitled: "Baseball Joe of the Silver Stars."

Some time later, when playing on his school nine, he had considerable
trouble with a bully who tried to down him, but found out, as so many
trouble makers did later on in life, that Joe Matson was not easily
downed. He put into his playing all that experience, combined with his
native ability, could teach him, and he served an apprenticeship that
stood him in good stead when later he went to Yale. The trials and
triumphs of his school experience are told in the second volume of the
series, entitled: "Baseball Joe on the School Nine."

With the natural buoyancy of youth, Joe had hoped when he entered Yale
that he would have a chance to show his mettle in the box in some of
the great annual games that Yale played with Harvard and Princeton.
There were many rivals, however, for the honor, including those who had
already won their spurs in actual contests. But Joe's light was not
made to shine under a bushel, and one day when the cohorts of Princeton
came down in their orange and black prepared to "tie the can" to the
Bulldog's tail, Joe got his chance and sent a very bedraggled Tiger
back to his lair in Princeton. How Joe won gloriously is told in the
third volume of the series, entitled: "Baseball Joe at Yale."

Though he enjoyed his college days at Yale, stood high in his studies,
and was popular with his mates, he felt that he was not cut out for one
of the learned professions. His mother had hoped that he would be a
clergyman and had been urgent in having him adopt that profession. But
Joe, though he respected the noble aims of that calling, was not drawn
to it. It was the open air life that he craved and for which he was
fitted, and the scholastic calm of a study had little attraction for
him. He felt that he had it in him to win supremacy in athletic fields.

His mother, of course, was greatly disappointed when she learned how
he felt, but she was too wise to insist on her plan when she realized
that it was contrary to his special gifts. She knew very little about
baseball, but she had the impression that it was no place for an
educated man. The fact, however, that so many college men were entering
the ranks of professional baseball was made the most of by Joe, and she
finally yielded to his wishes.

His chance was not long in coming, for he was soon picked up by one
of the scouts who are always looking for "diamonds in the rough," and
was offered a contract with the Pittston team of the Central League.
The League was a minor one, but Joe had already learned that a man
who proved that he had the makings of a star in him would soon have
an opportunity with one of the majors. How speedily his ability was
proved and recognized is narrated in the fourth volume of the series,
entitled: "Baseball Joe in the Central League."

From the bushes to the National League was a big jump, but Joe made
it when he was drafted into the ranks of the St. Louis Cardinals. The
team was in the second division when Joe came into action, and was
altogether out of the running for the championship. But Joe's twirling
was just what it needed to put new heart and life into it, and before
the season ended it had climbed into the first division and if the race
had been a little longer might have made a big stroke for the pennant.
The story of the team's climb, with all its exciting episodes, is told
in the fifth volume of the series, entitled: "Baseball Joe in the Big
League."

McRae, the crafty and resourceful manager of the New York Giants, had
had his eye on Joe all the season, and when the race was ended he made
an offer for him that the St. Louis management could not refuse. Now,
indeed, Joe felt that the ambition of his life was in a fair way to
be realized. McRae had intended to bring him along slowly, so that he
could be thoroughly seasoned, but circumstances put on him the heft of
the pitching, and how fully he justified his manager's confidence is
narrated in the sixth volume of the series, entitled: "Baseball Joe on
the Giants."

After the winning of the National League Championship by the Giants,
came the World Series with the Boston Red Sox, who had won the title
that year in the American League. The Sox were a hard team to beat,
and the Giants had their work cut out for them. In addition to the
strain of the games in which he was slated to pitch, Joe had to contend
with the foul tactics of a gang of gamblers who had wagered heavily
on the Sox and did all they could to put Joe out of action. But his
indomitable will and quick wit triumphed over all obstacles, and his
magnificent pitching in the last game of the series won the World's
Championship for the Giants. The story of that stirring fight is told
in the seventh volume of the series, entitled: "Baseball Joe in the
World Series."

During these experiences, Joe had not escaped the toils of Cupid.
Mabel Varley, a charming young girl, had been rescued by Joe at the
moment that a runaway horse was about to carry her over a cliff. The
romantic acquaintanceship thus begun soon grew into a deep affection,
and Joe knew that Mabel held the happiness of his life in her hands.
Jim Barclay, also, a promising young Princeton man and second string
pitcher for the Giants, who was Joe's special chum, had grown very
fond of Clara, Joe's pretty sister, and hoped that some day she would
promise to be his wife.

The World Series had scarcely ended before Joe and Jim were invited by
McRae to make a trip around the world with the Giant and All-American
teams. They were eager for the chance, and their delight was increased
when it developed that there were to be a number of wives of the
players in the party so that Mabel and Clara could go along.

The teams played in Japan, in China, and in many of the cities of
Europe, and the experience would have been a thoroughly happy one
for Joe, had it not been for the machinations of men who were trying
to form a rival league and had by the meanest trickery secured Joe's
signature to what afterward turned out to be a contract. How Joe
finally unmasked the plotters and had the satisfaction of giving the
ringleader a tremendous thrashing is narrated in the preceding volume
of the series, entitled: "Baseball Joe Around the World."

And now to return to Joe and Jim, as they stood in their dripping
clothes on the country road in the growing light of the spring morning.

For some seconds after Jim's startling statement, Joe stood as though
rooted to the spot. Then he pulled himself together.

"Come now, Jim, isn't that pretty far-fetched?" he said, with a forced
laugh, in which, however, there was little mirth. "You haven't a shred
of proof of anything of the kind."

"No," admitted Jim, "there isn't anything--yet--that would convince a
judge or a jury. I'll agree that it wouldn't go far in a court of law.
But just put two and two together. Yesterday afternoon we were talking
about this trip. You distinctly mentioned the hill near Hebron. It was
just after you spoke that I saw Braxton pass the door."

"Thought you saw," corrected Joe.

"All right, then," said Jim patiently, "let it go at that--thought
I saw Braxton passing the door. Now just suppose for a minute
that I was right and see what comes of it. The man who hates you
worse, probably, than any man on earth--the man to whom you gave a
terrible thrashing--knew that you would be driving a car just before
daylight--knew that you would have to climb a hill--knew that as you
got near it you'd probably put on speed to carry the car up--knew that
an obstacle put near the bottom of the hill would almost certainly
wreck the car and hurt the driver. Knowing all this, might not such a
man as we know Braxton to be see his chance and take it?"

There was silence for a moment. Then:

"It certainly sounds strong the way you put it," Joe said thoughtfully.
"But how on earth could Braxton get here in time to do all this? Think
of the distance."

"It isn't so great a distance," rejoined Jim. "That is, if a man came
straight across country in a speedy car for instance. It seemed long
to us because of the roundabout way we had to go by train. Then too
that was early in the afternoon, and Braxton could have had four hours'
start of us. He's a rich man and probably has a fast car. He could have
made it all right and got here hours ago."

"Yes, but even then," argued Joe, "he couldn't have done it all alone.
It's as much as you and I can do together to handle these timbers."

"That's true," conceded Jim. "But he may have had one or more
confederates with him. Money you know can do almost anything. I
shouldn't wonder if that fellow Fleming helped him. He owed you a debt
too, you remember, and the pair were as thick as thieves on the world
tour."

"Well, it may be just as you say," replied Joe. "But I hate to think
that any man hates me so badly as to try to injure me in such a
cowardly way as that. At any rate, it won't do any harm for us to keep
our eyes open in the future. But we've got plenty of time to think of
that. Now let's get busy and hustle these timbers over to the side of
the road so that nobody else can run into them. Then we'll take a look
at the car."

They set to work with a will, and in a few minutes had removed the
obstacles from the road.

"Now for the machine," said Joe, as he led the way to the river bank.
"I've got an idea that what we owe Hank will put a dent in our bank
rolls."

To their delight they found, however, that, apart from superficial
injuries, the car seemed to be intact. The wind shield had been
shattered and the mud guards were badly bent. But the axles seemed
to be sound, the wheels were in place, and as far as they could
judge there had been no injury to the engine. To all appearances the
expenditure of a hundred dollars would put the car in good shape again.

But the wheels were so firmly imbedded in the mud of the shore that
despite all their efforts they could not budge the car. They strained
and pushed and lifted, but to no avail. Joe climbed into the driver's
seat and set the engine going, but the car was stubborn and refused to
back.

"Swell chance of our getting home in time for breakfast," grumbled Joe,
as he stopped to rest for a moment.

"Lucky if we get there in time for supper," muttered Jim. "We'll have
to go somewhere and borrow a shovel so that we can dig the wheels out
of the mud."

But just at this moment they heard the rumbling of a cart, and running
to the road they saw it coming, drawn by two stout horses, while the
driver sat handling the reins in leisurely fashion.

They waved their hands and the cart came to a halt, the driver scanning
curiously the two young men who had appeared so unexpectedly from the
side of the road. He was a bluff, jovial person, and his eyes twinkled
with amusement as he noted the wet garments that were clinging to their
limbs.

"Been taking a bath with all your clothes on?" he asked, as he got down
from his seat.

"Something like that," replied Joe, with a laugh, "but the bath came as
a sort of surprise party. The road was blocked, and it was either the
morgue or the river for us, so we chose the river."

"Road blocked?" repeated the newcomer, looking about with a puzzled
expression. "I don't get you. Looks clear enough to me."

"It wouldn't if you'd been here half an hour ago," replied Joe,
and then, as the man listened with interest that soon changed to
indignation, he recounted briefly the events of the morning.

"Whoever did that ought to be jailed," he burst out, when the boys had
concluded their story. "And he can't be very far away, either. This
road was clear when I passed over it last night. Jump in and I'll drive
you into town and we can send out an alarm."

"Not much use of that I'm afraid," replied Joe. "The man or men may be
fifty miles away by this time. But if you'll give us a hand to get this
auto out of the mud, you'll do us a big favor."

"Sure I'll help you," said the friend in need, whose name they learned
was Thompson. "I've got a spade right here in the cart. We'll dig
around the wheels a little. Then I'll hitch a trace chain to the
machine and my horses will yank it out in a jiffy."

A few minutes of work sufficed to clear the wheels. Then boards were
placed behind them, the chain was attached to the rear axle, and the
horses drew the car back into the road.

It presented rather a forlorn appearance, but the boys cared little for
that. What they were far more concerned about was their own bedraggled
condition.

"We match the car all right," remarked Jim disgustedly, as he looked at
his own clothes and those of his companion.

"It will never do to let Mabel and Clara see us like this," responded
Joe lugubriously.

"Don't let that worry you," laughed their new friend. "Just drive into
town and stop at Eph Allen's tailor shop. It's pretty early, but Eph
sleeps in the back of his shop and he'll let you in and fix you up in
no time."

This was evidently the best thing to be done, and the young men, after
repeated thanks to their newly made friend and with fullest directions
as to how to find the tailor shop in question, jumped into the auto and
started on the way back to Hebron.

"Old bus seems to work as well as ever," commented Joe, as the car
moved on without any visible evidence of injury.

"That's one bit of good luck," replied Jim. "And it's certainly coming
to us to make up in part for the bad."

They thanked their stars that it was too early yet for many people to
be stirring in the town, and were relieved when they found themselves
in front of Allen's shop. Eph must have been a pretty sound sleeper,
for it took a good deal of knocking to wake him up, and when at last he
thrust his tousled head through the door to ask what was wanted, he was
not in the best of temper. But as soon as he learned the circumstances
that had occasioned the early call, he became at once all interest and
attention, and hustled about to put their clothes in presentable shape.

It was a fairly good job that he at length turned out after he had
ironed and pressed their suits, though they had by no means the Beau
Brummel effect with which the boys had planned to impress the girls.

By this time the sun had fully risen and Joe looked at his watch.

"Perhaps we'll be in time to catch them at breakfast yet," he remarked.
"It's only about twenty miles from here to Riverside. Maybe they won't
be surprised when we break in on them. They don't think we're within
several hundred miles of them."

"Perhaps we ought to have telegraphed that we were coming," said Jim.

"It might have been just as well, I suppose," admitted Joe. "But that
would have taken away the fun of the surprise. I want to see the look
on their faces."

"Of course we won't say anything about what happened to us this
morning," suggested Jim, as the machine bowled along over a road that
with every minute that passed was growing more familiar.

"Not on your life," replied Joe earnestly. "None of them would ever
have another easy minute. They'd be seeing our mangled remains every
night in their dreams. All we'll tell them is that we had a little
spill and got wet. But not a word about the blocked road or what we
suspect regarding Braxton."

Before long they were passing the straggling houses that marked the
outskirts of Riverside. Joe pulled his cap down over his eyes so that
he would not be recognized and stopped by any of the people of the
town, where he was regarded as something of an idol. All he wanted to
do was to get to his family and Mabel, or, as perhaps he would have put
it, get to Mabel and his family.

His ruse was successful, for there was no sign of recognition from the
few he passed on the streets, and in a few minutes he brought the car
to a stop in front of the Matson home.

The young men jumped out, and with Joe leading the way ran lightly up
the steps. He tried the front door and found that it yielded to his
touch. With his finger on his lips as a warning to Jim, he tiptoed
softly through the hall to the door of the dining room.

The odor of coffee and bacon came to them and from the click of plates
and cups, as well as the murmur of several voices, they knew that the
family was still at the breakfast table.

Joe waited no longer but threw open the door.

"Hello, folks!" he cried.



CHAPTER III

REGGIE TURNS UP


If Joe had counted upon producing a surprise, his success surpassed his
wildest expectations.

At first there was a second of paralyzed silence. Then there was a wild
hubbub of delighted cries, as four figures started up from the table
and launched themselves upon the stalwart figure that stood framed in
the doorway.

"Joe!" "Mabel!" "Clara!" "Momsey!" "Dad!" "Jim!" The names were repeated
in quick succession and were punctuated with hugs and kisses.

In a moment Joe had his right arm around Mabel, his left about his
mother, while Clara had thrown her arms about his neck and his father
was attempting to get hold of one of his hands. There was no doubt of
the warmth of that welcome.

[Illustration: THERE WAS NO DOUBT OF THE WARMTH OF THAT WELCOME.]

Nor was Jim left out in the cold. Joe naturally had the center of the
stage, but after the first rapturous greeting had passed, they all made
Jim feel how delighted they were that he had come along with Joe. In
Clara's eyes especially there was a look that Jim hoped he read aright.
Her flushed and sparkling face was alive with happiness that might not
be due altogether to the return of her brother, dearly as she loved him.

For a few minutes questions and answers followed close on each other's
heels, and it was Mrs. Matson at last who suggested that probably the
boys were hungry. They agreed with her emphatically that they were. The
girls flew about, and in a short time fresh coffee and hot biscuits and
bacon and eggs were set before them in tempting profusion. Then while
they ate like famished wolves, the others, who had been just finishing
breakfast when they burst in upon them, sat about the table and talked
and laughed and beamed to their hearts' content. Perhaps in all the
broad land there was no happier group than was gathered about that
table in the little town of Riverside.

"You ought to have telegraphed that you were coming, Joe," said Mrs.
Matson. "Then we could have had a good breakfast ready for you."

"What do you call this?" laughed Joe, as he helped himself to another
biscuit, watching at the same time the bewitching way in which Mabel
was pouring him another cup of coffee. "There couldn't be anything
better than this this side of kingdom come."

"You're right there, old man," observed Jim, his own appetite keeping
pace with that of his chum.

"Seems to me, Joe, that your clothes look a little seedy this morning,"
Clara remarked, with a sister's frankness, during a moment's pause
in the conversation. "The last time you came home you looked like a
fashion plate. But now your shirt front is wrinkled, your collar is
wilted, and the colors in your necktie have run together. Looks as
though you'd got wet through and hadn't dried out yet."

"Perhaps they've been in the river," laughed Mabel gaily, little
thinking how near she came to hitting the nail on the head.

Mrs. Matson's motherly heart was quick to take alarm.

"What's that?" she asked. "Nothing really has happened to you, has it,
Joe?" she inquired, looking anxiously at her son, who after one glare
at the sister who had precipitated the topic, was trying to assume an
air of nonchalance.

But this direct inquiry from his mother left him no recourse except to
tell her a part of the truth, though not necessarily the whole truth.

"We did have a little spill this morning," he returned indifferently.
"I turned the car a little too much to the right and we went through
a fence and into a little stream at the side of the road. Jim and I
got wet, but after we got over being mad we had a good laugh over it.
Neither one of us was a bit hurt, and it's only our clothes that got
the worst of it."

"Oh, but you might have been killed!" exclaimed Mrs. Matson, clasping
her hands together nervously. "You must be more careful, Joe. It would
break my heart if anything happened to you."

"Don't worry a bit, Momsey," replied Joe, placing his hand affectionately
over hers. "Only the good die young, you know, and that makes me safe."

They all pressed him for the details of the accident, and he and Jim
both made light of it, making a joke out of their plight and their
visit to the tailor, so that apprehension vanished, and after a while
the matter was dropped.

Joe was eager for a chance to get alone with Mabel, and Jim was quite
as keen for a tête-à-tête with Clara. The girls were quite as eager,
but as there was no servant in the simple little household the girls
flew around to clear the table, while Joe had a chance for a quiet talk
with his mother, and Jim beguiled his impatience by going out on the
porch with Mr. Matson for a smoke before the latter had to go downtown
to business.

"How have you been feeling, Momsey?" Joe asked when they had settled
down in a cosy corner of the living room. "It seems to me that you're
a little thinner than you were."

"I'm not feeling any too well," replied Mrs. Matson. "I have trouble
with my breathing whenever I go up or down stairs. But I'll be all
right pretty soon," she added, with an attempt at brightness.

"I'm afraid you've been working too hard, Momsey," replied Joe, patting
her hand. "Why don't you let me get you a maid to help out with the
work? The money doesn't matter, and you know how glad I'd be to bear
the expense."

"I don't want any regular servant, Joe," replied Mrs. Matson. "I
haven't been used to one, and she'd be more bother than help. We have a
wash woman. There isn't much to be done in this little house, and Clara
is the dearest girl. If I did what she wanted, I'd just fold my hands
and sit around in the living room. And Mabel, too, has spoiled me since
she's been here. She's already like a second daughter to me."

"She'll be really your daughter before long, if I have anything to say
about it," replied Joe. "I'm going to put it right up to her to marry
me while I'm here this time."

Mrs. Matson was both delighted and flustered at the boldness of this
announcement.

"You take my breath away, talking like that," she replied. "But I'm
afraid Mabel won't let herself be carried off her feet in that way. A
girl wants to get her trousseau ready. And then, too, she'll want to be
married in her father's house. You're a dear boy, Joe, but you've got a
lot to learn about women."

"Mabel will agree all right," replied Joe confidently, though his
masculine assurance had been slightly dashed by his mother's prediction.

The opportunity to make sure about that important matter came a few
minutes later, when Mabel came into the room looking more lovely, Joe
thought, than he had ever seen her before. Mrs. Matson lingered only a
moment longer, and then made an excuse to leave the room. The door had
hardly closed behind her before Mabel was in Joe's arms.

It was a long time before they were able to talk coherently, and when
at last Mabel told Joe that he was too greedy and laughingly bade him
be sensible, she was more rosy and beautiful than ever, and Joe was
deeper in love than before, if that could be possible.

Joe was not long in putting his mother's prediction to the test.

"Do you remember what Jim said when we said good-by to McRae after the
World Tour was over?" he asked, with a twinkle in his eye.

The flush in Mabel's cheeks deepened.

"Jim talks so much nonsense," she countered.

"Think a minute." Joe was jogging her memory. "Wasn't it something
about bells?"

"How should I remember?" asked Mabel, though she did remember perfectly.

"Well, I remember," said Joe. "He said I'd soon be hearing wedding
bells. Now do you remember?"

"Y-yes," admitted Mabel at last, hiding her face on Joe's shoulder,
which was very close to her.

"I want to hear those wedding bells, very soon, dearest," said Joe
tenderly. "Next week--this week--to-morrow----"

Mabel sat up with a little scream.

"Next week--this week--to-morrow!" she repeated. "Why, Joe dear, we
can't!"

"Why can't we?" asked Joe with masculine directness.

"Why--why--we just can't," replied Mabel. "I haven't got my wedding
clothes ready. And I'll have to be married in my own home. What would
my family think? What would my friends think? It would look like a
runaway affair. People would talk. Oh, Joe dear, I'd love to, but I
just can't. Don't you see I can't?"

Joe did not see at all, and he renewed his importunities with all his
powers of persuasion. But Mabel, though she softened her refusal with
lover-like endearments, was set in her convictions, and Joe at last
was forced to confess in his heart with a groan that his mother was
right, and that he had a lot to learn about women.

He suggested in desperation that they go on at once to her home in
Goldsboro and be married there, but although that would have taken away
one of her arguments, the others still continued in full force, and she
added another for good measure.

"You see, Joe, dear, your mother isn't well enough just now to travel
so far, and it would break her heart if she weren't present at our
marriage. By fall she may be better."

"By fall!" echoed Joe in dismay. "Have I got to wait that long?"

"I think it would be better, dear," said Mabel gently. "You see if we
got married any time after the baseball season had commenced, you would
find it hard to get away from your club. In any case, our honeymoon
trip would have to be very short. Then, too, if I traveled about the
circuit with you, you'd have me on your mind, and it might affect your
playing. But I promise you that we shall get married in the fall, just
as soon as the baseball season is over."

And as she sealed this promise in the way that Joe liked best, he was
forced to be content.

The days passed by, as though on wings, with Joe grudging every minute
as it passed that brought him nearer to the day when he would have to
rejoin his team. The hours were precious and he spent every one of them
that he could with Mabel.

Jim, too, was finding his vacation delightful. He was getting on
famously with Clara, and the latter's heart was learning to beat very
fast when she heard the step and saw the face of the handsome young
athlete. The prospects were very good that two weddings would be
celebrated in the fall, and that Baseball Joe would gain not only a
wife but a brother-in-law.

During that week the moon was at its full, and almost every night
saw the two couples out for a stroll. They would start out from the
house together and walk down the village street, with only a few yards
separating them. However, they usually lost sight of each other before
they had gone far.

Joe was happy, supremely happy. Mabel had never been so dear, so
affectionate. He knew that he possessed her heart utterly. Yet there
was a faint something, a mysterious impression to which he could
scarcely give a name, that at times marred his happiness and caused him
to feel depressed. He chased the feeling away, and yet it returned.

There were moments when Mabel grew quiet and seemed as though brooding
over something. Her face would become sad, and only brighten with a
gayety that seemed a little forced, when she saw that he was studying
her and seeking to learn what troubled her. At times she would cling to
him as though she feared he was to be taken from her. Once or twice he
questioned her, but she laughed his fears away and declared that there
was nothing the matter. Despite her denials, he remained vaguely uneasy.

The day before his brief vacation came to an end there was a ring at
the bell of the Matson home. Mabel, who happened to be in the hall at
the time, opened the door. There was an exclamation of surprise and
delight as the newcomer threw his arms about her.

"Reggie!"

"Mabel!"

There was a fond embrace, and then Mabel came into the living room
where the family were assembled, while close behind her came Reggie
Varley, her brother, the same old Reggie, monocle, cane, lisp, English
clothes, English accent, fancy waistcoat, fitted in topcoat, spats and
all--a vision of sartorial splendor!



CHAPTER IV

THE ANONYMOUS LETTER


All rose to their feet in hearty welcome. It was not the first time
Reggie had visited the Matson home, and all were fond of him. Joe and
Jim especially gave him a hilarious greeting.

"Hello, Reggie, old man," cried Joe, as he shook hands. "I'm tickled to
death to see you. What good wind blew you down this way? I didn't think
you were within a thousand miles of here."

"Well, old top," explained Reggie, as he gracefully drew off his gloves
and divested himself of his topcoat, "it was so beastly quiet in
Goldsboro, don't y'know, that I got fed up with it and when the guv'nor
suggested that there was a bit of business I could attend to in Chicago
I just blew the bally town and ran out there. Then bein' so near, I
thought I'd run down and see Sis and the rest of you. It's simply
rippin' to see y'all again, don't y'know."

He sat down in a chair, carefully adjusting his trousers so as not to
mar the creases in the legs, and beamed blandly upon the friendly
faces that surrounded him.

Joe and Reggie had first met under rather unpleasant circumstances,
that bore no promise of a close friendship later on. Reggie had left
his bag in a seat of a railroad station while he went to buy his
ticket. Upon his return he missed his bag, which had been left in a
seat adjoining the one in which Joe had in the meantime seated himself,
and had practically accused Joe of taking it. As may be readily
imagined, Joe was not the one to take lightly such an accusation, and
Reggie had to apologize. It was only after Joe had met Mabel that he
again encountered Reggie and learned that he was the girl's brother.
But apart from his relationship to Mabel, Joe had found further reason
for liking Reggie, as time wore on and he became better acquainted with
him.

Reggie had never been restrained much by his father, who was rich and
indulgent. He had an inordinate love of fine clothes and an affectation
of English customs and manner of speech. But these, after all, were
foibles, and at heart Reggie was "true blue." He was a staunch friend,
generous, kindly and honorable. He idolized his charming sister, who in
return was devotedly attached to him.

Another thing that strengthened the friendship between Joe and Reggie
was that they were both ardent lovers of the great national game.
Reggie was a "dyed-in-the-wool fan," and though his general information
was none too great he had the records of individual players and the
history of the game at his tongue's end, and could rattle on for an
hour on a stretch when he once got started on his favorite theme. He
was a great admirer of Joe as a player, and intensely proud that he was
going to be his brother-in-law. Whenever the Giants played and Joe was
slated to pitch, the latter could be perfectly certain that Reggie,
even if he chanced to be at the time in San Francisco, was "rooting"
for him to win.

Jim also had met Reggie frequently and liked him thoroughly. The other
members of the Matson family liked him, both for Mabel's sake and his
own. So it was a very friendly circle into which Reggie had come so
unexpectedly.

"But I didn't expect to see you two chaps here," said Reggie, as he
looked from Joe to Jim. "I thought you were down in the training camp,
or else on your way to New York with the rest of the Giants."

"It was just a bit of luck that we are here," replied Joe. "McRae
thought that we were trained fine enough, and might go stale if we
worked out in practice any longer. He wants us to be at the top of our
form when the bell rings at the Polo Grounds."

"Bally good sense, I call it, too," replied Reggie, looking admiringly
at their athletic forms. "Just now you look fit to fight for a man's
life, don't y'know."

"Never felt better," admitted Joe. "Nor happier either," he added, as
he glanced at Mabel, who dropped her eyes before his ardent look.

"You came just in time to see the boys," put in Mrs. Matson. "They're
starting to-morrow for New York."

"Bah Jove, I'd like to go with them," said Reggie. "I'd give a lot to
see that opening game on the Polo Grounds. But this beastly business in
Chicago will make it necessary for me to go back there in a few days.
In the meantime I thought that perhaps you might put me up here for a
little while, don't y'know?"

He looked toward Mr. Matson as he spoke, and both he and Mrs. Matson
hastened to assure the young man that they would be only too glad to do
so.

All had a lot to talk about, and the evening passed quickly, until at
last Mrs. Matson excused herself on the plea that she wanted to see
about Reggie's room. Mr. Matson soon followed, and the young people
were left to themselves.

"Well, what do you think the chances are of the Giants copping the flag
again, old top?" asked Reggie, as he pulled down his cuffs and put up
his hand to make sure that his immaculate tie was all right.

"The Giants look mighty sweet to me," answered Joe. "They've had a
good training season and shown up well in practice. They've won every
game they've played with the minor leaguers so far, and haven't had to
exert themselves. Of course that doesn't mean very much in itself, as
the bushers ought to be easy meat for us. But we've got practically the
same team with which we won the pennant last year, and I can't see why
we shouldn't repeat. Jim here has been coming along like a house afire,
and he'll make the fans sit up and take notice when they see him in
action."

"Oh, I'm only an also ran," said Jim modestly.

"Indeed you're not," Clara started to say indignantly, but checked
herself in time. Not so quickly, however, that Jim failed to catch her
meaning and note the flush that rose to her cheek.

"Funny thing happened when I was in Chicago," mused Reggie. "I heard a
chap say in one of the hotels that there was heavy betting against the
Giants winning this year. Some one, he didn't know who, was putting up
cash in great wads against them, and doing it with such confidence that
it almost seemed as though he thought he was betting on a sure thing.
Taking ridiculous odds too. Queer, wasn't it?"

"A fool and his money are soon parted," remarked Joe. "That fellow
will be a little wiser and a good deal poorer when the season ends, or
I miss my guess. Who's going to beat us out? Nothing short of a train
wreck can stop us."

"Now you're talking!" cried Jim.

"Another thing that's going to help us," said Joe, "was that trip we
had around the world. We had some mighty hot playing on that tour
against the All-Americans, and it kept the boys in fine fettle."

"Speaking about that trip, old chap," put in Reggie, "reminds me of
another thing that happened in Chicago. I was going down State Street
one afternoon, and almost ran into that Braxton that you handed such a
trimming to over in Ireland."

"Braxton!" cried Joe.

"Braxton!" echoed Jim.

"Sure thing," replied Reggie, mildly puzzled at the agitation that the
name aroused in the two chums. "I'm not spoofing you. Braxton it was,
as large as life. The bounder recognized me and started to speak, but
I gave him the glassy eye and he thought better of it and passed on.
Funny what a little world it is, don't y'know."

"It surely is a little world," replied Jim, as a significant glance
passed between him and Joe.

"I glanced back," Reggie went on, "and saw him getting into a car
drawn up at the curb. As classy a machine as I've seen, too, for a long
time. Built for speed, y'know. If he hadn't driven off too quickly, I'd
have made a note of the make. My own is getting rather old, and I've
been thinking about replacing it."

The conversation turned into other channels and finally began to drag a
little. The others made no sign of being ready to retire, and at last
Reggie woke to the fact that he would have to make the first move.
He looked at his watch, remarked that he was rather tired after his
journey, and thought that he would "pound the pillow."

Joe showed him to his room, chatted with him a few minutes, and then
returned to the living room where he found Mabel alone, as Clara and
Jim had drifted into the dining room. It was the last night the boys
would have at home, and the two young couples had a lot to talk about.
To Jim especially the time was very precious, for he had made up his
mind to ask a very momentous question, and there is little doubt but
that Clara knew it was coming and had already made up her mind how it
should be answered.

It was an exceedingly agitated Jim that asked Mr. Matson for a private
interview the next morning, and it was an exceedingly happy Jim that
emerged from the room a few minutes later and announced to the family
already seated at the breakfast table that Clara had promised to be
his wife. There was a stampede from the chairs, to the imminent danger
of the coffee being upset, and Clara was hugged and kissed by Mabel
and hugged and kissed and cried over by her mother, while Jim's hand
was almost wrung off by Joe and Reggie in the general jubilation. For
Jim was a splendid fellow, a Princeton graduate, a rising man in his
chosen calling, and an all round good fellow. And there was no sweeter
or prettier girl than Clara in all Riverside, or, as Jim stood ready to
maintain, in the whole world.

Needless to say that for the rest of that morning Reggie and Joe had
no other masculine society than each could furnish to the other, for
Jim had shamelessly abandoned them. Soon Reggie, too, had to chum with
himself, as Joe and Mabel had found a sequestered corner and seemed to
be dead to the rest of the world.

Just before noon, however, when Mabel had gone in to help Mrs. Matson
to prepare lunch, Joe had a chance to talk with Reggie alone.

"Mabel's looking rippin', don't you think?" remarked Reggie, as he
caught a glimpse of his sister passing the door of the room in which
they sat.

"Most beautiful girl that lives," returned Joe, with enthusiasm.

"I guess she's stopped worrying about----" began Reggie, and then
checked himself as though he had said more than he intended to.

"Worrying about what?" asked Joe, with the quick apprehension of a
lover.

"Oh, about--about things in general," replied Reggie, in some confusion
and evading Joe's searching eyes.

"Look here, Reggie," said Joe with decision. "If anything's worrying
Mabel, I've got a right to know what it is. I've noticed lately that
she seemed to have something on her mind. Come now, out with it."

Reggie still tried to put him off, but Joe would have none of it.

"I've got to know, Reggie," he declared. "You've simply got to tell me."

Reggie pondered a moment.

"Well, old top," he said at last, "I suppose you have a right to know,
and perhaps it's best that you should know. The fact is that Mabel
got a letter a little while ago telling her that it would be a sorry
day for her if she ever married Joe Matson. Threatened all sorts of
terrible things against you, don't y'know."

"What!" cried Joe, wild with rage and leaping to his feet. "The
scoundrel! The coward! Who signed that letter? What's his name? If I
ever lay my hands on him, may heaven have mercy on him, for I won't!"

"That's the worst of it," replied Reggie. "There wasn't any name signed
to it. The bounder who wrote it took good care of that."

"But the handwriting!" cried Joe. "Perhaps I can recognize it. Where is
the letter? Give it to me."

"I haven't got it with me," Reggie explained. "It's at my home in
Goldsboro. The poor girl had to confide in somebody, so she sent it to
me. And even if you had it, it wouldn't tell you anything. It was in
typewriting."

"But the postmark!" ejaculated Joe. "Perhaps that would give a clue.
Where did it come from?"

"There again we're stumped," responded Reggie. "It was postmarked
Chicago. But that doesn't do us any good, for there are two million
people in Chicago."

"Oh!" cried Joe, as he walked the floor and clenched his fists until
the nails dug into his palms. "The beastliness of it! The cowardice of
it! An anonymous letter! That such a villain should dare to torture the
dearest girl in the world! But somewhere, somehow, I'll hunt him out
and thrash him soundly."

"Don't take the beastly thing so much to heart," returned Reggie. "Of
course it's just a bluff by some bally bounder. Nobody ought to do
anything with such a letter but tear it up and think no more about
it. Some coward has done it that has a grudge against you, but he'd
probably never have the nerve to carry out his threats."

"It isn't that I care about," answered Joe. "I've always been able to
take care of myself. I'd like nothing better than to have the rascal
come out in the open and try to make his bluff good. But it's Mabel
I'm thinking about. You know a woman doesn't dismiss those things as a
man would. She worries her heart out about it. So that's what has been
weighing on her mind, poor, dear girl. Oh, if I only had my hands on
the fellow that wrote that letter!"

And here he yielded again to a justified rage that was terrible to
behold. It would have been a bad day for the rascally writer of that
anonymous letter if he had suddenly stood revealed in the presence of
Joe Matson!



CHAPTER V

"PLAY BALL!"


Just then Mabel came in with her hands full of flowers that she meant
to arrange for the table. She stopped short in consternation as she saw
the thundercloud on Joe's brow. For a moment she thought that he and
Reggie had been quarreling.

"Oh, Joe, what is it?" she asked in alarm.

Joe looked at her lovingly and his brow cleared.

"Nothing, honey," he said, as he came up to her and slipped his arm
around her. "It's only that I've just found out from Reggie what it is
that's been worrying you."

Mabel shot a reproachful glance at Reggie, who looked a little
embarrassed.

"Joe got it out of me, Sis," he explained. "Said he had a right to know
and all that sort of thing, don't y'know. And 'pon honor, Sis, I don't
know but what he's right about it."

"Of course I'm right about it," affirmed Joe. "There can't be anything
now that concerns Mabel that doesn't concern me. Don't you agree with
me, dearest?"

"I suppose so," returned Mabel, as Joe drew her closer. "But, oh, Joe,
I didn't want to distress you about it. I was afraid that it would
weigh on your mind and affect your work this season, and I knew how
your heart was set on making a record. It was just for your sake,
dearest, that I kept it to myself. Of course I would have told you
sooner or later."

"Well, now Mabel, listen to me," said Joe, as he placed a chair and sat
down beside her. "I don't know what fellow has done this. But whoever
he is, he is a coward as well as a rascal, and will never dare to carry
out his threats against me. And even if he should, you know that I am
perfectly able to take care of myself. You know that others have tried
to injure me, but I always came out on top. Fleming tried it; Braxton
tried it, and you know what happened to them. Now what I want you to
promise me is to banish this beastly thing entirely from your memory.
Treat it with the contempt it deserves. Will you promise me this?"

"I will promise, Joe," answered Mabel. "I'll try to forget that it ever
happened."

"That's the girl," commended Joe. "And to set your mind at rest I'll
promise on my part to take especially good care of myself. That's a
bargain."

But while Joe had secured the promise of Mabel to forget the letter,
he had made no such promise himself, and he vowed that if he could
ever get any trace of the writer of that letter he would give him the
punishment he so richly deserved.

The train Baseball Joe and Jim Barclay would take was to leave late
that afternoon.

Somehow general knowledge of that fact had got abroad, and the
boys were dismayed, on reaching the station, to find that half the
population of the little town had gathered there to say good-by and
wish them luck. To many of the townspeople, Joe was a bigger man than
the President of the United States. He had put Riverside "on the map,"
and through the columns of the papers they followed his triumphs and
felt that in a sense they were their own.

Of course Joe appreciated this affectionate interest, but just at the
moment all he wanted was to be alone with Mabel. He had already bidden
his mother a loving farewell at the house, as she was not well enough
to go to the station. Jim also had eyes and thoughts only for Clara.

But there was no help for it, and they had to exchange greetings and
good wishes with the kindly friends who clustered around them. At the
last minute, however, the young folks had a chance to say a few words
to each other, and what they did not have time to say was eloquent in
their eyes.

The train moved off, and the boys leaned far out of the windows and
waved to the girls as long as they were in sight. Then they settled
back in their seats, and for a long time were engrossed in their
thoughts. Usually they were full of chaff and banter, but to-day it was
some time before they roused themselves from reverie and paid attention
to the realities around them.

It was after they had come back from the dining car after supper that
Joe told Jim about his interview with Reggie and the anonymous letter.
Jim's wrath was almost as great as that which had shaken Joe himself.

"And the worst of it is," said Joe, "that there doesn't seem the
slightest chance of getting hold of the cowardly fellow that did it.
You might as well look for a needle in a haystack."

"Yes," agreed Jim, "that's the exasperating feature of it. It may be
the work of gamblers who have bet against the Giants and want to worry
you so that you won't pitch your best ball. Some of those fellows will
do anything for money. Or it may have been done by some enemy who chose
that way of striking in the dark."

"If it's an enemy," mused Joe, "that narrows it down. There's old
Bugs Hartley, but I don't think he has intelligence enough to write a
letter. Then there's Fleming, with whom I'm just about as popular as
poison ivy. Add to that Braxton and a few old-time enemies, and you've
about completed the list."

"I wouldn't put it past Braxton," remarked Jim thoughtfully. "That
fellow's a rattlesnake. He wouldn't stop at anything to get even with
you."

"I hate to think he'd stoop as low as to try to strike me through a
woman," replied Joe. "But, by Jove!" he went on, as a thought struck
him, "do you remember what Reggie said about meeting Braxton in
Chicago? You know while we were on the trip he mentioned Chicago as his
home town. And that letter had the Chicago postmark."

"Oh, well, you couldn't hang a yellow dog on that," Jim replied. "But
what struck me was what Reggie said about the speedy car that Braxton
had. It must have been a mighty speedy car that got the fellow who laid
that trap on the road from the training town to Hebron. Of course those
things are only straws, of no value separately, though straws show
which way the wind blows. One thing is certain. We've got to keep one
man in our mind and guard against him. And that man's name is Braxton."

They reached New York without incident the day before the opening game,
and found the city baseball mad. The front pages of the newspapers had
big headlines discussing the opening of the season. The sporting pages
overflowed with speculation and prophecy as to the way the different
teams would shape up for the pennant race. In the street cars, in the
subways, in the restaurants, in the lobbies of the theatres, wherever
men congregated, baseball was the subject of discussion. The long
winter had made the populace hungry for their favorite game.

On the following day, the migration toward the Polo Grounds began long
before noon. Every train was packed with eager, good-natured humanity
on its way to the game. By noon the bleachers were packed, and an hour
before the game was scheduled to begin, every inch of the grandstands
were packed to overflowing.

The Bostons were to be the Giants' opponents in the opening game. The
team had finished poorly the year before, but many winter trades had
strengthened the weak spots, and the spring training of the nine had
been full of promise. A close game was looked for, with the chances
favoring the Giants.

McRae was anxious to win the opening game, and had selected Joe to
"bring home the bacon." Hughson's arm was not yet in shape, and the
prospects were that Joe would have to bear the heft of the pitcher's
burden if the Giants were to carry off the flag.

Both teams were greeted with hearty cheers as they came out on the
field. The Bostons as the visiting team, had the first chance at
practice, and they uncovered a lot of speed in their preliminary work.
Then the Giants took their turn in shooting the ball across the diamond
and batting long flies to the outfielders.

The bell rang and the field was cleared, while a hush of expectation
fell on the crowds. The blue-uniformed umpire stepped to the plate.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he bawled, "the batteries for to-day's game are
Albaugh and Menken for Boston, and Matson and Mylert for New York. Play
ball!"



CHAPTER VI

GETTING THE JUMP


Neale, the heavy hitting center fielder of the Bostons, who led off in
the batting order, came to the plate, swinging three bats. He discarded
two of them and took up his position, after having tapped his heel for
luck.

Joe looked him over for a moment. Then he wound up and whipped one
over the plate. It was a high fast one, and Neale swung at it, his bat
missing the ball by fully three inches.

"Strike one!" called the umpire, and the crowd roared in approval. It
was an auspicious beginning.

The next one was wide, and Neale refused to "bite." Again Joe tempted
him with a bad one, and again Neale was too wary. The next ball
was a swift incurve that broke so suddenly that it buffaloed Neale
completely. The lunge he made at it swung him round so that he almost
lost his balance, and he looked rather sheepish as Mylert, the burly
catcher of the Giants, grinned at him.

"Had that in my mitt before you swung at it," taunted Mylert. "Gee, but
you're slow."

Neale glared at him, but made no reply and tightened his grip on the
bat.

This time Joe floated up a slow teaser that looked as big as a balloon
as it sailed lazily for the plate. Neale, who was all set for a fast
one, nearly broke his back reaching for it.

"You're out," declared the umpire, while shouts and laughter came from
the crowded stands, as Neale, flinging down his bat disgustedly, went
back to the dugout.

Kopf, the next man up, dribbled a slow one to the box that Joe had no
trouble in getting to first on time. Mitchell lifted a towering fly
that Iredell gobbled up without moving in his tracks.

"Classy work, old man!" cried out Robbie, his face glowing with
satisfaction, as Joe drew off his glove and came in to the bench. "The
old wing seems to be working as well as ever."

The Giants did a little better in the first inning, though not well
enough to chalk up a run. Curry started well by lining to center for a
single, the ball just escaping Warner's fingers, as he leaped into the
air for it. Iredell tried to sacrifice, but the ball went too quickly
to the pitcher, who turned and caught Curry at second. Iredell tried to
get down on the first ball pitched, but Menken showed that his throwing
arm was right and nipped him by three feet. Burkett lifted one between
right and center that had all the earmarks of a home run, but Mitchell,
by a great run, got to it with one hand and froze on to it. It was a
remarkable catch, and the sportsmanlike New York crowd applauded it as
heartily as though it had been made by one of their favorites.

"Highway robbery," growled Burkett, who had almost reached second
before the ball was caught, and was cherishing hopes of having knocked
out the first home run of the season.

It seemed clear that the Bostons were not to be trifled with, at least
as far as their fielding was concerned, and the crowd settled down in
expectation of a close struggle.

The second inning for the Bostons was short. Douglas sent up a pop fly
to Willis at third. Barber fouled to Mylert. Warner tapped a little one
in front of the plate that Mylert heaved to first. Each had offered at
the first ball pitched, so that only three balls had been thrown for
the entire inning.

The hard hitting that the Giants had done in the first session had
resulted in nothing, but it had shown them that Albaugh could be hit,
and they faced him with confidence when they next went to the bat.

But Albaugh had braced in his short breathing spell, and he set the
Giants down in short order. The best that Wheeler could do was to lift
a high fly behind second that nestled comfortably in Douglas' hands.
Willis got to first base on an error by Warner, but Denton hit into a
double play, Ellis to Douglas to Kopf, and the inning was over.

In the third inning, the Bostons swung their bats in vain. Joe struck
out Ellis, Menken and Albaugh, one after the other. His fast ball shot
over the plate as though propelled by a gun. It came so swiftly that
the Boston batsmen either winced and drew back, or struck at it after
the ball had passed. His outcurve had a tremendous break, and Mylert
had all he could do to get it. It was a superb example of pitching, and
Joe had to remove his cap in response to the thunderous applause of the
stands.

"Isn't that boy a wonder, Mac?" asked Robbie in exultation. "He's
simply standing those fellows on their heads. They just can't touch
him."

"He's the goods all right," agreed the less demonstrative McRae. "But
don't let's crow too loud. The game isn't over yet by a long shot, and
anything can happen in baseball."

Allen was the first man up in the Giants' half, and he went out on a
grasser to Warner, who got him at first by yards. It was Joe's turn
next.

"Win your own game now, Joe," said Jim, as his chum left the bench for
the plate. "None of the other boys seem to be doing much. Show them
one of the clouts you made at the training camp."

Joe grinned in reply and went to the plate. Albaugh looked at him and
thought he sensed an easy victim. He seldom had much trouble with
pitchers.

The first ball was wide and Joe let it go by. The second and third also
went as balls.

"Good eye, Joe," sang out Robbie, who was coaching at third. "Make him
put it over."

Albaugh now was "in a hole." Three balls had been called on him, and he
had to get the next one over the plate. He wound up carefully and sent
over a swift straight one about waist high.

Joe timed it perfectly and caught it near the end of his bat. The ball
went on a line straight toward the right field stands. On and on it
went, still almost in a line. Neale and Barber had both started for it
from the crack of the bat, but it stayed so low and went so fast that
it eluded them and struck just at the foot of the right field bleachers.

Joe in the meantime was running like a deer around the bases, while his
comrades leaped about and howled, and the crowds in the stands were
on their feet and shouting like madmen. He had rounded second and was
well on toward third before Neale retrieved the ball. He relayed it to
Douglas like a shot. By this time Joe had turned third and was dashing
toward the plate. It was a race between him and the ball, but he beat
the sphere by an eyelash, sliding into the rubber in a cloud of dust.

For a few moments pandemonium reigned, as Joe, flushed and smiling,
rose from the ground and dusted himself off while his mates mauled and
pounded him and the multitude roared approval.

"Jumping jiminy!" cried Jim, "that was a lallapaloozer! It was a longer
hit than you made off of me this spring, and that's going some. And on
a line too. I thought it was never going to drop."

"It was a dandy, Joe," commended McRae, clapping him on the shoulder.
"It's only a pity that there weren't men on bases at the time for you
to bring in ahead of you. But we've broken the ice now, and perhaps the
rest of the boys will get busy."

Albaugh was rather shaken by the blow, and gave Mylert his base on
balls. Curry too was passed to first, advancing Mylert to second. The
stage seemed set for more Giant runs, but Iredell hit a liner to Ellis
who took it at his shoe tops and made a smart double play by getting it
to second before Mylert could scramble back.

Still the Giants were a run to the good, and as the fourth and fifth
innings went by without a score that run began to look as big as a
meeting house. Albaugh had stiffened up and was pitching superbly,
while his mates were giving him splendid support. He mowed down the
heavy batters of the Giants one after another, and McRae began to
fidget about uneasily on the bench. One run was a slender margin, and
he was intensely eager to win this first game, not only because of the
enormous crowd that had turned out to see their favorites win, but
because of the moral effect on his players of "getting the jump" on at
least four of the other teams by winning the first game of the season.

When Joe came to the bat for the second time, there was a short
consultation between Albaugh and his catcher, in which the astute
manager of the Braves, Sutton, joined. Then Albaugh deliberately
pitched four wild balls, and Joe trotted down to first.

There was a chorus of jeers and catcalls from the crowds.

"Got you rattled by that homer, did he?"

"You're a sport--I don't think!"

"Don't blame you for being afraid to let him hit it!"

"He'll lose the ball next time!"

"Crawl into a hole and pull the hole in after you!"

But although it was not exactly sportsmanlike, it was within the rules
of the game, and when Mylert went out on a fly a moment later, making
the third out and leaving Joe stranded at first, Albaugh took off his
glove and waved it mockingly at his tormentors.

In the sixth inning the Bostons took their turn at scoring. Kopf sent
an easy grounder to Iredell, who ordinarily would have eaten it up.
This time, however, he fumbled it for a moment, and then in his haste
to make up for the mishap threw wild to first. Burkett made a great
jump for it, but it went high over his head to the right field fence,
and before Burkett could regain it Kopf was on third. Mitchell tried to
bring him home, but his efforts resulted in a weak grounder along the
third base line. It looked as though the ball would roll over the foul
line, and Willis waited too long. It proved to be fair, and by this
time Mitchell was legging it for second. Willis threw low and the ball
hit the bag, bounding out into center field. Wheeler ran in and got it,
making a superb throw to the plate. But it was too late, and both Kopf
and Mitchell had scored, putting Boston in the lead by two runs to one.

Joe put on steam and struck out the next three batters. But the
mischief had been done. Two miserable errors had given them as many
unearned runs. Now all they had to do was to keep the Giants scoreless
and the game would be won.

Poor Iredell and Willis were disconsolate as they came in to the bench
and their discomfiture was not lessened by the tongue lashing that
McRae gave them. Joe, too, might naturally have been angered at the
wretched support accorded to him in a game where he was showing such
airtight pitching, but he was too fair and generous to find fault with
comrades for a blunder that all athletes make more or less often.

"Never mind, boys," he said to them in an undertone, as he sat beside
them on the bench. "Just get busy with your bats and we'll pull the
game out of the fire yet."

Although the Giants made a desperate rally and in each of the next
two innings got men on second and third, the score was unchanged and
the game still "in the fire" when the eighth inning ended. Joe in the
meantime had pitched with such effect that in the two innings not a man
reached first.

The ninth inning came, and the Giants took the field for the last time.

"Now Joe," said McRae, as the former picked up his glove to walk out
to the box, "hold them down just for one more inning, and we'll have a
chance either to tie or win, if our boobs can wake up enough to do a
little batting. The head of their batting order is coming up, but the
way you've been pitching up to now they all look alike to you."

"I'll pitch my head off if necessary," Joe assured him.

The twirling that Joe did in that last inning was phenomenal. His
control of the ball was almost uncanny. It writhed and twisted about
the bats like a snake. Neale, the slugger of the Braves, struck out
on the first three balls pitched. Kopf lifted a foul that came down
straight over the plate, where Mylert gathered it in. Mitchell drove
the ball straight over Joe's head, but the latter leaped high in the
air and speared it with his gloved hand, while the stands rocked with
applause.

McRae gathered the Giants about him as they came in from the field.

"Now you fellows listen to me," he commanded. "You've got to cop this
game. No excuses. You've got to. Show these bean-eaters where they get
off. Make them look like thirty cents. Knock the cover off the ball. Go
in and win!"



CHAPTER VII

STEALING HOME


Willis was first to the bat, and he strode to the plate with blood in
his eye. He was still smarting from the sharp words of the manager and
was anxious for a chance to redeem himself. A hit would help to wipe
out the memory of his error.

The first ball was an outshoot that just cut the corner of the plate.
Willis struck at it and missed. The next one was a straight ball about
knee high. Willis gave it a resounding clout, and it soared out toward
the flagpole in left field.

Willis was off with the crack of the bat, footing it down to first,
while a roar went up from the stands. It looked like a sure home run,
and it was clear that the Boston left fielder could not get under it.
The runner was well on his way to second before the ball touched the
ground.

"Foul ball!" called the umpire.

There was a groan from the Giant rooters, and Robbie rushed from the
dugout to protest. The umpire coldly waved him off.

"I said foul and that settles it," he declared, at the same time waving
to Willis to come back to the plate.

It was a very disgruntled Willis that complied, and he took up his bat
mumbling something about "blind" and "robber."

"What's that?" asked the umpire sharply.

"Nothing," growled Willis, as he squared himself to meet the next ball.
It was a bad one, and he let it go by. The next suited him, and he sent
a sizzling grounder between second and third, on which he might have
made a double, had he been quicker on his feet. But he was of the "ice
wagon" type and had to be content with a single.

Still it was a hit, and it put all the Giants on their toes in an
instant. Their coachers at first and third began a chattering designed
to rattle the pitcher. McRae hustled Denton out of the dugout with
directions to sacrifice. The latter did his best, but Albaugh pounced
on the ball and shot it to second, putting Willis out. Douglas whipped
the ball to first in an endeavor to complete a double play, but Denton
beat the ball by a step.

With one man out and the tail end of the Giant batting order coming up
the outlook was decidedly gloomy. Hope revived, however, when Allen
laced a single to left. It was a clean hit, but Mitchell ran in on it
and fielded so smartly that Denton was held at second.

With two men on bases, Joe came to the bat, while the great throng gave
him an ovation.

"Win your own game, Matson," was shouted at him from thousands of
throats.

"Give the ball a ride!"

"Another homer, Joe!"

"Give the ball a passport and send it out of the country!"

These and other encouraging cries greeted Joe as he waited for the
ball. Albaugh looked at him with some apprehension. His respect for him
as a batter had grown considerably since the beginning of the game.

Joe refused to offer at the first ball, which was high and wide. Menken
caught it and instead of returning it to the pitcher shot it down to
second. Denton had taken too long a lead off the base and was trapped.
His first impulse was to slide back to the bag, but he saw that he
was too late for that and set out for third. The whole Boston infield
joined in running him down, and despite his doubling and twisting, he
was run down and put out near third. During the fracas, Allen reached
second, but this was poor consolation, for now two men were out.

Albaugh grinned as he picked up the ball and stepped on the mound.
Baseball Joe resolved to knock that grin off his face.

The ball came toward the plate like a bullet. Joe timed it perfectly,
and poled a tremendous hit out toward center.

"A homer! A homer!" yelled the crowd, wild with excitement.

By the time Allen had galloped over the plate, Joe had rounded second,
running like a frightened jackrabbit. But in the meantime, Mitchell, by
a herculean effort, had managed to knock down the ball, after it had
struck the ground and was speeding toward the fence. He straightened
up and threw it in a line to third. It came plump into the waiting
hands of the guardian of the bag. But Joe had already pulled up there,
panting a little, but with his heart full of exultation.

"Jumping Jehoshaphat, how that boy can hit!" cried McRae, while Joe's
comrades jigged about and threw their caps into the air.

"As pretty a three-bagger as I ever saw," declared Robson. "That ties
the score anyway. Now if Mylert can only bring him in, the game's ours."

Albaugh, though sore and enraged, still maintained perfect control of
the ball. Twice in succession he sent it whizzing over the plate, and
twice Mylert missed it by inches. Perhaps he was too anxious, but it
was evident that his batting eye was off.

Albaugh sensed this, and felt so sure of his victim that he paid
little attention to third. Suddenly, as Albaugh began to wind up for
his pitch, Joe darted down the line for the plate. A warning cry from
Menken and a roar from the crowd told Albaugh what was happening. He
stopped his windup and threw to Menken, who was covering the rubber and
yelling to him to throw. He threw high in his excitement. Menken caught
the ball and bent down, just as Joe slid over the plate in a cloud of
dust. Menken dabbed frantically at him, and they rolled on the ground
together.

"Safe!" cried the umpire.

The game was won and the Giants had "got the jump."

The crowd went mad. By thousands they rushed down from the stands and
swarmed down over the field. Joe saw them coming and made a dash for
the clubhouse. But before he had reached it, the crowd had closed in
about him, and it was only by the assistance of his mates, who cleared
a way for him, that he could get away from their wild enthusiasm and
slip into its welcome shelter.

In a few minutes more the whole team had gathered there, laughing and
shouting and going over the details of the game, while they took the
showers and changed into their street clothes. There too came Robbie
and McRae, as full of glee and happiness as the rest.

"You old rascal!" chortled Robbie, as he slapped Joe on the back.
"What are you trying to do? Be the whole team--gyp the other fellows
out of their jobs? Such pitching, such batting--and then to cap it all
by stealing home! Joe, old boy, I've seen lots of ball games, but your
work to-day takes the cake."

McRae, though less demonstrative, was not a whit less delighted.

"Great work, Matson," he said. "Keep that up and there isn't a man in
either league will be able to touch you."

Jim too was fairly stuttering with his pride in his chum's achievements.

"Picked the game right out of the fire," he exulted. "Tied it first and
won it afterward. Joe old fellow, you're in a class by yourself. And
that steal home! They'll talk about it all the season."

"Well," replied Baseball Joe, with a grin, "I got rather homesick on
third, and that home plate looked mighty good to me."

Then Hughson came along with his congratulations, and these perhaps
were the greatest reward that Joe could have asked for his day's work.

For Hughson had been Joe's baseball idol for the last ten years. For at
least that period of time, Hughson had been confessedly the greatest
pitcher that baseball had ever seen. During that decade he had been
the mainstay of the Giant team. When Hughson was slated to pitch, his
mates were ready to chalk that game up in advance as won. And on the
other hand, the opposing team was almost ready to concede the game
before it was played. He had speed, curves and everything. At the most
critical stage of a game he never lost his head. There might be three
men on bases and none out, but that never disturbed Hughson. He would
bring his wonderful "fadeaway" into action and the batters would go
down like ninepins. He had brawn--plenty of it--but in addition he had
brain, and when it came to strategy and quick thinking there was no one
to be compared with him.

But it was not merely his remarkable skill that had made him the
hero of the baseball world. He was a gentleman through and through.
He had had a college training and could meet and talk with educated
men on equal terms. He was upright in his principles, clean in his
living, quiet, plain, and unassuming. He was hail fellow well met
with the other members of his team, and in fact with baseball players
everywhere. Everybody liked him, and those who knew him best had a warm
affection for him.

Nor was there the slightest touch of jealousy about him. If any one
else could take his laurels by showing that he was a better pitcher,
Hughson welcomed the opportunity to give him every chance to do so.
He was wholly wrapped up in the success of his team, and was only too
glad to see any one helping to gain that success. His treatment of Joe
since the latter had joined the team had been cordial in the extreme.
He coached him, encouraged him, and did everything in his power to make
him the star pitcher he saw he was destined to become.

Hughson had been hurt in a collision just before the final games of the
previous year, and had not been able to take part in the World Series.
His arm had become better, but he was still in no condition to pitch.
So that it had been merely as a spectator that he had witnessed the
triumph of the Giants in this opening game of the season.

Joe's eyes lighted up as he saw Hughson coming toward him with extended
hand.



CHAPTER VIII

A BASEBALL IDOL


"Put her there, Matson!" cried Hughson, his face beaming with pleasure.
"I never saw better pitching than you showed us to-day."

Joe's face flushed. He shook Hughson's hand heartily.

"Oh, it's nothing compared with lots of games you've pitched, Hughson,"
he said. "I'm only in the infant class yet."

"A mighty husky infant," laughed Hughson. "At least that's what the
Bostons think. It was a hard game for them to lose, just when they
thought they had it tucked away in their bat bag."

"I feel rather sorry for Albaugh," said Joe. "He pitched a peach of a
game and deserved to win."

"He sure did," conceded Hughson. "And nine times out of ten that kind
of pitching would have won. But to-day he had the hard luck to be
pitted against a better man. They got only one clean hit off of you.
The other was a scratch. A little more and you'd have pitched a no-hit
game. And that's going some for the first game of the season, I'll tell
the world.

"Another thing that tickled me," he went on, "was to see him pass
you to first rather than give you a chance to hit the ball. That's a
compliment to all the boxmen of the country. As a rule we're easy meat.
The other pitchers are glad to see us come up to the plate. It has got
to be a proverb that pitchers can't hit. But you gave the lie to that
proverb to-day. Those two hits of yours were ticketed for the fence.
And that steal home was the classiest thing I've seen for a blue moon.
That's the kind of thinking that wins ball games. Do the thing the
other fellow doesn't expect you to do."

"It was a case of touch and go," replied Joe. "I knew that I had
touched the plate before Menken put the ball on me, but I wasn't sure
the umpire would see it the same way. But he did, and that's all that
matters. By the way, Hughson, how is that arm of yours coming along?"

"Not as well as I should like," responded Hughson, while a touch of
gloom came into his face. "There are days when it feels all right, and
other days when I can't lift it without pain. I've been down to see
Reese again about it, and he can't see anything radically wrong with
it. Says I'll have to be patient and give it time. But it's mighty
hard to have to sit on the bench when I'm fairly aching to get in the
box again."

"I know just how you must feel," returned Joe sympathetically. "The
boys are all rooting for you to get back into harness again. It doesn't
seem the same old team with you out of the running."

"I'll be back with bells on before long," answered Hughson with a
smile, as he moved on to have a chat with Robbie.

"Isn't he a prince?" Joe remarked admiringly to Jim, as they watched
the back of the tall figure.

"He sure is an honor to the game," returned Jim. "Here's hoping that
he'll soon be on deck again."

The next day the New York papers were full of the story of the game.
There was a general feeling of jubilation over the auspicious start
by the Giants, a feeling that was the more pronounced, because of
the feeling that had previously prevailed that Hughson's continued
disability would be a serious handicap to the chances of again winning
the pennant.

One great subject dwelt upon in all the accounts was the marvelous
pitching that Joe had shown. The sporting reporters "spread themselves"
on the way he had held the Bostons in the hollow of his hand. To allow
only two hits in the opening game, and one of them a scratch, was a
feat that they dwelt upon at length.

But scarcely less space was devoted to his batting. Although it was
recalled that in the previous year he had had a creditable average at
the bat, considering that he was a pitcher, his power as a twirler had
kept his other qualities in the shade. Comment was made on the perfect
way he had timed the ball and of the fact that his homer had gone
nearly to the end of the grounds almost on a straight line, a fact that
attested the tremendous power behind the hit. One of the papers headed
its article: "Is There to Be a New Batting King?" and went on to say
among other things:

    "It is an extraordinary thing to pitch a two-hit game at the
    beginning of the season. But it is still more extraordinary
    that, despite the strain on the muscles and nerves of the
    pitcher who achieves that distinction, he should also have a
    perfect batting average for the day. That is what occurred
    yesterday. In four times at the bat he was passed twice and
    the other times poled out a triple and a home run. And this
    was done against heady and effective pitching, for Albaugh has
    seldom showed better form than in yesterday's game.

    "One might have thought that with this record Matson would
    have called it a day and let it go at that. But he was still
    not satisfied. In the ninth, with two men out and two strikes
    called on Mylert, he put the game on ice by stealing home from
    third--as unexpected and dazzling a play as we shall probably
    be fortunate enough to see this year. It was the climax of a
    wonderful game.

    "McRae never made a shrewder deal than when he secured this
    phenomenal pitcher from St. Louis. We said this last year, when
    Matson's great pitching disposed of Chicago's chances for the
    pennant. We said it again when in the World Series he bore the
    heft of the pitcher's burden and made his team champions of
    the world. But a true thing will bear repeating twice or even
    thrice, and so we say it now with added emphasis."

All of the comment was in the same laudatory strain, although in
reference to his batting, one paper cautioned its readers that not too
much importance was to be attached to that. It was probably one of
Matson's good days, and one swallow did not make a summer. But whether
he kept up his remarkable batting or not, the New York public would ask
nothing more of him than to keep up his magnificent work in the box.

Joe would not have been human if he had not enjoyed the praise that was
showered upon him in the columns that he and Jim read with interest the
next morning. It was pleasant to know that his work was appreciated.
But he was far too sensible to be unduly elated or to get a "swelled
head" in consequence. He knew how quickly a popular idol could be
dethroned, and he did not want the public to set up an ideal that he
could not live up to.

It was for that reason that he read with especial approval the article
that warned against expecting him to be a batting phenomenon because of
his performance of yesterday.

"That fellow's got it right," he remarked to Jim, as he pointed to the
paragraph in question. "I just had luck yesterday in straightening out
Albaugh's slants. Another time and I might be as helpless as a baby."

"Luck, nothing!" replied Jim, who had no patience with Joe's depreciation
of himself. "There was nothing fluky about those hits. You timed them
perfectly and soaked the ball right on the nose. And look at the way
you've been lining them out in training this spring. Wake up, man.
You're not only the king of pitchers, but you've got it in you to
become the king of sluggers."

"Oh, quit your kidding," protested Joe.

"I'm not kidding," Jim affirmed earnestly. "It's the solemn truth.
You'll win many a game this year not only by your pitching but by your
batting too. Just put a pin in that."

At this moment a bellboy tapped at the door, and being told to come in,
handed Joe two telegrams. He tore them open in haste. The first was
from Reggie and read:

    "Keep it up, old top. Simply ripping, don't you know."

Joe laughed and passed it on to Jim.

"Sounds just like the old boy, doesn't it?" he commented.

The second one was from Mabel:

    "So proud of you, Joe. Not surprised though. Best love. Am
    writing."

Jim did not see this one, but it went promptly into that one of Joe's
pockets that was nearest his heart, the same one that carried the
little glove of Mabel's that had been his inspiration in all his
victorious baseball campaigns.

After a hearty breakfast, the chums went out for a stroll. Neither
was slated to pitch for that day, and they had no immediate weight of
responsibility on their minds. Markwith, the left-handed twirler of the
Giants, would do the box work that day unless McRae altered his plans.

"Hope Red puts it over the Braves to-day the way you did yesterday,"
remarked Jim, as they sauntered along.

"I hope so," echoed Joe. "The old boy seems to be in good shape, and
they've usually had trouble in hitting him. They'll be out for blood
though, and if they put in Belden against him it ought to be a pretty
battle. Markwith beat him the last time he was pitted against him, but
only by a hair."

It was a glorious spring morning, and as they had plenty of time they
prolonged their walk far up on the west side of the city. As they were
approaching a corner, they saw a rather shabbily dressed man slouching
toward them.

Jim gave him a casual glance, and then clutched Joe by the arm.

"Look who's coming, Joe!" he exclaimed. "It's Bugs Hartley!"



CHAPTER IX

AN OLD ENEMY


Baseball Joe started as he looked at the man more closely.

"Bugs Hartley!" he ejaculated. "I thought we'd seen the last of that
fellow. I imagined that by this time he'd be in jail or in a lunatic
asylum."

"He'll get there some time likely enough," replied Jim. "But just now
he's here. That's Bugs as sure as shooting."

It was evident that the man had recognized them also, for he stopped
suddenly, as though debating whether to advance or retreat. He decided
on the former course, and with an air of bravado came toward them. Joe
and Jim would have passed him without speaking, but he planted himself
squarely in their path, a malignant look glowing in his bleary eyes.

"So here you are again," he snarled, addressing himself to Joe.

"Sure thing," answered Joe coolly. "You see me, don't you?"

"I see you all right," replied Hartley, as his eye took in Joe's
well-dressed form. "All dolled up too. The man who took the bread and
butter out of my mouth. Oh, I see you all right, worse luck."

Bugs Hartley had been a well known character in baseball for some
years. He had gained his nickname from his erratic habits. He had never
been any too strong mentally, and his addiction to liquor had still
further contributed to throw him off his balance. But he had been a
remarkable pitcher, with a throwing arm that made up for some of his
mental deficiencies, and had played in several major league clubs. For
some years he had been a member of the Giants, and was still a member
when Joe joined the team. His vicious habits and utter failure to obey
the rules of discipline had made him a thorn in his manager's side, but
McRae had tolerated him because of his unusual skill in the box.

Joe had felt sorry for the man, and had done all he could to help him
along. Once he had found him wandering intoxicated in the streets
on the eve of an important game, and had got him off quietly to bed
so as to hide the matter from McRae. But there was no gratitude in
Hartley's disposition, and besides he was consumed with envy at seeing
Joe's rapid progress in his profession, while he himself, owing to his
dissipation, was going backward.

On one occasion, he had tried to queer Joe by doping his coffee just
before the latter was scheduled to pitch in a game with Philadelphia.
His hatred was increased when, after being knocked out of the box
during a game, Joe had taken his place and won out. McRae at last lost
patience with him and gave him his walking papers. Hartley's twisted
brain attributed this to Joe, though as a matter of fact Joe had asked
McRae to give Bugs another chance.

Hartley's reputation was so bad as a man and it was so generally
understood that he was through as a pitcher that no other club cared to
engage him. This increased his bitterness against the supposed author
of his misfortunes. On one occasion he had tried to injure Joe in a
dark street by hurling a jagged bolt of iron at his head, and the only
thing that saved Baseball Joe was that at the moment he had stooped to
adjust his shoelace. At that time Joe might have handed him over to the
police, but instead he let him go with a warning. Now he had again met
this dangerous semi-lunatic in the streets of New York.

"Now look here, Bugs," said Joe quietly and decidedly. "I'm just about
tired of that kind of talk. I've done everything I could for you, and
in return you've doped me and otherwise tried to hurt me. You've been
your own worst enemy. I'm sorry if you're hard up, and if you need
money I'll give it to you. But I want you to keep away from me, and if
there's any more funny business you won't get off as easily as you did
last time."

"I don't want your money," snapped Bugs. "I'm after you, and I'll get
you yet."

"I don't think you'd better try it. It won't get you anywhere, except
perhaps in jail."

"There's ways of doing it," growled Hartley. "Ways that you ain't
dreamin' of."

A sudden thought struck Joe.

"Do you mean anonymous letters?" he asked, looking keenly into
Hartley's eyes.

"Anon-non--what do you mean?" the man asked sullenly. He was an
illiterate man and had probably never heard the word before.

"Letters without any name signed to them," persisted Joe.

"Aw! what are you giving me?" snapped Hartley. "I don't know what
you're talking about."

His mystification was so genuine that Joe knew that his shot, fired at
random, had missed the mark. He could eliminate Hartley at once as a
possible author of the anonymous letter Mabel had received.

"Never mind," said Joe. "Now one last word, Bugs. Twice you've tried to
do me up and twice you've failed. Don't let it happen a third time. It
will be three strikes and out for you if you do."

He made a move to pass on. Hartley seemed for a moment as though he
would bar the way, but the steely look in Joe's eyes made him think
better of it. With a muttered imprecation he stepped aside, and the two
friends moved on.

"A bad egg," remarked Jim, as they walked along.

"I don't know whether he's just bad or is mad," replied Joe regretfully.
"A combination of both I suppose. He's got the fixed idea that I've
done him a wrong of some kind and his poor brain hasn't room for
anything else. It's too bad to see a man that was once a great pitcher
go to the dogs the way he has. I suppose he picks up a few dollars now
and then by pitching for semi-professional teams. But most of that I
suppose is dissipated."

"Well, you want to keep on your guard against him, Joe," warned Jim, in
some anxiety. "A crazy man makes a dangerous enemy."

"Oh, I don't think there's any need of worrying about Bugs," rejoined
Joe carelessly. "The chances are ten to one we'll never run across him
again."

The encounter had rather spoiled their morning, and they hailed a
taxicab to take them back to their hotel. There they had lunch and then
rode up to the Polo Grounds for the game.

As Joe had predicted, the Bostons that afternoon were out for blood
and they evened up the score. Markwith pitched a good game except for
one bad inning when he lost control, and hits, sandwiched in with
passes and a wild pitch, let in three runs. He braced up after that,
but it was too late, and the Giants had to take the little end of the
score.

In the next two weeks the Giants met the rest of the Eastern teams,
and, taking it as a whole, the result was satisfactory. They had no
trouble in taking the Phillies into camp, for that once great team had
been shot to pieces. The majority of the Boston games also went to the
Giants' credit. They met a snag, however, in Brooklyn, and the team
from over the bridge took four games out of six from their Manhattan
rivals. But then the Brooklyns always had been a hoodoo for the Giants,
and in this season, as in many others, they lived up to the tradition.

Still the Giants wound up their first Eastern series with a percentage
of 610, which was respectable if not brilliant. But now their real test
was coming. They were about to make their first invasion of the West,
where the teams were much stronger than those of the East. Cincinnati
was going strong under the great leader who had once piloted the
Phillies to a championship. Chicago was quite as formidable as in the
year before, when the Giants had just nosed them out at the finish.
St. Louis, though perhaps the least to be feared, was developing
sluggers that would put the Giants' pitchers on their mettle. But most
of all to be feared was Pittsburgh, which had been going through the
rest of the Western teams like a prairie fire.

"Pittsburgh's the enemy," McRae told his men, and Robbie agreed with
him. "Beat those birds and you'll cop the flag!"



CHAPTER X

THREE IN A ROW


The first jump of the team was to Cincinnati, and there they found
their work cut out for them. The Reds had just lost three out of four
to Pittsburgh, and they had got such a talking to from their manager,
from the fans, and from the press of the city that they knew they had
to do something to redeem themselves. They knew that if they could hold
the Giants even, it would be something; if they could take three out of
four they would be forgiven; while if they could make a clean sweep of
the series they would "own the town."

It was a singular thing what delight all the Western teams, and for
that matter all the teams of the League, took in beating the Giants. A
victory over them, of course, did not count any more in the final score
than a victory over one of the tailenders; but there was a fiendish
satisfaction in taking the scalps of the team from the "Big Town." So
that the managers always saved their best pitchers for the games with
the Giants, while they took a chance with their second string pitchers
against the other teams. This of course was a compliment; but it was a
compliment that the Giants did not especially appreciate, for it made
their task harder than that of any other team in the League.

So when the Giants learned that Dutch Rutter was to try his prowess
against them in the opening game, they were not surprised. Rutter was
a left-hander who had made a phenomenal record the preceding year, and
he had been especially rested up and groomed with the Giant series in
view. Meran, the manager, had figured that if he could win the first
game with Rutter he could come back with him in the fourth, and thus
have at least a chance of getting an even break on the series.

But McRae, anticipating such a move, had so arranged his own selection
of pitchers that Joe was in line for the first game, and he was not
afraid to pit his "ace" against the star boxman of the Cincinnatis.

His confidence was justified, for Baseball Joe won out after a
gruelling struggle. In Rutter he had found an opponent worthy of his
steel. For six innings neither team broke into the run column. Rutter
had superb control for a left-hander, and he showed a most dazzling
assortment of curves and slants. But Joe came back at him with the
same brand of pitching that he had shown in the opening game, and the
Cincinnati batsmen were turned back from the plate bewildered and
disgruntled. In vain their manager raved and stormed.

"Why don't you hit him?" he asked of his star slugger, as the latter
came back to the bench, after having been called out on strikes.

"Hit him!" Duncan came back at him. "What chance have I got of hitting
him, when I can't even hit the ball he pitches?"

Still the Giants had a scare thrown into them when in the ninth
inning, by a succession of fumbles and wild throws, the Cincinnatis
had three men on bases and none out. As they themselves had only one
run, scored in the seventh inning by a three base hit by Joe, aided by
a clean single by Mylert, the chances looked exceedingly good that the
Cincinnatis might tie the score or win the game. A clean single would
have brought in one run and probably two.

But Baseball Joe was always at his best when most depended on him.
While the coachers tried to rattle him and the crowds frantically
adjured Thompson, who was at the bat, to bring the men on bases in to
the plate, Joe was as cool as a cucumber.

He threw a swift high one to Thompson which the latter missed by three
inches. Mylert threw the ball back to Joe, who stopped it with his
foot and stooped as though to adjust his shoe lace. He fumbled an
instant with the lace, and then suddenly picking up the ball hurled it
to second like a shot. Emden, who was taking a long lead off the base,
tried to scramble back, but Denton had the ball on him like a flash.
Mellen who was on third made a bolt for the plate, but Denton shot the
ball to Mylert, and Mellen was run down between third and home. While
this was going on, Gallagher had taken second, and profiting by the
running down of Mellen, kept on half way to third. He did not dare go
all the way to third, because Mellen still had a chance to get back
to that base. But the instant Mellen was touched out, Joe, who had
taken part in running him down, shot the ball to Willis at third and
Gallagher was caught between the second and third bags. Three men were
out, the game was over, and the Giants had begun their Western invasion
with a 1 to 0 victory.

[Illustration: SUDDENLY PICKING UP THE BALL HE HURLED IT TO SECOND.]

Joe's quick thinking had cleared the bags in a twinkling. It had all
come so suddenly that the crowd was dumbfounded. Meran, the Cincinnati
manager, sat on the bench with his mouth open like a man in a daze. His
men were equally "flabbergasted." Thompson still stood at the plate
with his bat in hand. It seemed to him that a bunco game had been
played on him, and he was still trying to fathom it.

Then at last the crowd woke up. They hated to see the home team lose,
but they could not restrain their meed of admiration and applause. The
stands fairly rocked with cheering. They had seen a play that they
could talk about all their lives, one that happens perhaps once in a
generation, one that they would probably never see again.

McRae and Robbie for a moment acted like men in a trance. Over Robbie's
rubicund face chased all the colors of the chameleon. It almost seemed
as though he might have a stroke of apoplexy. Then at last he turned to
McRae and smote him mightily on the knees.

"Did you see it, John?" he roared. "Did you see it?"

"I saw it," answered McRae. "But for the love of Pete, Robbie, keep
that pile driver off my knees. Yes, I saw it, and I don't mind saying
that I never saw anything like it in my thirty years of baseball. I
have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming."

"A miracle man, that's what he is!" ejaculated Robbie. "That wing of
his is wonderful, but it's the head on him that tops any other in the
league. He wasn't behind the door when brains were given out."

Meran, the Cincinnati manager, who was a good sport, after he had
recovered from his astonishment, came over to the Giants' bench and
shook hands with McRae and Robson.

"It was a hard game to lose, John," he said to the Giants' manager. "I
thought we had it sewed up in the ninth. But there's no use bucking
against that pitcher of yours. I'm only glad that you can't pitch him
in all your games."

Joe, flushed and smiling, was overwhelmed with congratulations, but he
made light of his feat, as was his custom.

"It was simple enough," he protested. "I had the luck to catch Emden
off second and the boys did all the rest."

"Simple enough," mimicked Jim. "Oh, yes, it was simple enough. That's
the reason it happens every day of the week."

It was a good beginning, but the old proverb that "a good beginning
makes a bad ending" was illustrated in this Western tour. For some
reason most of the Giant pitchers could not "get going." Jim pulled out
a victory in the Cincinnati series, but Markwith lost his game, and
Hughson, who tried to pitch one of the games, found that he was not yet
in shape.

That series ended two and two. In Chicago the Giants had to be content
with only one victory out of the series. They hoped to make up for this
in St. Louis. But they found that the fame of "Murderers' Row" had
not been exaggerated, and there was a perfect rain of hits from the
Cardinals' bats that took two games out of three, the fourth that had
been scheduled being held up by rain.

When the team swung around to Pittsburgh, there were some added
wrinkles between McRae's brows.

"If we can only break even with Cincinnati and get the little end of
it in Chicago and St. Louis, what will Pittsburgh do to us?" he asked
Robbie, with a groan.

"What Pittsburgh will do to us, John," replied Robbie soberly, "is a
sin and a shame!"



CHAPTER XI

RIGHT FROM THE SHOULDER


The Smoky City was all agog over the games. It had won championships
before, but that was in the days of Fred Clarke and Honus Wagner and
other fence breakers. It had been a good many years since it had seen a
pennant floating over Forbes Field, and old-timers were wont to shake
their heads sadly and say they never would see it again.

But this year the "dope" pointed in the right direction. The management
of the team had strengthened the weak point in the infield by a winter
trade that had brought to them "Rabbit" Baskerville, the crackerjack
shortstop of the Braves. The benefit of the change had been manifested
in the spring practice when the Rabbit had put new pep and ginger
in the team. And in the regular games so far they had had little
difficulty in winning a large majority from their rivals. How they
would hold out against the Giants was the problem that yet remained
to be solved. But unless the Giants showed a decided reversal from the
form in which they had been playing recently, it would not be so very
hard to take them also into camp.

The Giants themselves felt none too much confidence, as they prepared
for this important series. One bit of luck came to them, however, in
the return at this juncture of Larry Barrett to the team. He had been
down with an attack of intermittent fever that had kept him out of part
of the spring practice and had prevented him thus far from playing in
any of the regular games. But on the team's arrival in Pittsburgh, they
found Barrett waiting for them, looking a little lighter than usual,
but declaring himself in excellent condition and fit to play the game
of his life.

The previous year he had guarded the keystone bag, and by general
consent was regarded as the best second baseman in the League. His
batting too was a powerful asset to the team, as season after season he
ranked among the .300 hitters. Apart from his superb playing at bat and
in the field, he also helped to keep the boys in good spirits. His wit
and love of fun had gained him the nickname of "Laughing Larry," and no
team of which Larry was a member could stay long in the doleful dumps.

His coming made necessary a change in the team. Allen, who had not
made a success in playing the "sun field," was benched, and Denton,
whose batting could not be spared, was shifted to right field in his
place, while Larry resumed his old position at second.

On the morning of the day of the first game, McRae called his players
together for a few words of counsel. At least he called it counsel. The
players were apt to refer to it as roasting.

"I've been thinking," he said, "that I've got the greatest collection
of false alarms of any manager in either of the big leagues."

This was not an especially encouraging beginning, but each of the men
tried to look as though the manager could not by any possibility be
referring to him. Some of them hoped that he would not descend from
generalities to particulars.

The manager's keen eyes ranged around the circle as though looking for
contradiction. There was a silence as of the tomb.

"You fellows haven't been playing baseball," he went on. "You've been
playing hooky. Look at the way you've let the other teams walk over
you. The Chicagos took three out of four from you. The Cardinals
grabbed two out of three, and it's only the mercy of heaven that rain
kept them from copping another. Look at the way you've been batting.
Every team in the League except the Phillies has a better average.
You've got enough beef about you to knock the ball out of the lot, and
you've been doing fungo hitting, knocking up pop flies. What in the
name of seven spittin' cats do you mean by it? Every time you collect
your salaries you ought to be arrested for getting money on false
pretenses."

He paused for a moment, and some of the more hopeful players thought
that perhaps he was through. But he was only getting his breath. He
faced them scornfully.

"Giants!" he exclaimed with sarcasm. "Giants you call yourselves. Get
wise to yourselves. If you're Giants, I'm a Chinaman. It's dwarfs you
are, pygmies. Now I want you boobs to get one thing into your heads.
Get it straight. You've got to win this series from Pittsburgh. Do you
get me? You've got to! If you don't, I'll disband the whole team and
start getting another one from the old ladies' home."

Much more he said to the same effect, with the result that when the
men, with heightened color and nerves rasped by his caustic tongue
lashing, left the clubhouse, they were in red-hot fighting mood.
Pygmies were they? Well, on the ball field they'd prove to McRae that
he didn't know what he was talking about.

An immense crowd was present that filled Forbes Field to capacity when
the bell rang for the beginning of the game. Joe had pitched only two
days before, and McRae decided to send Markwith into the box.

In the first inning, Dawley, the Pittsburgh pitcher, found it hard to
locate the plate, and Curry was passed to first. On the hit and run
play, Iredell popped to the pitcher, and Curry had all he could do to
get back to first. Burkett lined a clean hit over the second baseman's
head, but by sharp fielding Curry was kept from going beyond the middle
bag. On the next ball pitched, Curry tried to steal third but was
thrown out. Burkett in the meantime had got to second, but he was left
there when Wheeler sent a long fly to center that Ralston captured
after a hard run.

The Pittsburghs were not long in proving that they had their batting
clothes on. Ralston landed on the first ball that Markwith sent up for
a home run. The crowd chortled with glee, and the Giants and the few
supporters they had in the stands were correspondingly glum. The blow
seemed to shake Markwith's nerve, and the next batter was passed. Bemis
sent a sizzling grounder to Iredell and it bounced off his glove, the
batter reaching first and Baskerville taking second on the play. Astley
dribbled a slow one to Markwith, who turned to throw to third, but
finding that Baskerville was sure of making the bag, turned and threw
high to Burkett at first. The tall first baseman leaped high in the air
and knocked it down, but not in time to get his man. With the bases
full Brown slapped a two bagger to center that cleared the bases, three
men galloping over the plate in succession.

It was evidently not Markwith's day, and McRae beckoned him to come
in to the bench while the crowd jeered the visitors and cheered their
own favorites. Poor Markwith looked disconsolate enough, and after a
moment's conference with McRae, which he was not anxious to prolong, he
meandered over the field to the showers.

"Bring on the next victim!" taunted some of the spectators. "All
pitchers look alike to us to-day. Next dead one to the front."

McRae held a brief consultation with Robbie, and then nodded to Jim.

"Go to it, Jim," encouraged Joe. "I'm rooting for you, old man. Pull
some of the feathers out of those birds. It's a tough job bucking
against a four run lead, but you're the boy to do it."

"I'll do my best," answered Jim, as he put on his glove and went into
the box.

It was the cue for the crowd to try to rattle him. The coachers began
chattering like a lot of magpies, and the man on second began to dance
about the bag and shout to Garrity, the next batsman, to bring him in.

Jim sent one over the plate that cut it in half, but the batsman had
orders to wait him out, under the supposition that he would be wild.
So he let the second one go by also.

"Strike two!" called the umpire.

Garrity braced. This was getting serious. This time Jim resorted to a
fadeaway that Garrity swung at with all his might. But the ball eluded
him and dropped into Mylert's mitt.

"You're out!" snapped the umpire, waving him away from the plate.



CHAPTER XII

JIM'S WINNING WAYS


"Good boy, Jim!" cried Joe, as his chum came in to the bench. "You put
the Indian sign on that fellow all right. Just hold them down and trust
to the boys to bat in some runs to even up the score."

But if the boys had any such intentions they certainly took their time
about it. Larry, to be sure, poled out a long hit to right that had all
the signs of a homer, but Astley backed up and fairly picked it off the
wall. Denton cracked out a single between first and second. Jim hit
sharply to third, and O'Connor by a superb stop got the ball to first
in time, Denton in the meantime reaching second. Mylert swung savagely
at the ball, but it went up straight in the air and Dawley gathered it
in.

In their half of the second, the Pittsburghs increased their lead to
five. O'Connor struck out on the first three balls pitched, but Jenkins
caught the ball on the nose for a single to center. Curry thought he
had a chance to make a catch, and ran in for it, instead of waiting for
it on a bound. By this mistake of judgment the ball got past him, and
before it could be retrieved Jenkins by fast running had crossed the
plate. Dawley was easy on a bounder to Willis, and Ralston, in trying
to duck away from a high incurve, struck the ball with his bat and sent
it rolling to Burkett for an out.

"Not much nourishment for us in that inning," muttered McRae, as he
watched the man chalking up another run for Pittsburgh on the big
scoreboard at the side of the field.

"No," agreed Robbie. "But you'll notice that the run wasn't earned.
If that hit had been played right, Jenkins would have been held for a
single."

"Give them a row of goose eggs, Dawley," was the advice shouted to the
Pittsburgh pitcher, as he stepped into the box.

Dawley grinned with supreme confidence. And for the third and fourth
inning his confidence seemed justified. The ball came zipping over the
plate with all sorts of twists and contortions, and the Giants seemed
helpless before him. They either struck out or put up feeble flies
and fouls that were easily gathered up. Only one hit went outside the
diamond and that plumped square into the hands of the waiting center
fielder.

But in the meantime, the Pittsburghs were getting a little uneasy
about the kind of pitching that Jim was sending across. His fast ball
went so swiftly that the eye could scarcely follow it. He had perfect
control, and the "hop" on the ball just before it got to the plate
was working to perfection. The way he worked the corners of the plate
was a revelation. And in the fourth inning, when he struck out the
side on nine pitched balls, a ripple of applause was forced from the
spectators, despite their desire to see the home team win.

"You're going like a house afire, old man," exclaimed Joe, as the
Giants came in for their turn.

"That's what he is," agreed Robbie, who had overheard the remark. "But
it won't do any good unless our boys wake up and do something with
their bats. That five run lead is bad medicine."

It did not look any better to the Giants than it did to Robbie, and
in the fifth inning they began to come to life. Dawley, for the first
time, seemed to be a little shaky in his control. He passed Iredell
and then tried to fool Burkett on a slow ball. But the latter timed
it exactly and poled it out between left and center for a beautiful
three-bagger. Iredell scored easily and a roar went up from the men in
the Giants' dugout as he crossed the plate.

"Here's where we start a rally, boys!" cried Robbie. "Every man on his
toes now. Here's where we send this pitcher to the showers."

Wheeler went to the plate with directions to sacrifice, which he did
neatly by sending a slow roller to first, on which Burkett scored.
Willis clipped out a liner to right, which was really only good for a
single, but in trying to stretch it to a two baser he fell a victim at
second. Then Larry came to the bat.

"Show them that your layoff hasn't hurt your batting eye, Larry," sang
out McRae.

The first ball was wide, and Larry held his bat motionless. On the
second offering he fouled off. The third was about waist high, and
Larry swung at it. The ball soared off to right field and landed in the
bleachers. It was a clean home run and Larry trotted easily around the
bases, a broad grin on his good-natured Irish face.

"We're finding him!" shouted McRae. "We've got him going! Now, Denton,
put another one in the same place."

Denton did his best, but it was not good enough. Dawley had tightened
up and was sending the ball over the plate as though thrown from a
catapult. Two strikes were called on Denton, and then he put up a fly
just back of second which Baskerville caught in good style.

The inning was over, but the Giants felt better. There was a big
difference between five to none and five to three. Besides, they had
learned that Dawley could be hit.

"Keep them down, Jim, and we'll put you in the lead next inning,"
prophesied Larry, as he passed him on his way out to second.

Jim proceeded at once to keep them down. He had never been in better
form. The three runs that his mates had scored had put new heart in him
and he made the Pittsburghs "eat out of his hand." They simply could
not get going against him.

His sharp breaking curve had their best batters completely at sea. They
were swinging in bewilderment at balls that they could not reach. For
the next three innings not a man reached first base and in the eighth
inning he mowed them down on strikes as fast as they came to the plate.

"Oh, if we'd only started the game with him!" groaned McRae, as the
eighth inning ended with the score unchanged.

For in the meantime Larry's prophecy had not been fulfilled that the
Giant batsmen would gain the lead. They had been hitting more freely
than in the early part of the game, but had been batting in hard luck.
Every ball they hit seemed to go straight to some fielder, and the
Pittsburghs were giving their pitcher magnificent support. There was
one gleam of hope in the eighth, when with two men out, a Giant was
roosting on second and another on third. But hope went glimmering when
Burkett's hoist to center was easily gathered in by Ralston.

"We can win yet," crowed Robbie, with a confidence he was far from
feeling, as the Giants entered on their last inning. "There's many a
game been won in the ninth. Go in now and knock him out of the box."

Wheeler started in with a single that just escaped the outstretched
hands of Baskerville. McRae himself ran down to first to coach him.
Willis followed with another single on which Wheeler went all the way
to third. It looked as though the long-hoped for rally had at last
commenced.

But a groan went up from the Giant dugout when Willis, on the next ball
pitched, started for second and was nailed by three feet. Still Larry
was next at bat, and his comrades, remembering his last home run, urged
him to repeat.

Larry was only too eager to do so, and on the second ball pitched
laced it to right field for what looked to be a homer but went foul by
a few feet only. The next was a missed strike. Two balls followed in
quick succession and then, with the count three to two, slapped out a
rattling two-bagger to center. Wheeler scored and the tally was five to
four in Pittsburgh's favor.

Then to Joe's surprise McRae beckoned him from the dugout.

"What's the big idea?" Joe asked, as he came up to his manager.

"I'm going to put you in as a pinch hitter," answered McRae. "I'd
rather take a chance on you than Denton. Get in there now and knock the
cover off the ball."

There was a gasp of surprise from the stands. In their experience
it was usually a pitcher who was taken out to make room for a pinch
hitter. It was almost unheard of that the procedure should be reversed.
To them it seemed a sign that McRae was at the end of his rope, and
there were catcalls and shouts of derision as Joe came to the plate.
And these redoubled in volume as he missed the first ball that Dawley
sent over.

"What did I tell you, boys?"

"Nit, on that!"

"Matson is all right as a pitcher, but as a batter, nothing doing."

"Give him two more like that, Dawley!"

"Take your time, Joe!"

"Make him give you the kind you want!"

"Here is where Pittsburgh chews the Giants up!"

"Maybe you can do it somewhere else, but you can't do it here!"

"One, two, three, Dawley, remember."

So the calls ran on as Joe waited for the pitcher to deliver the sphere
again.

The Pittsburgh rooters thought they had Joe's "goat" and they were
prepared to make the most of it. They began a chorus of yells and
groans that grew louder and louder.

They stopped suddenly as Joe caught the next ball about a foot from the
end of his bat. There was a mighty crack and the ball soared up and up
into the sky over right field. The fielders started to run for it and
then stopped short in their tracks, throwing up their hands in despair.
The ball cleared the bleachers, cleared the wall, and went through the
window of a house on the other side of the street.

Joe had started running like a deer at the crack of the bat, but as he
rounded first McRae shouted at him to take his time, and he completed
the rest of his journey at a jog trot, Larry of course having preceded
him. There was a wild jubilee at the plate. Robbie threw dignity to the
winds and danced a jig, and Joe was sore from the thumping of his mates.

"The longest hit that's ever been made on Forbes Field!" cried Larry
exultingly.

"Old Honus Wagner in his best days never made such a clout," joined in
Jim. "Joe, old boy, you've saved the game."

"It isn't over yet," cautioned Joe smilingly; "but if you keep up
the same brand of pitching you've been showing us, they won't have a
Chinaman's chance."

The next two batters were easy outs and the Giants' half was over. The
Pittsburghs came in for their last chance, determined to do or die. It
was exasperating for them to have the game snatched from them when they
were just about to put it on their side of the ledger. But Jim put out
the first one on a puny fly and sent the last two back to the bench by
the strike-out route--and the game was over.

In their first clash with the redoubtable Pittsburghs, the Giants had
won by six to five!



CHAPTER XIII

A BREAK IN THE LUCK


It was a highly elated crowd of Giants that chattered away excitedly in
the clubhouse after the finish of the game. Jim and Joe came in for the
major share of the honors, the first because of his superb pitching and
the latter for the glorious home run that had clinched the victory.

"Some pitching, Barclay," said Hughson, clapping Jim on the shoulder.
"Do you realize that only thirty-two batters faced you and that eleven
of them went out on strikes? That's what I call twirling."

"It'll take some of the chestiness out of these Pirates," laughed
Larry. "They thought we were going to be as easy meat for them as the
rest of the teams. And, begorra, it looked as though we would from the
way the game started."

"You did your share all right, Larry," replied Jim. "That home run of
yours was a beauty. And that two-bagger was no slouch."

"But that clout of Joe's was the real cheese," said Denton generously.
"Gee, Joe, I was a little sore when McRae put you in to take my turn
at bat. But when I saw that old apple clear the fence I knew that the
old man had the right dope. I haven't made a hit like that since I've
been in the game."

"Who has?" queried Curry. "I'll bet it comes pretty close to being a
record. If that house hadn't been in the way the ball would be going
yet."

"Don't forget, Joe, that you'll have to pay for that broken window,"
laughed Wheeler.

"I guess McRae would pay for a hundred broken windows and never say a
word," chuckled Iredell.

He would have been still more sure of this had he been able to see
McRae's face at that moment and overheard what he was saying to Robson.

"You've had a real bit of luck to-day, John," the latter had remarked,
his broad face radiant with satisfaction. "You've discovered that you
have another first string pitcher. That work of young Barclay was
simply marvelous."

"You said it, Robbie," agreed McRae. "It was a rough deal to give a
young pitcher the job of beating the Pittsburghs after they had a four
run lead. But he stood the gaff and came through all right. From this
time on he'll take his regular turn in the box. But it isn't that that
pleases me most in this day's work."

"What is it then?" asked Robbie.

"It's the batting of Matson," replied McRae thoughtfully. "I've been in
the game thirty years, and I've seen all the fence-breakers--Wagner,
Delehanty, Brouthers, Lajoie, and all the rest of them. And I tell you
now, Robbie, that he's the king of all of them. The way he stands at
the plate, the way he holds his bat, the way he times his blow, the
way he meets the ball--those are the things that mark out the natural
batter. It's got to be born in a man. You can't teach it to him. All
the weight of those great shoulders go into his stroke, and he makes a
homer where another man would make a single or a double. Now mark what
I'm telling you, Robbie, but keep it under your hat, for I don't want
the kid to be getting a swelled head. In Baseball Joe Matson we've got
not only the greatest pitcher in the game, but the hardest hitter in
either league. And that goes."

"Oh, come now, John," protested Robbie, "aren't you going a little too
strong? The greatest pitcher, yes. I admit that. There's no one in
sight now that can touch him, now that Hughson's laid up. And between
you and me, John, I don't believe that even Hughson in his best days
had anything on Matson. But when you speak of batting, how about Kid
Rose of the Yankees?"

"He's all to the good," admitted McRae. "He's got a wonderful record;
the best record in fact of any man that has ever broken into the
game. He topped the record for home runs last season, and by the way
he's starting in this year he'll do it again. Up to now we haven't
had anyone in the National League that could approach him. But I'm
willing to bet right now that he never made so long a hit as Matson
made this afternoon. Of course Rose has had more experience in batting
than Matson, and for the last two or three years he's hardly done any
pitching. But if I should take Matson out of the box right now and play
him in the outfield every day, I'll bet that by the end of the season
he'd be running neck and neck with Kid Rose and perhaps a wee bit ahead
of him."

"Well, maybe, John," agreed Robbie, though a little doubtfully. "But
what's the use of talking about it? You know that we can't spare him
from the box. He's our pitching ace."

"I know that well enough," replied McRae. "But all the same I'm going
to see that he has many a chance to win games for us by his batting as
well as by his pitching. On the days he isn't pitching, I'll use him as
a pinch hitter, as I did to-day. Then, too, when he is pitching, I'm
going to make a change in the batting order. Instead of having him down
at the end I'm going to put him fourth--in the cleanup position. If
that old wallop of his doesn't bring in many a run I'll miss my guess."

The very next day McRae had a chance to justify his theories. Hughson
had told the manager that he thought he was in shape to pitch, and
McRae, who had great faith in his judgment, told him to go in. The "Old
Master," as he was affectionately called, used his head rather than his
arm and by mixing up his slow ball with his fast one and resorting on
occasion to his famous fadeaway, got by in a close game. In the sixth,
Joe was called on as a pinch hitter, and came across with another
homer, which, although not as long as that of the previous day, enabled
him to reach the plate without sliding and bring in two runs ahead of
him.

Two homers in two consecutive days were not common enough to pass
without notice, and the Pittsburgh sporting writers began to feature
Joe in their headlines. There was a marked increase in the attendance
on the third day when Joe was slated to pitch. On that day he "made
monkeys" of the Pittsburgh batters, and on the two turns at bat when
he was permitted to hit made a single and a three-bagger. In two other
appearances at bat, the Pittsburgh pitcher deliberately passed him, at
which even the Pittsburgh crowd expressed their displeasure by jeers.

On the final day, Markwith was given a chance to redeem himself, and
pitched an airtight game. But Hooper of the Pittsburghs was also at his
best, and with the game tied in the ninth Joe again cracked out a homer
to the right field bleachers, his third home run in four days!

Markwith prevented further scoring by the enemy, and the game went into
the Giants' winning column.

"Four straight from the league leaders," McRae chuckled happily. "The
break in the luck has come at last."



CHAPTER XIV

A DELIGHTFUL SURPRISE


"Well, we wound up the trip in a blaze of glory, anyway," remarked Jim
to Baseball Joe, as they sat in the Pullman coach that was carrying
them and the rest of the team back to New York.

"Yes, and we just saved our bacon by doing it," replied Joe. "Those
last four games gave us eight out of fifteen for the trip. Not so
awfully bad for a team on a trip, and yet not good enough to win the
championship. But even at that I guess McRae won't supplant us with a
team from the old ladies' home," he added, with a laugh.

"We've got a long series of games on the home grounds now," put in
Larry, the optimist. "We'll show these other fellows how the game ought
to be played. Just watch us climb."

"Here's hoping you're right," chimed in Burkett. "A slice of the World
Series money this year would look mighty good to me."

"That's looking pretty far ahead," said Curry. "Still, if Joe keeps up
the batting he's been showing us in Pittsburgh, I'll bet we cop the
flag."

"That may be just a flash in the pan," cautioned Joe. "I may have had
just a few good days when everything broke just right for me. I'm a
pitcher, not a batter."

"Not a batter, eh?" remarked Larry, in feigned surprise. "How surprised
Dawley and Hooper and the other Pittsburgh pitchers will be to hear
that. They seemed to think you could pickle the pill all right."

The players found the baseball circles of New York in a ferment of
interest and excitement over the team. There had been considerable
despondency over the poor showing of the Giants in the first three
series they had played on the trip. But the four rattling victories
they had gained over Pittsburgh had redeemed them in the minds of their
followers, and hopes for the pennant had revived.

But the one thing that obscured everything else was the tremendous
batting that Joe had done in that last series. The sporting columns of
the newspapers had headlines like: "The New Batting Star;" "A Rival
to Kid Rose;" "Is There to Be a New Home-Run King?" and "The Colossus
of Swat." Joe found his footsteps dogged by reporters eager to get
interviews telling how he did it. Moving picture operators begged the
privilege of taking him in all positions--as he gripped his bat--the
way he stood at the plate--as he drew back for his swing. Illustrated
weekly papers had full page pictures of him. Magazines offered him
large sums for articles signed with his name. He found himself in the
calcium light, holding the center of the stage, the focus of sporting
interest and attention.

Joe was, of course, pleased at the distinction he had won, and yet
at the same time he was somewhat uneasy and bewildered. He was not
especially irked at the attention he was attracting. That had already
become an old story as to his pitching. He was hardened to reporters,
to being pointed out in the streets, to having a table at which he
happened to be dining in a restaurant or hotel become the magnet for
all eyes while whispers went about as to who he was. That was one of
the penalties of fame, and he had become used to it.

But hitherto his reputation had been that of a great pitcher, and in
his own heart he knew he could sustain it. The pitching box was his
throne, and he knew he could make good. But he was somewhat nervous
about the acclamations which greeted his batting feats. He was not at
all sure that he could keep it up. He had never thought of himself as
any more than an ordinary batter. He knew that as a pitcher he was not
expected to do much batting, and so he had devoted most of his training
to perfecting himself in the pitching art. Now he found himself
suddenly placed on a pedestal as a Batting King. Suppose it were, as he
himself had suggested, merely a flash in the pan. It would be rather
humiliating after all this excitement to have the public find out that
their new batting idol was only an idol of clay after all.

He confided some of his apprehension to Jim, but his chum only laughed
at him.

"Don't worry a bit over that, old man," Jim reassured him. "I only wish
I were as sure of getting a million dollars as I am that you've got the
batting stuff in you. You've got the eye, you've got the shoulders,
you've got the knack of putting all your weight into your blow. You're
a natural born batter, and you've just waked up to it."

"But this is only the beginning of the season," argued Joe. "The
pitchers haven't yet got into their stride. By midsummer they'll be
burning them over, and then more than likely I'll come a cropper."

"Not a bit of it," Jim affirmed confidently. "You won't face better
pitching anywhere than we stacked up against in Pittsburgh, and you
made all those birds look like thirty cents. They had chills and fever
every time you came to the bat."

The matter was not long left in doubt. In the games that followed Joe
speedily proved that the Pittsburgh outburst was not a fluke. Home runs
rained from his bat in the games with the Brooklyns, the Bostons and
the Phillies. And when the Western teams came on for their invasion
of the East, they had to take the same medicine. All pitchers looked
alike to him. Of course he had his off days when all he could get was
a single, and sometimes not that. Once in a long while he went out on
strikes, and the pitcher who was lucky or skilful enough to perform
that feat hugged it to his breast as a triumph that would help him the
next season in demanding a rise in salary. But these occasions were few
and far between. The newspapers added a daily slab to their sporting
page devoted to Joe's mounting home run record, giving the dates, the
parks and the pitchers off whom they were made. And there was hardly
a pitcher in the league whose scalp Joe had not added to his rapidly
growing collection.

In the business offices of the city, in restaurants, at all kinds of
gathering places, the daily question changed. Formerly it had been:
"Will the Giants win to-day?" Now it became: "Will Baseball Joe knock
out another homer?"

And the fever showed itself in the attendance at the Polo Grounds. Day
by day the crowds grew denser. Soon they were having as many spectators
at a single game as they had formerly looked for at a double-header.
The money rolled into the ticket offices in a steady stream, and the
owners and manager of the club wore the "smile that won't come off."
The same effect was noted in all the cities of the circuit. The crowds
turned out not so much to see the Giants play as to see if Baseball
Joe would knock another home run. Joe Matson had become the greatest
drawing card of the circuit. If this kept up, it would mean the most
prosperous season the League had ever known. For the Giants' owners
alone, it meant an added half million dollars for the season. Already,
with not more than a third of the games played, they had taken in
enough to pay all expenses for the year, and were "on velvet" for the
rest of the season.

Nothing in all this turned Joe's head. He was still the same modest,
hardworking player he had always been. First and all the time he worked
for the success of his team. Already the Giants' owners had voluntarily
added ten thousand dollars to his salary, and he was at present the
most highly paid player in his League. He knew that next year even this
would be doubled, if he kept up his phenomenal work. But he was still
the same modest youth, and was still the same hail fellow well met, the
pal and idol of all his comrades.

What delighted Baseball Joe far more than any of his triumphs was the
information contained in a letter he wore close to his heart that Mabel
was coming on to New York with her brother Reggie for a brief stay
on her way to her home in Goldsboro. They had been in almost daily
correspondence, and their affection had deepened with every day that
passed. Jim also had been equally assiduous and equally happy, and both
players were counting the days that must elapse before the wedding
march would be played at the end of the season.

Luck was with Joe when, in company with Jim, he drove to the station
to meet Mabel and Reggie. The rain was falling in torrents. Ordinarily
that would have been depressing. But to-day it meant that there would
be no game and that he could count on having Mabel to himself with
nothing to distract his attention.

Jim was glad on his friend's account, but nevertheless was unusually
quiet for him.

"Come out of your trance, old boy," cried Joe, slapping him jovially on
the knee.

Jim affected to smile.

"Oh, I know what you're thinking about," charged Joe. "You're jealous
because I'm going to see Mabel and you're not going to see Clara. But
cheer up, old man. The next time we strike Chicago we'll both run down
to Riverside for a visit. Then you'll have the laugh on me, for you'll
have Clara all to yourself while Mabel will be in Goldsboro."

Jim tried to find what comfort he could from the prospect, but the
Chicago trip seemed a long way off.

They reached the station ahead of time and walked up and down
impatiently. The rain and wet tracks had detained the train a little,
but at length its giant bulk drew into the station. They scanned the
long line of Pullmans anxiously. Then Joe rushed forward with an
exclamation of delight as he saw Reggie descend holding out his hand to
assist Mabel--Mabel, radiant, starry-eyed, a vision of loveliness.

Jim had followed a little more slowly to give Joe time for the first
greeting. But his steps quickened and his eyes lighted up with rapture
as behind Mabel Joe's sister Clara came down the steps, sweet as a
rose, and with a look in her eyes as she caught sight of Jim that made
that young man's heart lose a beat.



CHAPTER XV

AN EVENING RIDE


There was a hubbub of delighted and incoherent exclamations as the
young people greeted each other with all their heart in their eyes. Of
course in the crowded station the greetings could not be just what the
boys--and the girls, too--desired, but those would come later. Reggie
too came in for warm handshakes.

"My word!" he exclaimed, as he smiled affably upon them all, "you folks
seem glad to see one another. I'll just slip over and look after the
luggage."

They spared him without any regret at all. Indeed, it is doubtful if
they even heard him. Joe was saying things to Mabel in an undertone,
and Jim was doing the same thing to Clara. What they said was their own
affair, but it seemed eminently satisfactory to all concerned.

When at last they had come somewhat to their senses, Joe poked Jim in
the ribs.

"Some surprise, old man!" he remarked mischievously.

"Surprise!" repeated Jim. "It's Paradise. It's heaven. Don't tell me
I'm going to wake up and find it all a dream. And you knew this all the
time, you old rascal, and didn't let me in on it."

"Just a little scheme that Mabel and I cooked up," laughed Joe happily.
"I thought Sis might like to come on and take a look at her only
brother."

"Brother," mimicked Mabel saucily. "Don't flatter yourself. You won't
be looked at much while Jim's around."

Clara flushed and laughed in protest. Joe, however, did not seem
disturbed at the prospect. As long as Mabel looked at him the way she
was looking now, he had nothing more to ask.

A taxicab whirled them up to the pretty suite that Joe had reserved for
the girls in a hotel. There were two rooms in the suite, and it was
surprising how quickly Joe and Mabel took possession of one of them,
while Jim and Clara found the other one much preferable. They had so
much to say to each other that required no audience. Reggie, who had
an adjoining room, took himself off on the plea of an engagement that
would keep him till luncheon time, and the happy young people had a
long delightful morning to themselves.

"Oh, I'm so proud of you, Joe," Mabel assured him, among many other
things. "You're making such a wonderful record. You don't know how I
read and treasure all the things the papers are saying about you. They
give you more space than they give the President of the United States."

"You mustn't make too much of it, honey," Joe replied. "I'm in luck
just now; but if I should have a slump the same people that cheer me
now when I make a homer would be jeering at me when I came to the bat.
There's nothing more fickle than the public. One day you're a king and
the next you're a dub."

"You'll always be a king," cried Mabel. "Always my king, anyway," she
added blushingly.

In the meantime Clara and Jim were saying things equally precious to
themselves and each other, but of no importance at all to the general
public. Jim was surprised and pleased at the intimate acquaintance she
had with all the phases of his rapid rise in his profession. She knew
quite as well as the rest of the world that Jim already stood in the
very front rank of pitchers, second only perhaps to Joe himself, and
she had no hesitation in telling him what she thought of him. Sometimes
it is not a pleasant thing for a man to know what a woman thinks of
him, but in Jim's case it was decidedly different, if his shining face
went for anything.

The young people took in a matinee in the afternoon and a musical show,
followed by dinner, in the evening, and all were agreed in declaring
it a perfect day.

Jim was slated to pitch the next day and with Clara watching from a
box he turned in a perfect game, winning by a score of 1 to 0, the run
being contributed by Joe, who turned loose a screaming homer in the
sixth. Naturally both young men felt elated.

It was a beautiful summer evening, and they had arranged for an
automobile ride out on Long Island. Joe had hired a speedy car,
but dispensed with the services of a chauffeur. He himself was an
accomplished driver and knew all the roads. A chauffeur would have been
only a restraint on their freedom of conversation.

They bowled along over the perfect roads, happy beyond words and at
peace with all the world. Mabel was seated in front with Joe, while Jim
and Clara occupied the tonneau. All were in the gayest of spirits. Much
of the time they talked, but speech and silences were equally sweet.

They had dinner at an excellent inn, about forty miles out of the city.
There was a good string band and the young couples had several dances.
The evening wore away before they knew it, and it was rather late when
they turned their faces cityward.

The car was purring along merrily on a rather lonely stretch of road in
the vicinity of Merrick, when a big car came swiftly up behind them.
The driver tooted his horn and Joe drew a little to one side to give
the car plenty of room to pass. The car rushed by and lengthened the
distance until it was about a hundred yards ahead.

"Seems to be in a hurry," remarked Jim.

"A bunch of joy riders, I suppose," answered Joe. "Hello, what does
that mean?"

For the car had suddenly stopped and the driver had swung it across the
road, blocking it.

"Something gone wrong with the steering gear," commented Joe. "Looks
like a breakdown. Perhaps we can help them."

He slowed up as he drew near the car. The next instant four men jumped
out of the car and ran toward them. They had their caps drawn down over
their eyes, and each of them carried a leveled revolver.

"Hands up!" commanded their leader, as he covered Joe with his weapon.



CHAPTER XVI

THE ATTACK ON THE ROAD


In an instant Baseball Joe brought the car to a stop.

But in that instant his brain worked like lightning.

Neither he nor Jim was armed. He must temporize. Resistance at the
moment might be fatal. Shooting would result probably in the death of
one or more of the party.

Before he had taken his hand from the wheel, he had formed a plan.

The women had screamed and Jim had jumped to his feet.

"Sit down, Jim," said Joe. "Don't you see they have the drop on us. I
suppose it's money you want?" he went on coolly, addressing the leader
of the gang.

"No," was the unexpected answer. "We're not after money this time. We
want a man named Matson."

"I didn't know I was so popular," replied Joe jokingly, though the
mention of his name in so ominous a way had sent a start through him.
"My name is Matson, Joe Matson. What do you want of me?"

"Are you giving it to us straight?" asked the leader. "Are you Matson?
How many men are there with you anyway?" he went on, peering into the
tonneau.

"There are two of us," replied Joe.

"Then get down in the road, both of you," commanded the bandit. "I want
to have a look at both of you so that there won't be any mistake. My
orders are for the man named Matson. No monkey work now!"

Joe and Jim, inwardly boiling but outwardly cool, got down into the
road. As they climbed down, Joe's hand nudged Jim ever so slightly. Jim
knew what that meant. It meant to make no move until Joe gave the sign.

"Up with your hands!" ordered the leader curtly. "Bill, frisk them and
see if they have guns."

The bandit called Bill ran his hands along their bodies and reported
that they were entirely unarmed.

"Now strike a match and let's have a look at their faces," was the next
order.

Bill obeyed, and as the light flared up, not only the leader but the
rest of the band looked over the young men keenly.

"You're Matson, all right," said the leader to Joe, and the rest
acquiesced. "I've seen your picture in the papers many a time, and I've
seen you at the Polo Grounds too. All right. You get back in the car,"
he said to Jim, poking him in the side with his pistol, "and drive off."

"What do you want with me?" asked Joe steadily.

"Oh, we're not going to kill you," replied the leader, with an evil
grin. "But," he muttered under his breath so low that only Joe could
hear him, "by the time we're through with you, that pitching arm of
yours will be out of business. Them's our orders."

"Who gave you those orders?" asked Joe.

"Never you mind who gave them," snarled the bandit. "I've got them, and
I'm going----"

He never finished the sentence.

Like lightning Joe's foot shot up and kicked the weapon from the
leader's hand. The next instant his fist caught another of the
scoundrels a terrific crack on the jaw. The man went down as though
he had been hit with an axe. At the same moment Jim's hard right fist
smashed into another straight between the eyes. There was the snap of
a breaking bone and the man toppled over. The fourth rascal, who had
been paralyzed with astonishment, forgot to shoot and started to run,
but Jim was on him like a tiger and bore him to the ground, his hands
tightening on his throat until the rascal lay limp and motionless.

In the meantime, the leader, nursing his hurt wrist, had hobbled to the
car, whose engine all this time had remained running. Joe made a dash
for the car, but the chauffeur put on all speed and darted away into
the darkness.

The first task of Joe and Jim was to gather up the weapons of the
assailants. The three still lay dazed or unconscious. Under other
circumstances, the boys would have waited until the trio had regained
their senses. But their first duty now was to the girls, who were half
hysterical with fright. Joe took Mabel in his arms, after assuring her
again and again in answer to her frantic questions that he was unhurt,
and Jim comforted Clara until she had recovered her composure.

They laid the bandits at the side of the road, so that they could not
be run over, and then Joe took the wheel and drove on. To the first
policeman they saw, Joe reported that he had seen some men who seemed
to be hurt, alongside the road, and suggested that they be looked
after. But he said nothing about the attempted holdup. Then he sped on,
and soon they were in the precincts of the city.

The girls in their alarm had failed to gather the true significance
of the affair. To them it was like a confused dream. Their general
impression was that a holdup had been attempted for the purposes of
robbery. Still Mabel did remember that they had asked specifically for
Matson.

"Why was it that they asked for you especially, Joe?" she asked,
snuggling closely to the arm that had so stoutly done its work that
night. "Why was it?"

"How do I know, honey?" answered Joe. "Perhaps," he said jokingly,
"they had heard of my increase in salary and thought I was rolling in
money. Sometimes you know they kidnap a man, make him sign a check and
then hold him prisoner until they cash it. No knowing what such rascals
may do."

"Whatever it was, they've lost all interest in the matter now," said
Jim, with a laugh, as he thought of the discomfited bandits by the
roadside and the fleeing leader in the automobile.

Both Joe and Jim made light of it to the girls and laughed away their
fears until they had seen them safely to their hotel. But later on two
very sober and wrathful young men sat in their own room discussing the
holdup.

Joe had told Jim what the bandit leader had said about putting his
pitching arm out of business, and his friend was white with anger.

"The scoundrels!" he ejaculated. "That meant that they would have
twisted your arm until they had snapped the tendons or pulled it from
its socket and crippled you for life. If I'd known that when I had my
hands on that rascal's throat, I'd have choked the life out of him."

"You did enough," returned Joe. "As it is they got a pretty good dose.
I know I cracked the leader's wrist, and I heard a bone snap when you
smashed that other fellow. Gee, Jim, you hit like a pile driver."

"No harder than you did," replied Jim. "That fellow you clipped in the
jaw was dead to the world before he hit the ground."

"After all, those fellows were merely tools," mused Joe thoughtfully.
"Did you hear the leader say that he had his orders? Who gave him
those orders? If only the girls hadn't been there, I'd have trussed
the rascals up, waited until they had got their senses back, and then
put them through the third degree until I'd found out the name of
their employer. But I wouldn't for the world have the girls know what
those scoundrels were up to. They'd never have a happy moment. They'd
worry themselves to death. We've got to keep this thing absolutely to
ourselves."

"All the same, I can guess who the fellow was that employed them," said
Jim.

"I think I can come pretty near it, too," affirmed Joe. "In the first
place, it was a man who had money. Those fellows wouldn't have taken
the job unless they had been well paid. Then, too, it was somebody
who hated me like poison. There are two men who fulfil both of those
conditions, and their names are----"

"Fleming and Braxton," Jim finished for him.

"Exactly," agreed Joe. "And knowing what I do of the two, I have a
hunch that it was Braxton."



CHAPTER XVII

FALLING BEHIND


"Braxton's the more likely one of the two to use violence--or have it
used," said Jim. "Not but what either one of them would be mean enough
to do it. But Braxton has got more nerve than Fleming. Then, too, I
happen to know that Fleming has run pretty well through his money,
while Braxton is a millionaire. He was pretty hard hit by the failure
of the All-Star League to go through last year, but he's got plenty
left. He could give those rascals a thousand, or five thousand if
necessary, and never feel it."

"Speaking of money," said Joe, "reminds me of something else that may
be connected with this case. Do you remember what Reggie told us when
he was in Riverside about that fellow in Chicago that was betting great
wads of money that the Giants wouldn't cop the flag? Betting it, Reggie
said, as though he had something up his sleeve, as though he were
betting on a sure thing. Now what could be a surer thing in a race as
close as this than to cripple the Giant team by robbing it of one of
its pitchers? He'd be getting a double satisfaction then--making a pile
of money to make up for his losses last season and getting even with me
for the thrashing I gave him. That is, of course, if the man is really
Braxton."

"By Jove, I believe you're right!" exclaimed Jim. "Of course that
might seem a little far-fetched, if it weren't for the other things
that point to the same man. But when you remember that Braxton hails
from Chicago, that the anonymous letter had a Chicago postmark, when
you recall that somebody tried to injure us in that road blockade the
day after I thought I saw Braxton in the training town, and that he
was the only one besides ourselves who knew the road we were going
to take--when you take all these things together, it seems a dead
open-and-shut proposition that Braxton was the man that plotted all
this scoundrelism."

"Some day soon I hope we'll know the truth," said Joe. "And when that
day comes----"

He did not finish the sentence, but his clenched fist and flashing eyes
were eloquent.

The next morning the chums went around early, to learn how the girls
were feeling after their trying experience. They found them still a
little nervous and overwrought, but the society of the boys and the
knowledge that they had come through without injury soon brightened
them up, and before long they were their natural selves again. The way
the boys had carried themselves in the fight with their assailants made
them more than ever heroes in the eyes of those they loved best, and if
it had not been for the deeper knowledge they had of the affair, Joe
and Jim would have been rather glad it happened.

Reggie, of course, had been told of the holdup and was almost
stuttering in his wrath and indignation. But he, like the girls,
figured that it had been an attack simply for the purpose of robbery,
and the boys were not sure enough of Reggie's discretion to tell him
the real facts. They feared that some slip of the tongue on his part
might reveal the matter, and they knew that a constant fear would from
then on shadow the lives of Mabel and Clara.

In about ten days the next Western trip of the Giants was to begin, and
then Clara would return home, while Mabel would go on with Reggie to
Goldsboro. But those precious ten days were enjoyed to the full by the
young folks. Every hour that the boys could spare from the games was
spent in the society of the girls, and every day that a game was played
Mabel and Clara occupied a box in the grandstand at the Polo Grounds.
The knowledge of the bright eyes that were following their every move
put the boys on their mettle, and they played up to the top of their
form. Jim's progress as a boxman was evident with each succeeding game,
and Joe covered himself with laurels as both pitcher and batsman. But
more than once, after Joe had let down an opposing team with but a
few hits, he had an involuntary shudder as he looked at the mighty
arm that had scored the victory and thought of it as hanging withered
and helpless at his side. And only by the narrowest of margins had he
escaped that fate.

The hour of parting came at last, and it was a great wrench to all of
them. There were promises on both sides of daily letters, that would
serve to bridge the gulf of separation.

The fight for the pennant was waxing hotter and hotter. The Giants and
the Pittsburghs were running neck and neck. First one and then the
other was at the head in victories won. At times one would forge ahead
for a week or two, but the other refused obstinately to be shaken off
and would again assume the leadership. Everything promised a ding-dong,
hammer-and-tongs finish.

Some of the other teams were still in striking distance, but the first
two were really the "class" of the League. The great pitching staff of
the Brooklyns had gone to pieces, and it looked as though they were
definitely out of the running. The Bostons, after a poor start, had
braced and were rapidly improving their average, but they seemed too
far behind to be really dangerous. The unfortunate Phillies were in
for the "cellar championship" and did not have a ghost of a chance.
Of the Western teams, outside of Pittsburgh, no fear was felt, though
the consistent slugging of the Cardinals gave the leaders some uneasy
moments. Still, batting alone could not win games, and the Cardinals'
pitching staff, though it had some brilliant performers, was surpassed
in ability by several teams in the League.

In the American League also a spirited contest was going on. The White
Sox, who had usually been a dangerous factor, were out of the running
because they had had to build up practically a new team. But the
Clevelands were as strong as they had been the year before, and were
making a great bid for the flag. Detroit had started out brilliantly,
and with its hard hitting outfield was winning many a game by sheer
slugging. Washington loomed up as a dangerous contender, and only a
little while before had won fifteen straight games.

But the chief antagonist of the Clevelands was the New York Yankee
team. For many years they had struggled to win the championship, but
though they had come so close at one time that a single wild pitch beat
them out of it, they had never been able to gain the coveted emblem.

"It seems at times as though a 'jinx' were pursuing the Yankees,"
remarked Jim. "But this year they have got together a rattling good
crowd in all departments of the game. Most of all that counts in their
hopes, I imagine, is the acquisition of Kid Rose."

Kid Rose was a phenomenal batter of whom every baseball fan in the
United States was talking. He had been a pitcher on the Red Sox and
had done fine work in the box. It was only after he had been playing
some time in that position that he himself, as well as others, began
to realize the tremendous strength that resided in his batting arm and
shoulders. He was a left handed batter, so that most of his hits went
into right field, or rather into the right field bleachers, where they
counted as home runs. In one season he accumulated twenty-nine home
runs, which was a record for the major leagues.

The Yankee owners made a deal with the Red Sox by which the "Kid" was
brought to the New York club at a price larger than had ever been paid
for a player. It was a good investment, however, for the newcomer was
excelling his home run record of the year before and drew so many
people to the parks where he played that a constant golden stream
flowed into the strong boxes of the club. He made as many home runs as
all the other players of his team together. Now, owing to his work,
the Yankees were fighting it out with the Clevelands for the lead, and
the papers were already beginning to talk of the possibility of both
championships coming to New York. If this should be the case, the World
Series games would probably draw the greatest crowds that had ever
witnessed such a contest, and the prize money for the players would
undoubtedly be larger than ever before in the history of the game.

Joe and his comrades needed no such spur as this to make them play
their best. A strong loyalty to the club marked every player of the
team. Still it was not at all an unpleasing thought that the result of
winning would add a good many thousand dollars to the salary of every
member.

The Giants started out in high hopes on this second Western invasion.

"Sixteen games to be played on this trip, boys," McRae had said to
them, as they boarded the train at the Pennsylvania Station. "And out
of that sixteen I want at least twelve. Nix on the breaking even stuff.
That won't go with me at all. I want to get so far ahead on this trip
that we'll be on easy street for the rest of the race."

"Why not cop the whole sixteen, Mac?" asked Larry, with a broad grin.

"So much the better," answered McRae. "But I'm no hog. Give me an
average of three out of four in each series and I'll ask for nothing
better."

The team started out as though they were going to give their manager
what he wanted. Their first stop this time was Pittsburgh, and here
they won the first two games right off the reel. The third, however,
was lost by a close margin. In the fourth the Giants' bats got going
and they sent three Pirate pitchers to the showers, winning by the
one-sided score of eleven to two. So that it was in high spirits that
they left the Smoky City for Cincinnati.

Here they met with a rude shock. The Reds were in the midst of one
of their winning streaks and were on a hitting rampage. They had the
"breaks," too, and cleaned up by taking every game. It was a complete
reversal, and the Giants were stunned.



CHAPTER XVIII

IN THE THROES OF A SLUMP


Robson's round face had lost its usual smile. McRae's was like a
thundercloud, and the players evaded him as much as they could. Even
Larry was "Laughing Larry" no longer. It was a disgruntled crowd of
baseball players that shook the dust of Cincinnati from their feet and
started for Chicago.

"Better luck next time," Joe comforted his mates. "After all it's the
uncertainty of the game that makes baseball. How many people would have
been at the park if they thought their pets didn't have a chance to
win?"

"That's all very well," grumbled Curry, "but we ought at least to have
had our share of the breaks. We hit the ball hard enough, but every
time it went straight to the fielders. They didn't hit any better, but
the ball went just out of the reach of our fellows. Talk about fool
luck! If those Cincinnati players fell in the water they'd come up with
a fish dinner."

"That's just the reason we're due for a change," argued Jim. "We'll get
it all back from the Cubs."

But here again there was disappointment. Joe pitched the first game and
won in a close fight, although the Cubs tied it up in the ninth and Joe
had to win his own game in the eleventh by a homer. But the next two
went to Chicago, and in the fourth game, which Jim pitched, the best
he could do was to make it a tie, called in the twelfth on account of
darkness.

This time it was not luck that gave to the Giants only one game out of
three. They had as many of the breaks of the game as their opponents.
They simply slumped. One of those mysterious things that come to almost
every team once at least in a season had them in its clutches. Perhaps
it was overanxiety, perhaps it was a superstitious feeling that a
"jinx" was after them, but, whatever it was, it spread through the
team like an epidemic. Their fingers were "all thumbs." Their bats had
"holes" in them. The most reliable fielders slipped up on easy chances.
They booted the ball, or if they got it they threw either too high or
too low to first. Double plays became less frequent. Two of the best
batters in the team, Larry and Burkett, fell off woefully in their
hitting.

In vain McRae raged and stormed. In vain Robbie begged and pleaded
and cajoled. In vain Jim and Joe, who still resisted the infection,
sought to stem the tide of disaster. The members of the team with a few
exceptions continued to act as if they were in a trance.

McRae did everything in his power to bring about a change. He laid off
Willis and Iredell, and put two promising rookies, Barry and Ward, in
their places. This added a little speed on the bases to the team, but
did not materially add to the batting or fielding, for the rookies were
nervous and made many misplays, while they were lamentably short on the
"inside stuff" that takes long experience to acquire. He shook up the
batting order. But the hits were still few and far between.

St. Louis gave the Giants a sound trouncing in the first game, but in
the second the Giants came to life and reversed the score.

Joe was in the box in this contest, and as he came in to the bench in
the fourth inning, he noted, sitting in the grandstand, a figure that
seemed familiar to him. The man seemed to have seen Baseball Joe at the
same time, but he hid himself behind the form of a big man sitting in
front of him, so that Joe could not be sure of his identification.

"What were you looking at so steadily, Joe?" inquired Jim, as his
friend sat down on the bench beside him. "Did you by any chance catch
sight of the jinx that's been following us?" he continued jokingly.

"Maybe I did, at that," replied Joe. "I could have sworn that I got a
glimpse of Bugs Hartley in the grandstand."

"Bugs Hartley?" echoed Jim in surprise. "How could that old rascal have
got as far as St. Louis?"

"Beat his way, perhaps," answered Joe. "Of course I'm not dead sure but
that I might have been mistaken. And I won't have much time to look for
him while I'm in the box. But suppose in the meantime you go down to
the coaching line near first. While you're pretending to coach, you can
take an occasional look at the grandstand and see if you can pick out
Bugs. He's somewhere about the third row near the center. Just where
the wire netting is broken."

Jim did as suggested, and studied the grandstand with care. He had only
a chance to make an affirmative nod of the head as Joe, the inning
ended, went out again to the box, but when he returned after pitching
the side out on strikes, Jim told Joe that he was right.

"It's Bugs all right," he said. "I had a good chance to see that ugly
mug of his, and there can't be any mistake. But what in thunder can he
be doing in St. Louis?"

"Oh, panhandling and drinking himself to death, I suppose," answered
Joe carelessly, his mind intent upon the game.

"But how did he get here?" persisted Jim. "I don't like it, old man. It
takes money to travel, and I don't think Bugs could hustle up railroad
fare to save his life. And if somebody gave him the money to get here,
why was it done? I tell you again, Joe, I don't like it."

"Well, perhaps it's just as well we caught sight of him," admitted Joe.
"It will help us to keep our eyes open."

In the seventh inning for the Giants, with the score tied at 3 to 3,
Larry started a rally for the Giants by lining out a screaming single
to right. Denton followed with a hit to short that was too hot for
the shortstop to handle. He knocked the ball down, however, and got
it to first. Denton had thought the play would be made on Larry, who
was already on his way to third. Denton, therefore, had rounded first
and started for second, but saw the ball coming and scrambled back to
first. There was a grand mixup, but the umpire declared Denton safe.

It was a close play, and the St. Louis team was up in arms in a moment.
Some of them, including their manager, rushed to the spot to argue with
the umpire. The crowd also was enraged at the decision and began to
hoot and howl. One or two pop bottles were thrown at the umpire, but
fell short.

Joe, who was next at bat, had taken his stand at the plate, awaiting
the outcome of the argument. Suddenly a bottle, aimed with great skill
and tremendous force, came through the broken wire netting, whizzed
close by his head, the top of it grazing his ear in passing. If it had
hit his head, it would have injured him greatly beyond a doubt.

Joe turned toward the stand and saw a man hastily making his way out
toward the entrance. He could only see his back, but he knew at once to
whom that back belonged.

"Stop him! Stop him!" he shouted, as he threw aside his bat and rushed
toward the stand.

But Jim had already vaulted over the barrier and was rushing through
the aisle.



CHAPTER XIX

A CLOSE CALL


The people in the grandstand had not fully grasped the significance of
the cowardly attack, as the attention of most of them was centered upon
the dispute at first base. But the shout of Baseball Joe and the rush
of Jim through the aisle of the stand had brought them to their feet,
and some of them started in pursuit or tried to stop the flying figure
of the fugitive.

But this very desire of so many to apprehend him helped in his escape.
Men crowded in the aisle, and Jim, who could otherwise have captured
him, found himself in the midst of a throng that effectually hindered
his progress. He pushed his way through desperately, using his arms and
hands to clear a passage, but by the time he arrived at the outer edge,
the man had disappeared. Either he had mixed with the enormous crowd
or had found his way through one of the numerous exits. In any event,
he was not to be seen, and at last Jim, flaming-eyed and dripping with
sweat from his exertions, had to come back empty-handed.

In the meantime, the umpire had asserted his authority at first base,
and given the St. Louis players one minute by his watch to resume play.
With much muttering and grumbling they obeyed. The decision stood, and
Larry was on third, while Denton danced around on first and "kidded"
the Cardinal first baseman on the umpire's decision.

Joe again took up his position at the plate, the fairer-minded among
the spectators giving him a cheer as he did so, to express their
indignation at the dastardly attack that had been made on him. He was
somewhat shaken by the close call he had had, and the first two balls
were strikes. Then he took a grip on himself, and when the next one
came over he smashed a beauty to right. It went for two bases, while
Larry scored easily, and Denton by great running and a headlong slide
also reached the plate. The next man up sacrificed Joe to third,
but there he remained, as the next two batters, despite McRae's
adjurations, were not able to bring him in.

The Giants, however, had now broken the tie and had a two-run lead, and
although that ended their scoring, it was sufficient, as Joe put on
extra steam and mowed down the Cardinals almost as fast as they came to
the bat. One hit was made off him for the remainder of the game, but as
the batter got no farther than first there was no damage done.

Joe and Jim did not care to discuss the matter before their mates, and
the attack was put down to some rowdy who was sore at the umpire's
decision and took that method of showing it. But the two friends knew
that it was much more than that.

"Well, what do you think now of my hunch?" demanded Jim, when the chums
were alone together. "Was I right when I said I was uneasy about that
fellow being in the grandstand?"

"You certainly were, Jim," answered Joe. "It must have been Bugs
who threw that bottle. I know at any rate that it was he whom I saw
hustling out of the stands. And when I looked at where he had been
sitting the seat was empty."

"It was Bugs all right," affirmed Jim with decision. "I saw his face
once, when he glanced behind him while he was running. Then, too, only
a pitcher could have hurled the bottle with the swiftness and precision
that he did. It went nearly as far as the pitcher's box before it
struck the ground. Gee! my heart was in my mouth for a second when I
saw it go whizzing past your ear. If it had hit you fair and square, it
would have been good night."

"It did barely touch me," replied Joe, pointing to a scratch on his
ear. "The old rascal hasn't forgotten how to throw. How that fellow
must hate me! And yet I was the best friend that he had on the team."

"He hates you all right," replied Jim. "But it wasn't only his own
personal feeling that prompted him to do that thing to-day. That isn't
Bugs' way. He'd dope your coffee on the sly. Or he'd throw a stone at
your head in a dark street, as he did that time when we'd started on
our tour around the world. But to do a thing in the open, as he did
to-day, means that he had a mighty big incentive to lay you out. That
incentive was probably money. Somebody has put up the cash to send him
to St. Louis, and that same somebody has probably promised him a big
wad of dough if he could do you up. The chance came to-day, when the
fans began to throw bottles at the umpire. He figured that that was the
time to get in his work. If he'd been caught, he could have said that
he was only one of a good many who did the same thing, and that he had
no idea the bottle was going to hit anybody."

"Then you think that Bugs this time was acting as the tool of Braxton,
or whoever it is that's trying to put me out of business," remarked Joe.

"Think so!" cried Jim. "I'm sure of it. So many things, all pointing to
deliberate purpose, don't happen by accident. The same fellow who hired
those auto bandits to cripple you hired Bugs for the same purpose. Lots
of people have heard of the hatred that Bugs has for you. I suppose
he's panning you all the time in the joints where he hangs out. This
fellow that's after your hide has heard of Bugs and put him on the
job. If he can't get you in one way, he's going to try to get you in
another. He figures that some time or other one of his schemes will go
through. Gee!" he exclaimed, jumping up and pacing the floor, "what
would I give just to come face to face with him and have him in a room
alone with me for five minutes. Just five minutes! I'd change his face
so that his own brother wouldn't know him."

"I hope that job's reserved for me," replied Joe, as his fist clenched.
"He'd get a receipt in full for all I owe him."

"In the meantime, what shall we do about Bugs?" asked Jim anxiously.
"He ought to be put in jail. It isn't right that a man who's tried to
cripple another should be at large."

"No," agreed Joe, "it isn't. But I don't see just what we can do about
it. The chances are ten to one against his being found. Even if he
were, nobody could be found probably who saw him actually throw the
bottle. We didn't ourselves, though we feel absolutely certain that he
did. He could explain his leaving by saying that he was taken ill and
had to leave. Then, too, if he were arrested, we'd have to stay here
and prosecute him, and we can't stay away from the team. Besides the
whole thing would get in the papers, and Mabel and Clara and all the
folks would have heart failure about it. No, I guess we'll have to keep
quiet about it."

"I suppose we will," admitted Jim reluctantly. "But some day this
scoundrel who's hounding you will be caught in the open. And I'm still
hoping for that five minutes!"



CHAPTER XX

SPEEDING UP


St. Louis was in good form on the following day, and a perfect deluge
of hits came from their bats. The Giants, too, had a good hitting day,
and the fans who like to see free batting had their desire satisfied to
the full. And their pleasure was all the greater because the home team
had the best of the duel, and came out on top by a score of 17 to 12.

Jim was in the box on the next day, and by superb pitching had the St.
Louis sluggers hitting like a kindergarten team. They simply could not
solve him. His team mates had scarcely anything to do, and only by the
narrowest of margins did he miss turning the Cardinals back without a
hit. One hit narrowly escaped the fingers of the second baseman, as
he leaped in the air for it. But it did escape him, and counted for
the only hit made by the St. Louis in the game. It was a magnificent
exhibition and wound up a disastrous trip in a blaze of glory.

Still it could not be denied that the trip had put a big dent in the
Giants' aspirations for the pennant. Instead of the twelve games out
of sixteen that McRae had asked for, they had only turned in six
victories. It was the most miserable record that the Giants had made
for years.

"And we call ourselves a good road team!" snorted Curry in disgust, as
they settled down in the Pullman for the long ride back from St. Louis
to New York. "A bunch of school girls could have done better work."

"Luck was against us," ventured Larry. "It sure was against us."

"Luck, nothing!" exclaimed Curry. "We simply fell down, and fell down
hard. The whole League is laughing at us. Look at the way the other
Eastern teams held up their end. The Brooklyns copped ten games, the
Bostons got eleven, and the Phillies pulled down seven. We ought to
sneak back into New York on a freight train instead of riding in
Pullmans."

"I guess there won't be any band at the station to meet us," remarked
Joe. "But after all, any team is liable to have a slump and play like
a lot of dubs. Let's hope we've got all the bad playing out of our
systems. From now on we're going to climb."

"That's the way to talk," chimed in Jim. "Of course we can't deny that
we've stubbed our toes on this trip. But we know in our heart that
we've got the best team in the League. We've got the Indian sign on all
of them. The fans that are roasting us now will be shouting their heads
off when we get started on our winning streak. Remember, boys, it's a
long worm that has no turning."

There was a general laugh at this, and the spirits of the party
lightened a little. But not all of the gloom was lifted.

The prediction that their reception in New York would be rather frosty
was true. Such high hopes had been built on the result of this trip
that the reaction was correspondingly depressing. And what made the
Giants feel the change of attitude the more keenly was the fact that
while they had been doing so poorly, the Yankees at home had been going
"like a house afire." They had taken the lead definitely away from the
Clevelands, and it did not seem as though there was any team in their
League that could stop them. New York was quite sure that it was going
to have one championship team. But it was quite as certain that it was
not going to have two. That hope had gone glimmering.

Both teams were occupying the Polo Grounds for the season, while the
new park of the Yankees was being completed. The schedule therefore had
been arranged so that while one of the teams was playing at home the
other was playing somewhere out of town.

Thus on the very day the Giants reached home the Yankees were starting
out on their trip to other cities. They went away in the glory of
victory. The Giants came home in the gloom of defeat.

The change of sentiment was visible in the first home game that the
Giants played. On the preceding day, at their last game, the Yankees
had played before a crowd of twenty-five thousand. The first game of
the Giants drew scarcely more than three thousand. Many of these were
the holders of free season passes, others, like the reporters, had to
be there, while the rest were made up of the chronic fans who followed
the Giants through thick and thin. There was no enthusiasm, and even
the fact that the Giants won did not dispel the funereal atmosphere.

And then the Giants began to climb!

At first the process did not attract much attention. The public was so
thoroughly disheartened by the downfall of their favorites in the West,
that they took it for granted that they were out of the running for the
pennant. Of course it was assumed that they would finish in the first
division--it was very seldom that a New York team could not be depended
on to do that--and that by some kind of miracle it might be possible
to finish second. But there was very little consolation in that.
New York wanted a winner or nothing. If the Giants could not fly the
championship flag at the Polo Grounds, nobody cared very much whether
they came in second or eighth or anywhere between.

The first team to visit the Polo Grounds was the Bostons. They had
greatly improved their game since the beginning of the season, and
were even thought to have a look-in for the flag. They chuckled to
themselves at the thought that they would catch the Giants in the slump
that had begun out West and press them still deeper in the direction of
the cellar. At first they thought they might even make a clean sweep.
They lost the first game, but only by reason of a muff of an easy fly
that let in two unearned runs in the sixth. That of course disposed of
the clean sweep idea, but still, three out of four would do. But when
they lost the second game also, their jubilation began to subside. Now
the best they could hope for was an even break. But again they lost,
and the climax was put to their discomfiture when the Giants simply
walked away with the fourth game by a score of 10 to 0.

But even with this series of four in a row captured by the Giants, the
public refused to enthuse. It might have been only a flash in the pan.
It is true that the sporting writers were beginning to sit up and take
notice. Most of their time hitherto had been spent in advising McRae
through the columns of their paper how he might strengthen his team
for next year. The present season of course was past praying for. Yet
there was a distinct chirking up on the part of the scribes, although
they carefully refrained from making any favorable predictions that
afterward they might be sorry for. They would wait awhile and see.
Besides, the Brooklyns were coming next, and they had usually found it
easy to defeat the Giants. If the Giants could hold the men from over
the big bridge to an even break, it might mean a great deal.

The Brooklyns came, saw and--were conquered. Four times in succession
they went down before superb pitching and heavy batting. Four times
they called on their heavy sluggers and their best boxmen, but the
Giants rode over them roughshod. The sporting writers sat up and rubbed
their eyes. Was this the same team that had come home forlorn and
bedraggled after their last trip? Had the Giants really come to life?
Was the pennant still a possibility?

By this time the public had begun to wake up. The stands at the Polo
Grounds no longer looked like a desert. The crowds began to pack the
subway cars on their way up to the grounds. Everywhere the question was
beginning to be asked: "What do you think of the Giants? Have they
still got a chance?"

It was the Phillies' turn next, and they had also to bend the knee. The
Giants took them into camp as easily as they had the Braves and the
Dodgers. And to rub it in, two of the games were shutouts.

Twelve games in a row, and the Giants tearing through the other teams
like so many runaway horses!



CHAPTER XXI

THE WINNING STREAK


The Giants were in for a winning streak, and New York City promptly
went baseball mad!

Now there was no question of filling the grounds. It was rather a
question of getting there early enough to secure seats.

The Polo Grounds could accommodate thirty-five thousand, and again and
again that number was reached and exceeded. The great amphitheatre was
a sea of eager faces. Fans stood in hundreds in the rear of the upper
grandstands. The lower stand too was filled to overflowing, and the
bleachers were packed. It was astonishing how many business men closed
their rolltop desks with a bang on those summer afternoons. Young and
old alike were wild to be at the games and see the Giants add one more
to their rapidly mounting list of victories.

Thirteen--fourteen--fifteen--sixteen! Were the Giants ever going to be
stopped? If so, who was going to stop them? The Western teams were
coming now and the St. Louis team had left their scalps in the Giant's
wigwam. Chicago was next in line. Could they stop the Giants in their
mad rush for the flag?

They could not, although they tried desperately, and Brennan, their
resourceful manager, used all the cunning and guile that his long
experience had taught him. The Giants tamed the Cubs with a thoroughness
that left nothing to be desired from a New York point of view. And now
the string of victories had mounted to twenty.

Old records were got out and furbished up. It was found that once
before, when Markwith and Hughson were in their prime, the New Yorks
had won twenty-six games in a row. Could they repeat? Could they beat
their own record that had been hung up so long for other teams to aim
at? That was the question that absorbed public interest, not only in
New York, but in baseball circles all over the country.

The reason for this phenomenal spurt of the Giants, it was recognized,
could be found in two chief factors. One was the wonderful work being
done by Joe both as a pitcher and a batter. The other was the marvelous
advance that had been made by Jim as a twirler.

Joe had never had such complete mastery of the ball as he was showing
this season. Even the pitching he had done the previous year, in the
World Series between the Giants and the Sox, paled in comparison with
what he was doing now. His control was something almost magical. It was
such a rarity for him to give a base on balls that when it happened it
was specially noted by the sporting writers. He worked the corners of
the plate to perfection. He mixed up his fast ones with slow teasers
that made the opposing batsmen look ridiculous as they broke their
backs reaching for them. His slants and twists and hops and curves had
never been so baffling. It was fast getting to the point where the
other teams were half beaten as soon as they saw Joe pick up his glove
and go into the box.

But it was not even his pitching, great as it was, that held the
worshiping attention of the crowds. It was the home run record that he
was piling up in such an amazing fashion that already he was rated by
many the equal of the wonderful Kid Rose. That wonderful eye of his
had learned to time the ball so accurately as it came up to the plate
that the bat met it at precisely the hundredth part of a second when
it did the most good. Then all his mighty arm and shoulder leaned on
the ball and gave it wings. Almost every other game now saw a home run
chalked up to his credit. In three games of the winning streak he had
made two home runs in a single game. It was common talk that he was
out to tie the record of Ed Delehanty, the one-time mighty slugger
of the Phillies, who in the years of long ago had hung up a record of
four homers in a game. He had not done it yet, but there was still time
before the season closed.

More still would have gone to his credit had not the opposing pitchers
become so afraid of him that they would not let him hit the ball. Again
and again when he came to the bat, the catcher would stand away off to
the side and the pitcher would deliberately send over four balls, so
wide that Joe could not possibly reach them without stepping out of the
box. This was a mighty disappointment to the crowds, half of whom had
come with no other object in view than to see Joe smash out a homer.
They would jeer and taunt the pitcher for his cowardice in fearing
to match his slants against Joe's bat, but the practice continued
nevertheless.

Even this, however, was not a total loss to the Giants. It put Joe on
first anyway, and counted at least for as much as a single would have
done. And Joe was so fleet of foot on the bases that McRae once said
jokingly that he would have to have detectives on the field to keep him
from stealing so many bags. Many a base on balls thus given to Joe out
of fear for his mighty bat was eventually turned into a run that helped
to win the game.

One morning when Joe, with the rest of the Giant team, was going out
on the field for practice, his eye caught sight of a long white streak
of kalsomine that ran up the right field wall to the top, behind the
bleachers.

"What's the idea?" he asked, turning to Robbie, who was close beside
him.

"Don't you really know, you old fence-breaker?" asked Robbie, a smile
breaking over his jovial face.

"Blest if I do," answered Joe.

"Well, I'll tell you," answered Robbie. "The fact is that you've
got into such a habit of knocking the ball into the right field
stands--mighty good habit, too, if you ask me--that the umpires have
asked us to paint this line so that they can see whether the hit is
fair or foul. The ordinary hit they can tell easy enough. But yours are
so far out that they have to have especial help in judging them. It's
the first time it's had to be done for any hitter in the history of the
game. Some compliment, what?"

But Joe's work, wonderful as it was, would not alone have started and
maintained the Giants' winning streak. No one man, however great, can
carry a whole team on his shoulders. The next most important element
was the pitching that Jim was showing. It was only second in quality
to that turned in by Joe himself. Jim was a natural ball player, and
his close association and friendship with Joe had taught him all the
fine points of the game. He had learned the weaknesses of opposing
batters. He knew those who would bite at an outcurve and those to whom
a fast high one was poison; those who would offer at the first ball and
those who would try to wait him out; those who would crowd the plate
and those who would flinch when he wound the ball around their necks.
He had a splendid head on his shoulders and a world of power in his
biceps; and those two things go far to make a winning combination.

Another element of strength was the return of Hughson to the team and
his ability to take his regular turn in the box. His arm still hurt
him, and it was beginning to be evident that he would never again be
the Hughson of old. But his skill and knowledge of the game and the
batters was so great that it more than atoned for the weakness of his
pitching arm. His control was as wonderful as ever, and he nursed his
arm as much as possible. He did not attempt to do much striking out,
as that would have been too severe a strain. More and more he let the
batsmen hit the ball, and depended upon the eight men behind him to
back him up. Often he would go through an inning this way and the three
put outs would be made by the infield on grounders and the outfielders
on flies. But once let a man get on first and the "Old Master" would
tighten up and prevent scoring. By thus favoring his arm, he was able
to turn in his share of the victories.

Markwith also had a new lease of life, and was winging them over as in
the days when he had been without question the best port side flinger
in the League.

In fact the pitching staff was at the height of its form and had
never been going better. And the rest of the team, without exception,
was playing great ball. There was not a cripple on the list. Willis
and Iredell had been restored to their positions at third and short
respectively, and were playing the best ball of their careers. With
Larry at second and Burkett at first, they formed a stonewall infield
that seldom let anything get away from them. They made hair-raising
stops and dazzling double plays, gobbling up grounders on either side,
spearing high liners that were ticketed for singles, and played like
supermen. The outfielders had caught the spirit of enthusiasm that
pervaded the team, and were making what seemed like impossible catches.
Add to this that the team members were batting like fiends and running
bases like so many ghosts, and the reason for the winning streak
becomes apparent. The Giants were simply playing unbeatable ball.

So the Cincinnatis found when the time came for their heads to drop
into the basket. That series was sweet revenge for the Giants, who had
not forgotten the beating the Reds had given them on their last swing
around the circuit.

Twenty-one--twenty-two--twenty-three--twenty-four. Two more games to
tie their own previous record. Three more to beat it. Would they do it?

Many shook their heads. On the mere law of averages, a break for the
Giants was now due. The team had been under a fearful strain. Such
phenomenal work could not last forever.

Besides, the severest test was now at hand. The Pittsburghs were
coming. The Smoky City boys had been playing great ball themselves.
They had won nineteen games out of the last twenty-four, and the margin
of seven games that they had had when the Giants began their streak
still kept them in the lead by two games. They had boasted that they
would break the Giants' streak as soon as they struck New York.

The time had come to make good their boast. Would they do it?



CHAPTER XXII

STRIVING FOR MASTERY


It was Jim's turn to go on the mound in the first game with the
Pittsburghs, and in the practice work before the game he showed that
he was keyed up for his work. For so comparatively young a pitcher,
he might well have been a bit nervous at facing so redoubtable a team
before the immense crowd that had gathered to see whether or not the
Giants' winning streak was doomed to be broken. But there was no trace
of it in his manner, and McRae, looking him over, concluded that there
was no reason to change his selection.

His confidence was justified. Jim that afternoon was at as high a point
of pitching form as he had ever reached in his career. He pitched a
masterly game and held the Pirate sluggers to four hits. His support
was all that could be desired, and some of the stops and throws of his
comrades bordered on the miraculous. The Giants came out at the big end
of the score, their tally being three to the solitary run scored by
their opponents.

"Twenty-five!" chuckled Joe, as he slapped his friend on the back, when
the Pirates had been turned back in their half of ninth. "Jim, you're a
lulu! You had those fellows rolling over and playing dead."

"I guess we had all the breaks," returned Jim, smiling modestly.

"Nothing of the kind," disclaimed Joe. "If anything, they had whatever
breaks there were. It was simply a case of dandy pitching. You had them
buffaloed."

"Only one more game to go before we tie our own record," said Jim.
"Gee, Joe, I wish you were going to pitch to-morrow. We're just in
sight of the Promised Land. That will be the most important game of
all."

"Oh, I don't know," replied Joe. "It will be something to tie the
record, but I want to break it. Day after to-morrow will be the
big day. That is, if we win to-morrow, and I think we shall. It's
Markwith's turn to go in, and he's going fine. The Pittsburghs aren't
any too good against left-handed pitchers, anyway."

But whatever the alleged weakness of the Pirates against southpaws,
they showed little respect for Markwith's offerings on the next day.
They had on their batting clothes and clouted the ball lustily. Only
phenomenal fielding on the part of the Giants kept the score down, and
again and again Markwith was pulled out of a hole by some dazzling
bit of play when a run seemed certain. Still he worried through until
the first part of the eighth. At that time the score was five to four
in favor of the visitors. The Giants had been batting freely, but not
quite as hard as the Pirates.

In the eighth, Markwith was plainly beginning to wobble in his control.
He passed two men in quick succession. That was enough for McRae, and
Joe, who had been warming up at the right of the grandstand, was sent
into the box.

The Pirates' scoring stopped then and there. Astley, who was at the
bat, fanned on three successive strikes. Brown hit to the box and Joe
made a lightning throw to Larry at second, who relayed it to first for
a sparkling double play, putting out the side.

The Giants' half of the eighth was scoreless. All the Pittsburghs had
to do now was to hold them down for one more inning, and the winning
streak would be broken.

Joe made short work of the visitors in their last inning and the Giants
came in for their final half.

Willis was the first man up. He made a savage lunge at the first ball
pitched, but caught it on the under side, and it went up directly
over the plate. Jenkins the Pittsburgh catcher, did not have to move
from his tracks to gather it in. Larry sent a fierce low liner to
Baskerville at short, who made a magnificent catch, picking it off his
shoe tops. Two out, and the crowd fairly groaned as the winning streak
seemed at last about to be broken.

All hopes were now pinned on Denton. All he could do, however, was to
dribble a slow one to the box. It seemed a certain out, and nine times
out of ten would have been. But the Pittsburgh pitcher, in running in
on it, snatched it up so hurriedly that it fell out of his hand. He
recovered it in an instant and shot it to first. But that fumble had
been fatal, and Denton by a headlong slide reached first before the
ball.

A tremendous roar arose from the stands, and the people who had started
to leave sat down suddenly and sat down hard.

In the Giants' dugout, all was excitement and animation. McRae ran down
to first to coach Denton. Robbie rushed over to Joe, who was next in
turn and had already picked up his bat.

"For the love of Pete, Joe," he begged, "paste the old apple. Show them
again what you've been showing us all along. Kill the ball! Just once,
Joe, just once! You can do it. One good crack, and you'll save the
winning streak."

"I'll do my best," was Joe's reply.

Frantic adjurations of the same nature were showered on Joe as he took
up his position at the plate. Then there was a great silence, as the
crowd fairly held their breath.

But the crafty Pittsburgh pitcher was to be reckoned with. He had no
mind to see the game go glimmering just at the moment it seemed to be
won. He signaled to his catcher and deliberately pitched two balls wide
of the plate. It was evident that he was going to give Joe his base on
balls and take a chance with Mylert, the next batter.

But the best laid plans sometimes miscarry. The third ball he pitched
did not go as wide of the plate as he had meant it should. Joe sized it
up, saw that he could reach it, and swung for it with all his might.

There was a crack like that of a rifle as the bat met the ball and
sent it mounting ever higher and higher toward the right field wall.
It seemed as though it were endowed with wings. On it went in a mighty
curve and landed at last in the topmost row of the right field seats.
There it was pocketed by a proud and happy fan, while Joe, sending in
Denton ahead of him, jogged easily around the bases to the home plate.
The game was won! The winning streak was saved! The Giants had tied
their record, which had stood untouched for so many years!

The scene in the stands and bleachers beggared description. Roar after
roar went up, while the crazy spectators threw their straw hats into
the air and scattered them by scores over the field. The Polo Grounds
had been transformed into a madhouse, but differing from other insane
asylums in that all the inmates were happy. All, that is, except the
Pirates and their supporters, who thought unspeakable things as they
saw the game in a twinkling torn from their grasp.

Joe's only escape from his enthusiastic well-wishers lay in flight, and
he made a bee line for the clubhouse. He got inside not a moment too
soon. For a long time afterward a great crowd hung about the entrance,
waiting for him to reappear, and it was only by slipping out of a back
entrance that he eluded them.

The old record had been tied. Could it be beaten?



CHAPTER XXIII

HOLDING THEM DOWN


Baseball circles had rarely been more deeply stirred than by the issue
of the game, by winning which the Giants had tied their record. It was
not merely the winning, but the sensational way in which Baseball Joe's
home run had turned the scales in the last minute and snatched victory
from defeat that excited the fans.

But now that the record was tied, would the Giants be able to hang
up a new one? That was the question on every lip, the question whose
discussion filled column after column of the sporting pages of the
newspapers.

All agreed that the Giants had been lucky to win. If it had not been
for the error of the pitcher on Denton's slow dribble, they would have
lost. But it was conceded that it was not luck that had secured that
mighty home run that Joe had hammered out to the bleachers. That was
ball playing. That was muscle. That was determination. Once again his
cool head and quick eye and powerful arm had shown that the game was
not over until the last man was out.

It was Joe's turn to pitch, and it was upon that fact more than
anything else that the vast crowd that stormed the Polo Grounds relied
for annexing the twenty-seventh game. The Pittsburghs too were holding
out their star pitcher, Hooper, for that critical game, and it was
certain that they would put forth superhuman efforts to win.

In more senses than one, the game was an important one. The last two
victories of the Giants had wiped out the lead that the Pirates had
had over them, and the two teams were now on even terms in games won
and lost for the season, so that the Pirates had a double incentive to
win. If they took the game they would not only prevent the Giants from
breaking their own record for a winning streak, but would also once
more stand at the head of the League.

"It's up to you, Joe," McRae said, just before the bell rang for the
game to begin. "How are you feeling? Are you tired at all from pitching
those last two innings yesterday?"

"Not a bit tired," replied Joe promptly. "That little work yesterday
was just the practice I needed to get into form. I'm feeling as fine as
silk."

"You look it," said the manager admiringly, as his eye took in the
strong, lithe figure, the bronzed face and clear eyes of his star
pitcher. "Well go in now Joe and eat them up. Hooper will be in the
box for them, and I'm not denying that he's some pitcher. But he never
saw the day that you couldn't run rings around him. Go in and win."

It was evident from the start that there would be no such free hitting
that day as there had been the day before. Both boxmen were in superb
form, and by the time the first inning for each side was over, the
spectators had settled down to witness a pitcher's duel.

Hooper was a spitball artist, and his moist slants kept the Giants
guessing in the early part of the game. But while he depended chiefly
on this form of delivery, he had other puzzlers in his assortment, and
he mixed them up in a most deceptive manner. In the first three innings
he had four strike-outs to his credit, and when the Giants did connect
with the ball it went up into the air and into the hands of some
waiting fielder. His control of the slippery sphere also was excellent,
and he issued no passes.

In the fourth inning, the Giants began to nibble at his offerings.
Curry rapped one out to right for the first single of the game. Iredell
was robbed of a hit by a great jumping catch of O'Connor, who speared
the ball with his gloved hand. Burkett lined out a two-bagger that
carried Curry easily to third, but in trying to stretch the hit, he
was caught by Ralston's magnificent throw to the plate. Burkett in
the meantime had made a dash for third, but thought better of it, and
scrambled back to second just in time. The next man up went out from
short to first and the inning ended without scoring. But the Giants had
proved to themselves that Hooper could be hit, and it was with renewed
confidence that they took their places in the field.

Joe in the meantime was mowing his opponents down with the regularity
of a machine. His mighty arm swung back and forth like a piston rod.
He had never cared for the spitball, as he knew that sooner or later
it destroyed a pitcher's effectiveness. But in his repertoire of
curves and slants he had weapons far more deadly. His fast straight
one whizzed over the plate like a bullet. He mixed these up with a
slow, dipping curve that the Pirates endeavored in vain to solve. Only
with the head of the Pittsburgh batting order did he at times resort
to the fadeaway. That he kept in reserve for some moment when danger
threatened. Twice in the first five innings he set down the side
on strikes, and not a man reached first on balls. It was wonderful
pitching, and again and again Joe was forced to doff his cap to the
cheers of the crowd, as he came into the bench.

In the sixth inning, the Giants got busy. Wheeler lashed out a whale of
a three-bagger to left. Willis laid down a neat sacrifice, bringing
Wheeler home for the first run of the game. Larry hit the ball on the
seam for a single, but was caught a moment later in trying to purloin
second. The next batter up went out on strikes and the inning ended
with the Giants one run to the good.

The seventh inning came and passed and not a hit had been made by the
Pirates. Then it began to be realized that Joe was out for a no-hit
game, and the crowd rooted for him madly.

Joe himself was about the only cool man on the grounds. He measured
every man that came to the plate and took his time about pitching to
him. Man after man he fanned or made him hit feeble grounders to the
infield. And that wonderful control of his forbade any passes. The
Pirates did not dare to wait him out. It was a case of strike or be
struck out, and so they struck at the ball, but usually struck only the
empty air.

That ball! Sometimes it was a wheedling, coaxing ball, that sauntered
up to the plate as though just begging to be hit. Again it was a
vanishing ball that grew smaller from the time it left Joe's hand until
it became a mere pin point as it glinted over the rubber. Still again
it was a savage ball that shot over the plate with a rush and a hiss
that made the batter jump back. But always it was a deceptive ball,
that slipped by, hopped by, loafed by, twisted by, dodged by, and the
Pirate sluggers strained their backs as well as their tempers in trying
to hit it.

McRae and Robbie on the bench watched with fascination and delight the
work of their king pitcher.

"It's magic, I tell you, John, just magic!" blurted out Robbie, as
another victim went out on strikes and threw down his bat in disgust.

"It sure looks like it," grinned McRae. "He has those fellows jumping
through the hoops all right. I'm free to say I never saw anything like
it."

"He's got the ball trained, I tell you," persisted Robbie, rubbing his
hands in jubilation. "It's an educated ball. It does just what Joe
tells it to."

Almost uncontrollable excitement prevailed as the Pirates came in for
their last inning. Their heaviest sluggers were coming to the bat, and
now if ever was the time to do something. They figured that the strain
must have told on Joe and that a crack was due.

Their hope grew dimmer, however, when Ralston, after fouling off two,
fanned on the third strike. But it revived again when Baskerville
rolled an easy one to Larry, that the latter fumbled for a moment and
then hurled to first a fraction of a second too late.

There was a roar of glee from the Pirates, and they began to chatter
in the hope of rattling the pitcher. Bemis, the next man up, came to
the plate swinging three bats. He discarded two of them and glared at
Joe.

"Here's where you meet your finish," he boasted, as he brandished his
bat.

Joe merely smiled and put one over. Bemis drove it straight for the
box. Joe leaped into the air, caught it in his ungloved hand and shot
it like lightning to first, catching Baskerville before he could get
back.

It was as pretty a double play as had ever been made on the New York
grounds!



CHAPTER XXIV

A CRUSHING BLOW


The play had been so swift that the eye could scarcely follow the ball,
and it was a few seconds before the majority of the spectators could
grasp what had happened.

Then a tremendous shout went up that rolled across the field in
increasing volume as the crowds realized that they had seen what would
probably never be seen again in a single game. They had seen the New
York team break its own record for straight wins, and in addition they
had witnessed that rarest of pitching exploits, a no-hit game. Not even
a scratch hit had marred Joe's wonderful performance, nor had he given
a single base on balls. It was a red-letter day for the Giants and for
Joe, and the people who had been there would talk about that game for
years.

If any one should have been elated by the marvelous result of that
day's work, it was Joe. He had never stood on a higher pinnacle,
except perhaps when he had won the last game of the World Series
the preceding year. He was more than ever a hero in the eyes of the
baseball public of New York, and within five minutes after the game
was over the wires had flashed the news to every city of the country.
But despite his natural pride in his achievement and his pleasure in
knowing that he had won this critical game for his team, it was a very
subdued and worried Joe that hurried to the clubhouse after the game
was over. There his mates gathered, in the seventh heaven of delight,
and there was a general jubilee, in which McRae and Robson joined.

"We did it, we did it!" cried Robbie, bouncing about like a rubber ball
in his excitement. "We broke the record! Twenty-seven games in a row!"

"Where do you get that 'we' stuff, you old porpoise," grinned McRae,
poking him jovially in the ribs. "Seems to me that Joe had something to
do with it. Put it there, Matson," he went on, extending his hand. "You
pitched a game that will go down in baseball history and you saved our
winning streak from going up in smoke."

Joe put out his left hand, and McRae looked a little surprised. Then
he glanced down at Joe's right hand, and a look of consternation swept
over his face.

"Great Scott!" he cried. "What's the matter with your hand? It's
swelled to twice its usual size."

[Illustration: "GREAT SCOTT!" HE CRIED. "WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOUR
HAND?"]

"It was that drive of Bemis', I guess," replied Joe. "When I nabbed it,
I seemed to feel something crack in the hand. Perhaps, though, it's
only strained. It will probably be all right by to-morrow."

"To-morrow!" roared McRae, as all crowded around anxiously. "There'll
be no waiting till to-morrow. That hand is worth a half million dollars
to the New York club, to say nothing of its worth to yourself. Where's
the trainer? Where's the doctor? Jump, some of you fellows, and get
them here quick!"

There was a general scurrying around, and in a few minutes both of
those men were examining the injured hand with the greatest solicitude.
They looked grave when they had finished.

"It's hard to tell just what has happened until the swelling has been
reduced," pronounced the doctor, as he busied himself with splints and
lotions. "I'm afraid, though, that it's more than a sprain. When it
swells as much as that it generally means that a bone has been broken."

There was a general groan.

"That means, does it, that he will be out of the game for the rest of
the season?" asked McRae, in notes of despair.

"Oh, I wouldn't say that," the doctor hastened to reassure him. "It may
be only a trifling fracture, and in that case he will have to be out
only for a short time. But for the next few weeks anyway, he isn't
likely to do any more pitching."

"Who's the best specialist in New York?" demanded McRae.

The doctor named a surgeon of national reputation.

"'Phone him to come at once," commanded McRae. "Or, better yet, Joe,
you'd better come right with me now. My car's outside and I'll get you
up there in fifteen minutes. Every minute counts now."

Joe hurriedly finished dressing, and McRae bundled him into his
automobile. It was a speedy machine, and it was to be feared that the
traffic laws were not strictly observed as it made its way downtown.
But the traffic policemen all knew McRae and Joe, and there was nothing
to prevent their getting to their destination in record time.

A telephone call from the clubhouse had already notified the eminent
surgeon that the pair were coming, and he was waiting for them. Without
a moment's delay, they were ushered into his inner office, where he
stripped off the bandages from the hand and made a thorough examination.

"There is a small dislocation," he said when he had finished. "But I
think it will yield readily to treatment. It will not be a permanent
injury, and in a little while the hand will be as good as ever."

Both drew a sigh of immense relief.

"A little while," repeated McRae. "Just what do you mean by that,
Doctor? You know we're fighting for the pennant, and we're depending on
this king pitcher of ours more than on any one else to win out. Every
day he's out of the race weakens our chances."

"I can't tell that definitely until to-morrow morning," the doctor
replied. "But offhand I should say for two or three weeks at least."

"Two or three weeks!" repeated McRae in tones of mingled dismay and
relief. "In those two or three weeks we may lose the flag. But thank
heaven it's no worse."

After making an appointment for the next morning, McRae drove Joe to
his hotel.

"It's bad enough, Joe," he said to him in parting. "I don't know how
we're going to spare you while we're in the thick of the fight. But
when I think of what it would mean to the team if you were knocked out
altogether, I've got no kick coming. We're ahead of the Pittsburghs
now, anyway, thanks to your splendid work, and if we can just hold our
own till you get back, we'll pull out all right yet."

Joe found Jim waiting for him, full of anxiety and alarm. But his face
lighted up when he learned that the injury was not a permanent one.

"It would have been a mighty sight better to have lost the game
to-day than to have bought it at such a price," he said. "But after
all, nothing matters as long as your hand is safe. That hand is your
fortune."

"To-day was my unlucky day," remarked Joe ruefully, as he looked at his
bandaged hand.

"In one sense it was," replied Jim, "but in another it wasn't. To-day
you hung up a record. You saved the Giants' winning streak and you
pitched a no-hit game!"



CHAPTER XXV

LINING THEM OUT


The pain in his injured hand was intense that night, and Joe paced
the floor for hours before he was able to get to sleep. By morning,
however, the hand had yielded to treatment, and the swelling had
greatly decreased. At the earliest hour possible Joe, accompanied by
Jim, was at the surgeon's office.

The doctor's face expressed his satisfaction, as, after an examination,
he rendered his verdict.

"It isn't as bad as I feared," he said while he deftly rebandaged the
injured member. "This dislocation is slight and you'll soon be as right
as ever. But you've got to take good care of it. It will be some time
before you can pitch."

"But how about batting?" asked Joe anxiously. "That isn't a steady
strain, as I'd only have to do it three or four times in the course of
the game."

"I don't know," replied the doctor with a smile. "I'm not familiar
enough with the game to tell where the strain comes in that case. I
can imagine, however, that it would be chiefly in the arm and shoulder.
It's possible that you may be able to bat before you can pitch. But I
can tell more about that later on, as I see how your hand mends. For
the present, you'll have to go slow."

The sporting writers had no reason to complain of the dullness of news
for that day's issue. The papers were ringing with the stirring events
of the day before. Columns of space were devoted to the story of the
game, and there was unstinted praise of Joe for his wonderful exploit.

But mingled with the jubilation was a strain of apprehension. The
accident that had befallen the great pitcher was a subject of the
keenest anxiety. It was recognized that a great blow had been struck at
the Giants' hope for the pennant. To have the greatest twirler of the
team put out of the game just in the hottest part of the fight was a
disaster that might prove fatal. Pittsburgh stock took a decided upward
bound in consequence.

The effect on the Giants themselves, as far as their morale was
concerned, was almost certain to be hurtful. The tremendous strain
under which they had been, while compiling their twenty-seven
consecutive wins, had brought them to a point where a sudden blow like
this might make them go to pieces.

As a matter of fact, that is just what did happen to them that very
afternoon. The whole team was depressed and had a case of nerves. They
played like a lot of schoolboys, booting the ball, slipping up on easy
grounders and muffing flies that ordinarily they could have caught with
ease.

The Pittsburghs, on the other hand, played with redoubled skill and
courage. Their hopes had been revived by the misfortune that had
befallen their most dangerous opponent. Joe was personally popular with
all the players of the League, and they were sorry that he was hurt.
But that did not prevent them from taking advantage of the chance to
make hay while the sun shone.

The game developed into a farce after the third inning, and from that
time on it was only a question of the size of the score. When the game
ended, the Giant outfielders were leg-weary from chasing hits, and the
visitors were equally tired from running bases. The Pittsburghs won by
a score of 17 to 3, and the Giants' winning streak came to an end.

But for once the team escaped a roasting from McRae. The team had done
wonderful work, and any nine that wins twenty-seven games in succession
has a right to lose the twenty-eighth. Besides the break was due, and
the manager hoped that with this one bad game out of their systems the
team would pull itself together and start another rally.

For the next week or two, the race see-sawed between the two leading
teams. By this time it had become generally recognized that the pennant
lay between them. The other contestants had occasional spurts, when
great playing for a short period would revive the waning hopes of their
admirers, but they soon fell back again in the ruck. It was quite
certain that the flag would fly either over Forbes Field or over the
Polo Grounds.

In the meantime, Joe's hand was mending rapidly. His superb physical
condition helped him greatly, and the doctor was visibly surprised and
gratified by the progress of his patient. But it was hard work for Joe
to be laid off just at the time that his team needed him most. Still he
believed in the proverb "the more haste the less speed," and he tried
to be patient, even while he was "chafing at the bit."

About ten days after the accident, the doctor delighted him by telling
him that he need not come to see him any more. But he still ordered
him to refrain from pitching. As to batting, he said cautiously that
Joe could try that out a little at a time. If he found that after easy
batting practice his hand did not hurt him, he might be permitted to
bat in an actual game.

Joe was quick to avail himself of the permission. Very cautiously he
tried batting out fungo hits. While at first the hand felt a little
sore and stiff, this soon passed off. Then Joe had Jim pitch him some
easy ones in practice, and found that he could line them out without
ill effects. Finally he let Jim put them over at full speed, and was
delighted to find that he could lift them into the right field stands
and not suffer much of a twinge. At last he was himself again, as far
at least as batting was concerned.

His recovery came just in time to be of immense benefit to the team.
The men had slumped considerably in batting, though they still held up
to their usual form in fielding. But fielding alone cannot win games.
Defensive work is all very well, but combined with it must be the
offensive work on the part of the batsmen. The best fielding in the
world cannot put runs over the plate.

Joe's return put new spirit into the team at once. The batting picked
up noticeably, with Joe leading the way. At first he was a little
cautious about putting his whole strength into his blow, and for a few
days when he was used in emergencies as a pinch hitter, he gathered a
crop of singles with an occasional double and triple. But with every
successive day he let out a new link, and at length he put his whole
strength into his swing. Home runs became again a common feature, and
the Giants started in joyously on a new upward climb.

The season was to end this year in the West, and by the time the Giants
started on their last swing around the circuit, they had a lead of four
games over the Pirates. It was not necessarily a winning lead, but it
was very comforting just the same to have those four games as a margin.
Still, the Pittsburghs were hanging on gamely, ready to forge to the
front on the least sign of weakening shown by their competitors. It
was one of the hottest races that had ever been seen in the National
League, and there was a chance that it would not be decided until the
last day of the season.

"The last lap," remarked Jim, as the team started on its trip. "Here's
where we win or lose."

"Here's where we win," corrected Joe.



CHAPTER XXVI

THE TIRELESS FOE


The Giants opened at Chicago, and the results were none too good.
The Cubs, who just then were in the midst of a spurt, clawed and bit
their way to victory in two games of the four, and the Giants were
lucky to break even. As it was, the two games they won were annexed
by the terrific batting of Joe, who was hitting like a demon. In the
four games he made three home runs, and two of them were lined out
when there were men on bases. All pitchers looked alike to him, and he
played no favorites. The rest he had had from pitching had made him all
the more effective as a batsman.

His fame as a hitter had spread through all the cities of the League,
and the Chicago grounds were filled to their capacity during the
Giants' visit. Most of the spectators were as eager to see him hit one
of his mammoth homers as they were to see the home team win. Cheers
greeted him every time he came to the bat. He was the greatest drawing
card that the Giants had or ever had had.

Opinion was divided as to whether he or Kid Rose of the Yankees was
the greatest hitter. Each had his partisans. Rose had been longer
in the limelight, and those who had made up their minds that he was
the greatest hitter that ever lived were reluctant to see their idol
replaced by a newcomer. Many confidently predicted that Joe would
not last, that his work was only a flash in the pan. Others declared
that he did not have to bat against as good pitching in the National
League as was shown in the American, and that therefore Rose's work was
superior. But as Joe kept on, day in and day out, lacing out tremendous
hits that landed in the bleachers and at times sailed over the fence,
the doubters grew silent, or joined in the wild applause as Joe jogged
around the bases and crossed the plate standing up.

The keenest interest was manifested in the race that the Yankees were
making to land the flag in the American League. If they should come out
on top, the World Series would be held between New York teams, and Rose
and Joe could be seen in action against each other. That would help to
settle the question as to which had a right to wear the batting crown
of the world. It would be a battle of giants, and it was certain that,
if such a contest took place, there would be delegations to see it
from all parts of the country.

McRae was no longer content to use Joe simply as a pinch hitter. He
wanted to take full advantage of his marvelous hitting, and so he
put him in the regular line-up and played him every day. Wheeler was
relegated to the bench and Joe took his place in the field. The manager
also changed his batting order, putting Joe fourth in the cleanup
position. And again and again his judgment was vindicated by the way
Joe cleaned up with homers, sending his comrades in ahead of him.

The day the third Chicago game was played was a very hot one, and Joe
and Jim were tired and warm. Jim had pitched that day and won, after a
gruelling contest, and Joe had varied his ordinary routine by knocking
out two home runs instead of one.

Joe was seated in his hotel room, writing a letter to Mabel. Jim had
stepped down to the office to get some stationery, for he had the
pleasant task on hand of writing to Clara.

A knock came at the door, and in answer to his call to enter, a bellboy
stepped into the room, bearing a pitcher and glasses.

"Here's the lemonade you ordered, boss," he said, as he put his burden
on a convenient stand.

"Lemonade?" repeated Joe in some surprise. "I didn't order any."

"Clerk sent me up with it, sir," said the bellboy respectfully. "Said
it was for Mr. Matson, room four-seventeen. This is four-seventeen,
isn't it?" he asked as he glanced at the number on the door, which he
had left open.

"This is four-seventeen, all right, and I'm Mr. Matson," Joe answered.
"But I didn't order anything. I'll tell you how it is though," he
added, as a thought struck him. "My friend who is sharing the room with
me has just gone down to the lobby, and he's probably told the clerk to
send it up. That's all right. Leave it there."

"Shall I pour you out a glass, sir?" asked the boy, suiting the action
to the word.

"If you like," responded Joe carelessly, taking a quarter out of his
pocket as a tip.

The boy thanked him and withdrew, closing the door behind him. Joe
finished the paragraph he was writing, and then picked up the glass. He
took a sip of it and put it down.

"Pretty bitter," he said to himself. "Not enough sugar. Still it's
cooling, and I sure am warm."

Again he lifted the glass to his lips, but just then Jim burst into the
room.

"Whom do you think I saw just now?" he demanded.

"Give it up," replied Joe. "But whoever it was, you seem to be all
excited about it. Who was it?"

"Fleming!" answered Jim, as he plumped down into a chair.

"Fleming!" repeated Joe with quickened interest. "What's that fellow
doing here? I thought he hung out in New York."

"That's what I want to know," replied Jim. "Wherever that fellow is,
there's apt to be dirty work brewing. And the frightened look that came
into his eyes when he saw me, and the way he hurried past me, made me
uneasy. He acted as if he'd been up to something. I don't like the idea
of a pal of Braxton being in the same hotel with us."

"I don't care much for it myself," answered Joe. "Still, a hotel is
open to anybody, and this is one of the most popular ones in the city.
It isn't especially surprising that you should happen to run across
him."

"Not surprising perhaps, but unpleasant just the same," responded Jim.
"It leaves a bad taste in my mouth."

"Well," laughed Joe, "take the bad taste out with a glass of this
lemonade you sent up. It isn't very good--it has a bad taste of its
own--but it will cool you off."

He raised his glass to his mouth as he spoke. But in an instant Jim was
on his feet and knocked the glass from his hand. It fell on the floor
and splintered in many pieces.

Joe looked at him in open-eyed amazement, too astonished to speak.

"Don't touch the stuff!" cried Jim. "What do you mean by saying I sent
it up?"

"Didn't you?" asked Joe. "The bellboy said he had been told to bring it
to me, and as I hadn't ordered it, I jumped to the conclusion that you
had."

"Not I!" replied Jim. "But I can guess who did!"

"Who?"

"Fleming."

The two friends looked fixedly at each other.

"Do you mean," asked Joe, after a moment in which surprise and
indignation struggled for the mastery, "that that lemonade was doped?"

"Doped or poisoned, I'll bet my life," affirmed Jim. "Let's get to
the bottom of this thing. Quick, old man! Perhaps Fleming is still
somewhere in the hotel."

"Not a chance," replied Joe, jumping to his feet. "If he's mixed up in
this, he's getting away as fast as his legs or a car can carry him. But
we'll go down and see what we can learn from the clerk."

They went to the head clerk, whom they knew very well. He was an ardent
fan, and his face lighted up as he saw the friends approaching.

"Saw you play to-day, gentlemen," he said. "Those two home runs of
yours were whales, Mr. Matson. And your pitching, Mr. Barclay, was all
to the mustard."

"Sorry to beat your Chicago boys, but we needed that game in our
business," laughed Joe. "But what I want to see you about just now is a
personal matter. Did you get an order from me or from my room to send
up any lemonade?"

The clerk looked surprised.

"No," he replied. "I didn't get any such request. Wait a moment until I
see the telephone operator."

He consulted the girl at the telephone, and was back in a moment. "No
message of any kind came from your room to-night," he announced.

"But one of your bellboys brought it up," persisted Joe.

"Which one of them was it?" asked the clerk, pointing to a group of
them lounging about.

"None of them," responded Joe, as he ran his eye over them.



CHAPTER XXVII

CHAMPIONS OF THE LEAGUE


"There are three more of the bellboys doing various errands about the
hotel," replied the clerk. "If you gentlemen will wait around they'll
be back in a few minutes."

"All right, we'll wait," said Joe.

Before long, all the bellboys were back, and Joe had had a good look at
the entire staff. Not one resembled the boy who had come to his room.

"I can't understand it," mused the clerk, to whom the boys had been
careful not to impart their suspicions. "It must have been sent in by
somebody from the outside. It's certain that it wasn't sent up from
here."

"Oh, well," said Joe carelessly, "it doesn't matter. I just wanted
to find out, so that I could thank the one who did it. Sorry to have
troubled you."

They strolled off indifferently and returned to their room.

"'Thank' is good," said Jim, as soon as they were out of earshot.

"I'll thank him all right," replied Joe grimly. "In fact I'll thank him
so warmly that it will stagger him."

"May I be there to see!" replied Jim gruffly. "I can figure out the
whole thing now. Fleming had had that lemonade doped and it was meant
to put you out of business. It was easy to find out what hotel you were
stopping at, as that's been in all the papers. Then it was a simple
thing to glance over the register and get the number of your room. He's
either got a bellboy from some other hotel or dressed up somebody in
a bellboy's uniform. He's probably bribed him well, and it's been all
the easier because he didn't have to let on to the boy that there was
anything crooked about it. Told him perhaps that he was just playing
a little joke on a friend or something like that. There's the whole
story."

"I guess that's about right," agreed Joe. "Gee, Jim, it's mighty lucky
that you knocked that glass out of my hand. I had noticed that it
tasted rather bitter, but put that down to too little sugar."

"Let's send some of the stuff to a chemist and have it analyzed,"
suggested Jim.

"No," objected Joe, "that wouldn't do any good. The thing would be apt
to get into the papers, and that's the very thing we mustn't let happen
for the sake of the folks at home. We know enough about the stuff to
be sure that it was doctored in some way. Everything about the incident
tells of crookedness. Fleming was probably the master hand, although he
may have simply been the tool of Braxton. Those fellows are running up
a heavy account, and some day I hope we'll get the goods on them. We'll
just dump the stuff out so that nobody else will be injured. Then we'll
lay low but keep our eyes open. It's all that we can do."

"Gee, that was one dandy homer, Joe," said the catcher some time later.

"Best ever," added the first baseman.

"Oh, I don't know," answered the young ball player modestly. "I think
I have done better. But it was great to carry it along to eleven
innings," he added, with a smile.

"That tenth had me almost going," said the shortstop. "We came close to
spilling the beans," and he shook his head seriously.

"Well, 'all's well that ends well,' as Socrates said to General Grant,"
and Joe grinned.

From Chicago the Giants jumped to St. Louis, where, despite the
stiffest kind of resistance, they took three games out of four. They
were not quite as successful in Cincinnati, where the best they could
get was an even break. The Reds saw a chance to come in third, in which
case they would have a share in the World Series money, and they were
showing the best ball that they had played all season. The Giants had
all they could do to nose them out in the last game, which went to
eleven innings and was only won by a home run by Joe in the wind-up.

Seven games out of twelve for a team on the road was not bad, but it
would have been worse if the Pirates, in the meantime, had not also had
a rocky road to travel. The Brooklyns had helped their friends across
the bridge by taking the Pittsburghs into camp to the tune of three
games out of four and the Bostons had broken even. With the Phillies,
however, the Pirates had made a clean sweep of the four games. So when
the Giants faced their most formidable foes, they still had the lead of
four games with which they had begun their Western trip.

This, of course, gave the Giants the edge on their rivals. The
Pittsburghs would have to win the whole four games to draw up on even
terms with the leaders. In that case a deciding game would be necessary
to break the tie. On the other hand all the Giants had to do was to win
one game of the four and they would have the championship cinched. And
that they would do at least that seemed almost a certainty.

But nothing is certain in baseball, as soon became evident. Perhaps
it was overconfidence or a sense of already being on easy street that
caused the Giants to lose the first game. That, however, could not be
said of the second, when the Giants "played their heads off," Jim said,
and yet could not win against the classy pitching and stonewall defense
put up by the Smoky City team. Things were beginning to look serious
for the Giants, and some of their confidence was vanishing.

Still more serious did they become when the third game went into the
Pirates' basket. Jim pitched in that game and twirled wonderful ball,
but his support was ragged, and several Pirate blows that ought to have
been outs were registered ultimately as runs. They were unearned runs,
but they counted in the final score as much as though they had been due
to the team's hitting. The Giants were long-faced and gloomy.

McRae was clearly worried. If the next game were lost, the leaders
would be tied, and the Pirates would still have a chance to win. It
would be a bitter pill to swallow if the Giants lost the flag just when
it had seemed that all was over except the shouting.

Moreover, the manager was in a quandary. All his first string pitchers
had been beaten. His best one in active service at the present time,
Jim, had pitched that day and it would not do to ask him to go into the
box again to-morrow. In his desperation he turned to Joe.

"Joe," he said, "we're up against it unless you can help us out. How
is your hand feeling? Would you dare to take a chance with it?"

"I think it's all right now, or nearly so," replied Joe. "I've been
trying it out in practice right along, and it seems to me it's about as
good as ever. I was putting them over to Mylert yesterday, and he told
me he couldn't see any difference between them and those I threw before
I was hurt. The only thing I'm a little skittish about is my fadeaway.
That gives me a little twinge when I try it. But I guess I can leave
that out and still pull through."

"That's good!" ejaculated McRae, with great relief. "Go in then, old
boy, and show these pesky Pirates where they get off. We simply must
win this game."

There was a startled murmur among the spectators who thronged Forbes
Field that afternoon when they saw Joe go into the box. They had been
gloating over the supposition that McRae would have to use again one of
the pitchers whom the Pirates had already beaten in that series, and
the way their pets were going, they looked for a sure victory. Now they
saw the man who had always baffled the Pittsburghs again take up the
pitcher's burden, and their faces took on a look of apprehension.

The Pirate players too shared in that apprehension. They had a profound
respect for Joe's ability, and had always had a sinking of the heart
when they saw him draw on his glove. Still, they comforted themselves
with the hope that his long layoff had hurt his effectiveness, and they
braced to give him the battle of his life.

Joe himself felt a thrill of exultation when he stepped on the mound.
That was his throne. There he had won the laurels that crowned him as
the greatest pitcher of his League. Now he was back again, back to
buoy up the spirit of his team, back to justify the confidence of his
manager, back to uphold his fame, back to bring the championship of the
National League once more to New York.

He still carried in his pocket Mabel's glove, that he had come to
regard as his mascot. He touched it now. Then he wound up for the first
pitch and split the plate for a strike.

It was an auspicious beginning of one of the greatest games he had ever
pitched in his whole career. The Pirates simply did not have a chance.
All through the game they were swinging wildly at a ball that seemed to
be bewitched, a ball that dodged their bats and appeared to be laughing
at them. Angered and bewildered, they tried every device to avoid
impending defeat. They bunted, they put in pinch hitters, they called
the umpire's attention to Joe's delivery in the hope of rattling him,
they tried to get hit with the ball.

Through it all, Joe kept on smiling and mowing them down. Only three
men got to first. Not one got to second. Thirteen men went out on
strikes. And then, to cap the climax, Joe sent a screaming homer into
the right field bleachers, sending in two men ahead of him.

The final score was 8 to 0. The Giants had won the championship of the
National League. Now they were to battle for the championship of the
world!



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE WORLD SERIES


It was a happy team of Giants that left Pittsburgh that night on the
sleeper for New York. The season's strain was over. The coveted flag
was theirs. They had fought their way through many discouragements, had
stood the gaff, and now they were at the top of their League, with none
to contest their title as champions.

"Some victory, eh, Joe?" remarked Jim to his chum.

"Right, Jim," was the ready reply.

To be sure a great battle loomed up ahead of them, but they welcomed
that with eagerness. It meant thousands of dollars to every member of
the team, win or lose. But they had no thought of losing. The return of
their king pitcher to the box that afternoon, and the proof that he was
in magnificent form, had filled them chock full of confidence.

And they were doubly glad that the Yankees were to be their opponents.
That had been settled three days before, when the American League
season had closed with the Yankees just nosing out the Clevelands at
the finish. It was settled that every game of the World Series would be
played in New York.

This meant that there would be no long, tiresome, overnight journeys
between cities. But it meant more than that. It meant that the question
would now be settled once for all as to which of the New York teams was
the better.

This had been a mooted question for a good many years past. Each team
had its warm friends and admirers, who were ready to back it through
thick and thin. The Giants, of course, had been established longer, and
had gained a strong place in the affections of the metropolis. Their
games, as a usual thing, drew many more spectators than those played by
their rivals. But of late the acquisition of Kid Rose by the Yankees
had drawn the greater attention to that team, and the Giants had been
cast in the shade. They were not used to this and did not relish it.
They knew the Yankees were a strong team, but at the same time they
believed that they could take their measure if it ever came to a
showdown. Now that showdown was at hand, and the Giants were glad of it.

The public, too, were eager to have the question of supremacy settled.
The metropolis was fairly seething with excitement over the series, and
the hotels already were filling up with visitors from as far off as
the Pacific Coast. Not only columns but whole pages of the newspapers
were filled with comments and prophecies respecting the chances of the
respective teams.

More than anything else in the public mind was the coming duel between
Kid Rose and Joe Matson as home run hitters. Which would make the
longer hits? Which would make the more home runs? These were the
questions that were on the lips of the fans wherever two or more of
them met. And the sporting pages of the daily newspapers were full of
it.

The series this year was to consist of nine games if so many should be
necessary. The team that first won five games would be the champions of
the world. The members of the teams were to share in the money taken in
at the first five games played, so that there would be no inducement to
spin out the series. After certain percentages had been deducted sixty
per cent was to go to the winners and forty per cent to the losers. The
outlook was that each member of the winning team would get about five
thousand dollars and each member of the losing team between three and
four thousand, a difference great enough to make each player do his
best, apart from his loyalty to his team.

Reggie had come up from Goldsboro, bringing Mabel with him, a
charge of which Joe promptly relieved him. She seemed to Joe more
distractingly beautiful than ever, and his heart thumped as he realized
that in less than a month she would be his own. That had been arranged
in their correspondence. The wedding would take place in Mabel's home
in Goldsboro, and after their honeymoon they were to go to Riverside,
to witness the marriage of Jim and Clara. The latter had hoped to come
on to see the World Series, but Mrs. Matson was not well enough to come
along, and Clara did not want to leave her. So poor Jim had to exercise
patience and not be too envious of the almost delirious happiness of
Joe and Mabel at being together.

A more exciting World Series than that which now began between the
Giants and Yankees had never been known in the history of the game.
Both teams were out for blood. Every man was on his toes, and the
excited spectators were roused almost to madness by the almost
miraculous stops and throws pulled off by the fielders. From the start
it was evident that the nines were very evenly balanced, and that
whichever finally won would in all probability do so by the narrowest
kind of margin.

Victory seesawed between the teams. Joe pitched the first game, and the
Giants won by 3 to 1. The Yankees took the second by 5 to 2. Jim held
them down in the third to two runs, while the Giants accumulated six.
The Yankees made it "fifty-fifty" by galloping away with the fourth
game in a free hitting contest, of which Markwith was the victim, the
final score being 9 to 5. The Giants again assumed the lead by copping
the fifth by 4 to 0, Joe decorating his opponents with a necklace of
goose eggs. They repeated on the following day, and with only one more
game needed to make the five, it looked as though they would be certain
winners. But the Yankees were not yet through, and they came back
strong on the two succeeding days and evened up the score. Each had won
four games. The ninth and final game would determine which team was to
be the champions of the world.

In these contests, Joe had batted like a fiend. McRae had played him
in every game, putting him in the outfield on the days that he was
not scheduled to pitch. In the eight games, Joe had made six circuit
clouts, in addition to four three-baggers, three two-base hits, and
some singles. He was simply killing the ball.

Kid Rose also had done sterling work, and had rapped out five homers,
besides a number of hits for a lesser number of bags. But Baseball Joe
so far had outclassed him, both in the number and the length of his
hits. There was no stopping him. High or low, incurve or outcurve, they
were all the same to him. That eagle eye of his located the course of
the ball unerringly, and when the ash connected with the ball that ball
was slated for a ride.

There was no mistake about it. Joe had arrived. The batting crown was
his. He had long since been recognized as the king of pitchers. Now he
was hailed by acclamation as the greatest hitter in the game!



CHAPTER XXIX

THE GAME OF HIS LIFE


For the ninth and deciding game, McRae had selected Joe to pitch.

"I don't need to tell you, Joe, how much depends on this game," McRae
said soberly, as the two came out of the clubhouse and walked across
the field towards the grandstand, which was crowded to suffocation.
"You know it as well as I do. I'm just counting on you, my boy. You've
never failed me yet in a pinch. You won't fail me now."

"Trust me, Mac," replied Joe. "I'll do my best to win out."

Hudson, the manager of the Yankees, was also pinning his faith on
the leader of his pitching staff, Phil Hays. He was a master of the
underhand delivery, and had already captured for the Yankees the two
games of the series in which he had pitched. In both games he had
sorely puzzled the Giants, for there was no pitcher in the National
League who used that delivery, and they had found it almost impossible
to gauge it. He also had a crossfire, that he used at times with
telling effect. He had not yet matched his pitching strength against
Joe's, and the crowd was all agog with curiosity to see them battle
against each other.

Jim had been a little later than Joe in slipping into his uniform, and
was still in the clubhouse, after his friend had gone out on the field,
when Reggie came rushing in, panting and out of breath.

"Where's Joe?" he asked, looking wildly around.

"He's just gone out to practice," answered Jim. "Why, what's the
matter, Reggie?"

"I've got to get Joe," Reggie panted, making a dash for the door.

But Jim caught his arm.

"Look here, Reggie," he said, holding to him tightly. "Joe mustn't be
upset. I can see that something's happened. Tell me what it is, and
I'll see about letting Joe know."

"It's M-Mabel!" answered Reggie, stammering in his excitement. "She's
disappeared."

"Disappeared!" echoed Jim, in bewilderment. "What do you mean?"

"Just that," answered Reggie. "She went out this morning to call on
a friend, but said she'd get back to go with me to the game. I got
anxious when she didn't come, and called up her friend, who said she
hadn't seen her. Just then a messenger boy brought me this," and he
handed over a typewritten, unsigned note, which read:

    "Miss Varley is in safe hands. If Matson loses his game to-day
    she will be returned this evening. If he doesn't, it will cost
    $25,000 to get her back. Personal in papers to-morrow, signed
    T. Z., will give exact directions for carrying on further
    negotiations."

"Now you see why I've got to see Joe right away," said Reggie in
frenzied impatience, snatching the note from Jim's hands.

"You mustn't!" ejaculated Jim, barring the way. "Don't you see that
that's just what the rascals want you to do? You'd just be playing
their game. They want to get Joe so frightened and upset that he can't
pitch. It's the scheme of some gamblers who have bet on the Yanks to
win. They want to make sure that they will win, and so they want to
bribe or frighten Joe into losing. But probably if he did, they'd
demand the ransom money just the same. We'll have to keep it from Joe
until the game is over. Nothing will be lost by that. I'll give McRae a
tip and he'll let me off. Then you and I will get busy and do all that
we can for the next two hours. If we turn nothing up, we'll be back
here when the game ends and tell Joe all about it. Wait here a minute
till I see McRae, and then we'll get on the job."

In five minutes he was back with the required permission, and as soon
as he had got into his street clothes he hailed a taxicab, and he and
Reggie jumped in and were off.

When the bell rang for the game to begin, the Giants took the field,
and Milton, the big center-fielder of the Yankees, came to the plate.
Joe wound a high fast one about his neck, at which he refused to bite.
The next one split the rubber, and Milton swung savagely at it and
missed. The next was a called strike. On the following ball, he rolled
an easy grounder to Burkett at first, who made the put out unassisted.
The next man, Pender, Joe put out on strikes in jig time. Then the
mighty Kid Rose strode to the bat.

He grinned at Joe and Joe grinned back. They were both good fellows,
and each thoroughly respected the other. There was no bitterness in
their rivalry.

"Now little ball, come to papa!" sang out Rose.

"Here he comes!" laughed Joe. "Take a look at baby."

The ball whizzed over the plate, and Rose missed it by an inch. The
next he fouled off, as he did the following one. Then Joe tried a
fadeaway, and Rose fell for it, swinging himself halfway round with the
force of his blow.

"You're out!" cried the umpire, and the Giant supporters in the stands
broke out in cheers. It was not often that Rose struck out, and the
feat was appreciated.

In the Giants' half, Hays set them down in one, two, three order. Curry
flied to Russell in right, Iredell went out by the strike route, while
Burkett's grounder to Pender at short was whipped smartly down to first.

The Yankees were easy victims in the second. Russell fanned, Walsh
lifted a twisting foul, on which Mylert made a superb catch close to
the Giants' dugout and Mullen hit a grounder between first and the box,
which Joe captured and fielded to Burkett in plenty of time.

Joe was first up in the Giants' half, and had to doff his cap in
response to the cheers which greeted him as he came to the plate.

Hays sized him up carefully and did not like his looks. The first ball
he threw him was so wide that Banks, the catcher, had to reach far out
to nab it with one hand.

That might have been lack of control on Hays' part, but when a second
followed, that came nowhere in the range of Joe's bat, the crowd jumped
to the conclusion that he was deliberately trying to pass him, and a
storm of protests rained down on the diamond.

"You're a game sport--not!"

"Let Baseball Joe hit the ball!"

"Yellow streak!"

"Matson took a chance with Rose. Why don't you take a chance with
Matson?"

"Where's your sand?"

Whether Hays was stung by these jibes or not, the next ball curved
over the plate and just above the knee. There was a ringing crack, and
the ball sailed aloft in the direction of the bleachers with home run
written all over it. There was no need of hurrying, and Joe simply
trotted around the bases, while pandemonium reigned in the stands and
bleachers.



CHAPTER XXX

CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD


Wheeler went out on a fly to Milton, Willis fanned, and Larry closed
the inning with a pop up to second. But the Giants had scored first
blood, and in such a close game as this promised to be, that run stood
out like a lighthouse.

In the third, McCarthy fell victim to Joe's curves and went out on
strikes. Banks was lucky and got to first on a grasser to Iredell that
took a wicked bound just as the shortstop was all set to receive it and
jumped into left. He was nipped a minute later, when Joe saw out of the
corner of his eye that he was taking too long a lead off first and made
a lightning throw to Burkett. Hays, after fouling off two, struck out
on a mean drop, and the inning ended without damage.

Hays put one over for Denton that the latter pickeled for a dandy
grasser between third and short. Rose at left was slow in retrieving
the ball, and Denton by fleet running and a hook slide reached the
middle station. Here, however, he was caught napping. Then Hays braced
and set the next two players down on strikes. It was a deft exhibition
of "getting out of a hole," and deserved the generous applause that it
received.

In the Yankees' half of the fourth, Milton sent one to Willis at third
that the latter stopped neatly but threw to first too wide, the ball
almost missing Burkett's fingers as he reached for it. Pender knocked
a grounder to Larry, but the latter hesitated a moment as to whether
to make the play at first or second, and when he finally chose second,
Milton had reached that bag, and both men were safe. Then Rose came to
the bat, with the Yankee partisans shouting wildly for a homer.

Joe fooled him twice, but Rose caught the third one and poled a hit
to right. Wheeler and Denton both raced for it, and the latter by a
herculean effort just managed to get under it. In the meantime, Milton
had started forward, and Pender too was on his way. Quick as a flash,
Denton straightened up and sent the ball on a line to first. Pender had
turned and was running back, but was an easy out. Burkett shot the ball
to Larry, putting out Milton, who was scrambling back to second. It was
a superb triple play and the crowd went crazy.

Iredell started the Giants' fourth with a liner to McCarthy, that
settled comfortably in the third baseman's glove. Burkett lammed a
single into right. Joe walloped a shrieking three-bagger between right
and center, that brought Burkett galloping to the plate for the second
run of the game. Wheeler was ordered to sacrifice, but his attempted
bunt resulted in a little fly to Hays, and Joe was held on third. Hays
turned on steam and struck Willis out.

The fifth inning passed without scoring by either side. Both Joe and
Hays were pitching magnificent ball, and the crowds cheered each in
turn lustily.

The first real hit that Joe yielded came in the sixth, when after
McCarthy had struck out, Banks lined a beauty into right between first
and second. It did no harm, however, for Joe tightened up immediately
and made Hays and Milton hit at empty air.

The Giants in their half went the Yankees one better in the matter of
hits, and yet could not score. Curry sent a twister over second that
Mullen could not get under. Iredell followed with a slow roller down
the third base line, that McCarthy could not reach in time to field. A
moment later, however, Curry was caught napping at second, and Burkett
hit into a snappy double play, retiring the side.

In the seventh, the Yankees broke the ice. Pender got a life, when his
high fly to third was muffed by Willis. Kid Rose came to the bat.

"Put it over, Joe, and see me lose it," he called. "I was robbed last
time."

"That's nothing, Kid," chaffed Joe. "You'll be killed this time."

The first ball, which completely baffled the most dangerous slugger of
the American League, seemed to bear out this prediction. On the second,
however, Rose sent a neat hit to right that was good for two bases and
brought Pender over the plate, amid the thunderous roars of the Yankee
supporters. Russell tapped a little one in front of the plate, that Joe
got in time to put him out at first, but not to head Rose off at third.
Walsh went out on strikes. Mullen rolled one to Burkett, and Joe ran
over to cover the bag, but Burkett's throw hit the dirt and Rose came
over the plate, tying the score. McCarthy fanned, and the inning was
over. One hit, sandwiched in with errors, had knocked the Giants' lead
into a cocked hat and tied up the game.

Not for long, however. Joe was the first man up, and came to the plate
with blood in his eye. The first two offerings he let go by. The third
was to his liking. There was an explosion like the crack of a gun and
the ball started on its journey.

That journey was destined to be talked about for years to come. It was
the longest hit that ever had been made on the Polo Grounds. On it
went over right field, over the bleachers and over the fence, clearing
it at a height of fifty feet.

In the wild roar that went up as Joe loped around the bases, even
the Yankee supporters joined. It was an occasion that rose above
partisanship, an outstanding event in the history of sport. The
spectators cheered until they were hoarse, and it was a minute or two
before play could be resumed.

The rest of the inning was short and sweet. Wheeler, Willis and Larry
went out in order, the first two on strikes and the latter on a
grounder fielded by Mullen.

The eighth was on the same snappy order. Joe was determined to maintain
his advantage, and was invincible. Banks grounded to the box, and Joe
tossed him out. Hays fanned for the second time and Milton followed
suit.

Hays, too, was going strong, and the Giant batsmen went down before
him like a row of tenpins. Denton made three futile attempts and threw
down his bat in disgust. Mylert cut three successive swaths in the
atmosphere and went back to the bench, while Curry fouled out to Banks.

In the ninth, the Yankees again sewed it up. Pender got to first, when
Larry was slow in fielding his grounder. The mighty Rose came up amid
frantic cheering. But Joe summoned all his cunning, and for the second
time that day struck him out, while the crowd cheered his sportsmanship
in not passing him to first. Russell popped up an infield fly that
Willis and Iredell ran for but collided, the ball dropping between
them. In the scramble that ensued, Pender reached third and Russell
made second. Iredell was still a little shaken by the collision, and
fumbled the easy grounder of Walsh that ought to have resulted in an
out at the plate, Walsh reaching first in safety. In consequence Pender
scored, and again the game was tied at 3 to 3. A single now would have
brought in another run, but Joe by a quick throw caught Walsh asleep at
first and struck out Mullen, thus ending the inning.

With the frenzied adjurations of McRae and Robbie in their ears, the
Giants came to the bat for the last half of the ninth. Iredell made
a mighty effort, but came back to the bench after three fruitless
swings at Hays' benders. Burkett sent up a towering skyscraper that was
gathered in after a long run by Milton in center.

On Joe now rested the Giants' hopes. Twice that day he had poled out
homers, and once he had ripped out a three-bagger. Could he repeat?

Hays was determined that he shouldn't have a chance. Amid the jeers
and taunts of the crowd, he deliberately sent three balls wide of the
plate. In attempting to do the same with the fourth, however, he sent
it a trifle too close. Joe caught it on the end of his bat.

How that ball traveled! Almost on a line it whistled through the air
in the direction of the right field bleachers. On and on went that
terrific, screeching liner straight into the crowd in the bleachers who
scrambled frantically to get out of its path.

Round the bases went Joe, amid shouts and yells that were deafening.
Down on the home plate he came with both feet. The game was won, the
series was over and the Giants were the champions of the world!

Like a deer Joe made for the clubhouse, to escape the crowds that came
swarming over the field. He reached it just as a man was being carried
inside.

"What's the matter?" he asked. "Any one hurt?"

"Only a glancing blow," remarked the club doctor, who had been looking
the man over. "He's dazed, but he'll come to his senses soon."

Joe bent over to look at him and started back in surprise.

"Why, I know that man!" he exclaimed. "His name's Fleming!"

"It's Fleming all right," said Jim's voice beside him. "And he's got
just what was coming to him."

Joe looked up and saw Jim and Reggie. They were grave and worried, and
Joe's sixth sense told him that something was wrong.

"What's happened?" he asked in alarm. "And where is Mabel? What kept
her from the game? Don't stand there dumb! Tell me, quick!"

"Now, Joe----" began Jim soothingly, but was interrupted by the injured
man who opened his eyes, looked wildly around and struggled to a
sitting posture. His eyes dilated with fright when he saw Joe and Jim.

"I didn't do it!" he half screamed. "I didn't kidnap her! It was
Braxton. He----"

Jim interposed.

"Clear a space here," he commanded. "This is a private matter for Joe
and me. Now, Fleming," he went on in short, menacing words that cut
like a knife, "tell me this instant where Miss Varley is. You know.
Tell me. Quick! Don't lie, or I'll tear your tongue out by the roots."

Before the blazing fury in his eyes Fleming quailed.

"She's at Inwood," he muttered. "She's safe enough. She's----"

"Reggie," commanded Jim, "jump into the car and take the wheel. Joe,
help me to get this man into the car. Don't talk. I'll explain as we go
along. Doyle," he continued, turning to a police lieutenant who was a
warm admirer of the boys and who happened to be standing near, "come
along with us if you don't mind. It may be a case for you."

"Sure thing," replied Doyle. "I'm with you."

They half dragged, half carried, Fleming to the car, and Reggie put on
speed. The lieutenant sat in front with him, and his uniform prevented
any question on the part of the traffic policemen. Fleming, pale and
apprehensive, was thrust into a corner of the tonneau, while Jim
explained the situation to Joe, who was boiling with rage.

The headlong speed at which Reggie drove soon brought them to the
vicinity of Inwood, and following the faltering directions of Fleming,
they drew up before a little house that was a block away from any of
its neighbors.

They tiptoed up the steps, Joe having his hand so tightly on Fleming's
collar that his knuckles ground into his neck.

"You know what you've got to do, Fleming," he whispered. "If you don't
do it----"

His grip tightened and his fist clenched.

Trembling, Fleming opened the front door with his latchkey, and the
party went softly through the hall. They stopped in front of a door
from behind which a man was heard talking.

"I'm sorry to have to incommode you, Miss Varley," he was saying in
suave polished tones that the boys recognized at once as Braxton's.
"But unfortunately it is necessary to the success of my plans. You
can't complain that we haven't treated you with perfect respect outside
of the little violence we had to use to get you into the car."

There was no reply, but the party could hear the sound of sobbing.

"Knock," whispered Joe, emphasizing the command by a twist of Fleming's
collar.

Fleming knocked.

"Who's there?" came from within.

"It's Fleming," was the weak answer. "Open up."

The door opened and the party went in with a rush.

There was a cry of joy from Mabel and a startled exclamation from
Braxton. He looked toward the door, but the burly policeman had closed
it and stood with his back against it. The next instant Joe had smashed
Braxton straight between the eyes and the rascal measured his length on
the floor. An instant more, and Mabel was in Joe's arms, sobbing her
heart out against his breast.

For a few moments the reunited ones were dead to the world around them.
When at last they had come to their senses, Joe, with a final caress,
relinquished Mabel to Reggie's care.

"You'd better go out to the car, dearest," he said to her. "I'll be
with you soon. I've got a little business to attend to here."

The brother and sister went out, and Joe turned to the rest of the
party. Braxton had been yanked to his feet by Jim and jammed down hard
into a chair, where he sat glowering with rage and fear. Doyle stood
guard over Fleming, who presented a miserable picture of abjectness.

"Shall I take them in charge, Mr. Matson?" asked the police lieutenant.
"You seem to have a clear case against them. They ought to get ten
years at least."

The fear in the rascals' faces deepened.

"No," answered Joe thoughtfully. "I don't want any scandal and I don't
believe I'll make a charge. At least, not yet. Jim, can you skirmish
around and find pen and ink?"

In a minute or two Jim had found them.

"Now, you contemptible skunks," began Joe, "listen to me. I'm going to
get a written confession from you of this whole business. Put down,
Jim, that matter of the anonymous letter. Don't try to lie out of it,
you scoundrel," he said, as Braxton started to protest. "Put down, too,
that hiring of the auto bandits to cripple me." Here Braxton gave a
violent start. "Put down that attempt to dope me in Chicago. That hits
you on the raw, doesn't it, Fleming?" he added, as the latter cringed
still lower in his seat. "We'll pass over the matter of hiring Bugs
Hartley to do me up in St. Louis, for he may have done that on his
own account. Now add this kidnaping incident and the record will be
complete."

Jim wrote rapidly and soon had the document ready.

"Now we'll ask these gentlemen to sign," said Joe, with exaggerated
politeness.

"I won't sign," snarled Braxton, livid with rage.

"Oh, you won't?" said Joe. "All right, Lieutenant----"

"I'll sign," said Braxton hastily.

Both he and Fleming signed, and Joe put the document carefully into his
pocket.

"Now," he said, "I have you rascals on the hip. Dare to make one other
move against me as long as you live, and I'll have you clapped into
jail so quickly it will make your heads swim. I'll put you where the
dogs won't bite you."

Both Braxton and Fleming rose to their feet.

"Where are you going?" asked Joe, in apparent surprise.

"You're through with us, aren't you?" growled Braxton.

Joe laughed outright.

"Oh, dear no," he said, as he rose to his feet. "There's just one
little thing to attend to yet. I'm going to thrash you within an inch
of your life."

Braxton made a dash for the door, but Joe caught him a clip on the jaw
that sent him staggering back into a corner.

"Now Jim," said Joe, "suppose you take that little rat out," pointing
to Fleming, "and drop him somewhere. He got his dose when the ball
knocked him out in the bleachers, and that perhaps will be enough for
him. Lieutenant," he went on, turning to Doyle, "you're a policeman,
and might feel called on to stop any scene of violence. I feel it in my
bones that there's going to be a little violence here--just a little.
Would you mind stepping outside and seeing whether the car is all
right?"

"Sure," replied Doyle, with a grin and a wink.

"Now, you cur," said Joe, as he turned to Braxton, "take off your coat.
It's a long account I have to settle with you, and I'm going to give
you the licking of your life."

There was no way out, and Braxton took off his coat and closed in. He
was a big man and fought with the desperation of a cornered rat. He got
in one or two wild blows that did no damage. Joe smashed him right and
left, knocked him down and lifted him to his feet to knock him down
again, until Braxton, beaten to a finish, refused to get up, and lay in
a heap in a corner, fairly sobbing with rage and pain and shame.

"Just one little bit of news, Braxton," said Joe, as he turned to
leave. "You've lost your bets. The Giants won!"

He ran lightly down the steps and jumped into the car, where Mabel
snuggled up to him.

"What kept you so long, Joe?" she asked anxiously.

"Just settling an account, honey," he replied, as he drew her closer.
"It was a long one and took some time."

"An account? What do you mean?" the girl asked, and then added
suddenly: "Oh, Joe, you are all--all mussed up!"

"Am I, dear? Well, if I am you ought to see the other fellow, that's
all."

"It was a--a fight?" she faltered.

"Hardly that, Mabel. Braxton had it coming to him--and I gave it to him
with interest. But let us forget it. It's over now, and all I want to
think about is--you!" And he held her closer than ever.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few weeks later the wedding march was played in Mabel's home, and she
and Joe joined hands for life. Clara was bridesmaid and Jim was best
man. Mr. and Mrs. Matson, the latter greatly improved in health, were
present. It was a glorious occasion, and all of them, the bride and
groom especially, were happy beyond words.

"I'm quite a royal personage," said Mabel, as the happy pair, amid
a shower of rice, started off on their honeymoon. "To think of poor
little me marrying the king of pitchers and king of batters."

"As Reggie would say, you're 'spoofing' me," he laughed. "At any rate,
I'm luckier than most kings. I've picked a perfect queen." And Baseball
Joe smiled broadly.

And he had a right to smile, don't you think so?


THE END



THE BASEBALL JOE SERIES

BY LESTER CHADWICK


_12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, $1.00, postpaid_

[Illustration]

  BASEBALL JOE OF THE SILVER STARS
  _or The Rivals of Riverside_

Joe is an everyday country boy who loves to play baseball and
particularly to pitch.



  BASEBALL JOE ON THE SCHOOL NINE
  _or Pitching for the Blue Banner_

Joe's great ambition was to go to boarding school and play on the
school team.


  BASEBALL JOE AT YALE
  _or Pitching for the College Championship_

Joe goes to Yale University. In his second year he becomes a varsity
pitcher and pitches in several big games.


  BASEBALL JOE IN THE CENTRAL LEAGUE
  _or Making Good as a Professional Pitcher_

From Yale college to a baseball league of our Central States.


  BASEBALL JOE IN THE BIG LEAGUE
  _or A Young Pitcher's Hardest Struggles_

From the Central League Joe goes to the St. Louis Nationals.


  BASEBALL JOE ON THE GIANTS
  _or Making Good as a Twirler in the Metropolis_

Joe was traded to the Giants and became their mainstay.


  BASEBALL JOE IN THE WORLD SERIES
  _or Pitching for the Championship_

What Joe did to win the series will thrill the most jaded reader.


  BASEBALL JOE AROUND THE WORLD
  _or Pitching on a Grand Tour_

The Giants and the All-Americans tour the world.


  BASEBALL JOE: HOME RUN KING
  _or The Greatest Pitcher and Batter on Record_

Joe becomes the greatest batter in the game.


  BASEBALL JOE SAVING THE LEAGUE
  _or Breaking Up a Great Conspiracy_

Throwing the game meant a fortune but also dishonor and it was a great
honor to defeat it.


_Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue_


  CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers      New York



THE MOTOR BOYS SERIES

BY CLARENCE YOUNG


_12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, $1.00, postpaid_

[Illustration]

  The Motor Boys
  _or Chums Through Thick and Thin_

  The Motor Boys Overland
  _or A Long Trip for Fun and Fortune_

  The Motor Boys In Mexico
  _or The Secret of The Buried City_

  The Motor Boys Across the Plains
  _or The Hermit of Lost Lake_

  The Motor Boys Afloat
  _or The Cruise of the Dartaway_

  The Motor Boys on the Atlantic
  _or The Mystery of the Lighthouse_

  The Motor Boys in Strange Waters
  _or Lost in a Floating Forest_

  The Motor Boys on the Pacific
  _or The Young Derelict Hunters_

  The Motor Boys in the Clouds
  _or A Trip for Fame and Fortune_

  The Motor Boys Over the Rockies
  _or A Mystery of the Air_

  The Motor Boys Over the Ocean
  _or A Marvelous Rescue in Mid-Air_

  The Motor Boys on the Wing
  _or Seeking the Airship Treasure_

  The Motor Boys After a Fortune
  _or The Hut on Snake Island_

  The Motor Boys on the Border
  _or Sixty Nuggets of Gold_

  The Motor Boys Under the Sea
  _or From Airship to Submarine_

  The Motor Boys on Road and River
  _or Racing to Save a Life_


THE MOTOR BOYS SECOND SERIES

BY CLARENCE YOUNG

  Ned, Bob and Jerry at Boxwood Hall
  _or The Motor Boys as Freshmen_

  Ned, Bob and Jerry on a Ranch
  _or The Motor Boys Among the Cowboys_

  Ned, Bob and Jerry in the Army
  _or The Motor Boys as Volunteers_

  Ned, Bob and Jerry on the Firing Line
  _or The Motor Boys Fighting for Uncle Sam_

  Ned, Bob and Jerry Bound for Home
  _or The Motor Boys on the Wrecked Troopship_

  CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers      New York



THE GREAT MARVEL SERIES

BY ROY ROCKWOOD


_12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Jacket in Colors_

_=Price per volume, $1.00, postpaid=_


[Illustration]

_Stories of adventures in strange places, with peculiar people and
queer animals._

  1. THROUGH THE AIR TO THE NORTH POLE
     _or The Wonderful Cruise of the Electric Monarch_

The tale of a trip to the frozen North with a degree of reality that is
most convincing.

  2. UNDER THE OCEAN TO THE SOUTH POLE
     _or The Strange Cruise of the Submarine Wonder_

A marvelous trip from Maine to the South Pole, telling of adventures
with the sea-monsters and savages.

  3. FIVE THOUSAND MILES UNDERGROUND
     _or The Mystery of the Center of the Earth_

A cruise to the center of the earth through an immense hole found at an
island in the ocean.

  4. THROUGH SPACE TO MARS
     _or The Most Wonderful Trip on Record_

This book tells how the journey was made in a strange craft and what
happened on Mars.

  5. LOST ON THE MOON
     _or In Quest of the Field of Diamonds_

Strange adventures on the planet which is found to be a land of
desolation and silence.

  6. ON A TORN-AWAY WORLD
     _or Captives of the Great Earthquake_

After a tremendous convulsion of nature the adventurers find themselves
captives on a vast "island in the air."


_Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue_


  CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers      New York



THE JACK RANGER SERIES

BY CLARENCE YOUNG

_12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Jacket in Colors_

_=Price per volume, $1.00, postpaid=_


[Illustration]

_Lively stories of outdoor sports and adventure every boy will want to
read._


  1. JACK RANGER'S SCHOOL DAYS
     _or The Rivals of Washington Hall_

You will love Jack Ranger--you simply can't help it. He is bright and
cheery, and earnest in all he does.


  2. JACK RANGER'S WESTERN TRIP
     _or From Boarding School to Ranch and Range_

This volume takes the hero to the great West. Jack is anxious to clear
up the mystery surrounding his father's disappearance.


  3. JACK RANGER'S SCHOOL VICTORIES
     _or Track, Gridiron and Diamond_

Jack gets back to Washington Hall and goes in for all sorts of school
games. There are numerous contests on the athletic field.


  4. JACK RANGER'S OCEAN CRUISE
     _or The Wreck of the Polly Ann_

How Jack was carried off to sea against his will makes a "yarn" no boy
will want to miss.


  5. JACK RANGER'S GUN CLUB
     _or From Schoolroom to Camp and Trail_

Jack organizes a gun club and with his chums goes in quest of big game.
They have many adventures in the mountains.


  6. JACK RANGER'S TREASURE BOX
     _or The Outing of the Schoolboy Yachtsmen_

Jack receives a box from his father and it is stolen. How he regains it
makes an absorbing tale.


_Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue_


  CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers      New York



THE COLLEGE SPORTS SERIES

BY LESTER CHADWICK

_12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Jacket in Colors_

_=Price per volume, $1.00, postpaid=_

[Illustration]

_Mr. Chadwick has played on the diamond and on the gridiron himself._


  1. THE RIVAL PITCHERS
     _A Story of College Baseball_

Tom Parsons, a "hayseed," makes good on the scrub team of Randall
College.


  2. A QUARTERBACK'S PLUCK
     _A Story of College Football_

A football story, told in Mr. Chadwick's best style, that is bound to
grip the reader from the start.


  3. BATTING TO WIN
     _A Story of College Baseball_

Tom Parsons and his friends Phil and Sid are the leading players on
Randall College team. There is a great game.


  4. THE WINNING TOUCHDOWN
     _A Story of College Football_

After having to reorganize their team at the last moment, Randall makes
a touchdown that won a big game.


  5. FOR THE HONOR OF RANDALL
     _A Story of College Athletics_

The winning of the hurdle race and long-distance run is extremely
exciting.


  6. THE EIGHT-OARED VICTORS
     _A Story of College Water Sports_

Tom, Phil and Sid prove as good at aquatic sports as they are on track,
gridiron and diamond.


_Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue_


  CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers      New York



THE WEBSTER SERIES

By FRANK V. WEBSTER


[Illustration]

Mr. Webster's style is very much like that of the boys' favorite
author, the late lamented Horatio Alger, Jr., but his tales are
thoroughly up-to-date.

=Cloth. 12mo. Over 200 pages each. Illustrated. Stamped in various
colors.=

=Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid.=

  Only A Farm Boy
  _or Dan Hardy's Rise in Life_

  The Boy From The Ranch
  _or Roy Bradner's City Experiences_

  The Young Treasure Hunter
  _or Fred Stanley's Trip to Alaska_

  The Boy Pilot of the Lakes
  _or Nat Morton's Perils_

  Tom The Telephone Boy
  _or The Mystery of a Message_

  Bob The Castaway
  _or The Wreck of the Eagle_

  The Newsboy Partners
  _or Who Was Dick Box?_

  Two Boy Gold Miners
  _or Lost in the Mountains_

  The Young Firemen of Lakeville
  _or Herbert Dare's Pluck_

  The Boys of Bellwood School
  _or Frank Jordan's Triumph_

  Jack the Runaway
  _or On the Road with a Circus_

  Bob Chester's Grit
  _or From Ranch to Riches_

  Airship Andy
  _or The Luck of a Brave Boy_

  High School Rivals
  _or Fred Markham's Struggles_

  Darry The Life Saver
  _or The Heroes of the Coast_

  Dick The Bank Boy
  _or A Missing Fortune_

  Ben Hardy's Flying Machine
  _or Making a Record for Himself_

  Harry Watson's High School Days
  _or The Rivals of Rivertown_

  Comrades of the Saddle
  _or The Young Rough Riders of the Plains_

  Tom Taylor at West Point
  _or The Old Army Officer's Secret_

  The Boy Scouts of Lennox
  _or Hiking Over Big Bear Mountain_

  The Boys of the Wireless
  _or a Stirring Rescue from the Deep_

  Cowboy Dave
  _or The Round-up at Rolling River_

  Jack of the Pony Express
  _or The Young Rider of the Mountain Trail_

  The Boys of the Battleship
  _or For the Honor of Uncle Sam_


  CUPPLES & LEON CO., Publishers,      NEW YORK



THE TOM FAIRFIELD SERIES

By ALLEN CHAPMAN

Author of the "Fred Fenton Athletic Series," "The Boys of Pluck
Series," and "The Darewell Chums Series."

12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid.

Tom Fairfield is a typical American lad, full of life and energy, a boy
who believes in doing things. To know Tom is to love him.


[Illustration]

  TOM FAIRFIELD'S SCHOOLDAYS
  _or The Chums of Elmwood Hall_

Tells of how Tom started for school, of the mystery surrounding one of
the Hall seniors, and of how the hero went to the rescue. The first
book in a line that is bound to become decidedly popular.


  TOM FAIRFIELD AT SEA
  _or The Wreck of the Silver Star_

Tom's parents had gone to Australia and then been cast away somewhere
in the Pacific. Tom set out to find them and was himself cast away. A
thrilling picture of the perils of the deep.


  TOM FAIRFIELD IN CAMP
  _or The Secret of the Old Mill_

The boys decided to go camping, and located near an old mill. A wild
man resided there and he made it decidedly lively for Tom and his
chums. The secret of the old mill adds to the interest of the volume.


  TOM FAIRFIELD'S PLUCK AND LUCK
  _or Working to Clear His Name_

While Tom was back at school some of his enemies tried to get him into
trouble. Something unusual occurred and Tom was suspected of a crime.
How he set to work to clear his name is told in a manner to interest
all young readers.


  TOM FAIRFIELD'S HUNTING TRIP
  _or Lost in the Wilderness_

Tom was only a schoolboy, but he loved to use a shotgun or a rifle. In
this volume we meet him on a hunting trip full of outdoor life and good
times around the camp-fire.


  CUPPLES & LEON CO., Publishers,      NEW YORK



THE SPEEDWELL BOYS SERIES

By ROY ROCKWOOD


Author of "The Dave Dashaway Series," "Great Marvel Series," etc.

12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid.

All boys who love to be on the go will welcome the Speedwell boys. They
are clean cut and loyal lads.


[Illustration]

  THE SPEEDWELL BOYS ON MOTOR CYCLES
  _or The Mystery of a Great Conflagration_

The lads were poor, but they did a rich man a great service and he
presented them with their motor cycles. What a great fire led to is
exceedingly well told.


  THE SPEEDWELL BOYS AND THEIR RACING AUTO
  _or A Run for the Golden Cup_

A tale of automobiling and of intense rivalry on the road. There was an
endurance run and the boys entered the contest. On the run they rounded
up some men who were wanted by the law.


  THE SPEEDWELL BOYS AND THEIR POWER LAUNCH
  _or To the Rescue of the Castaways_

Here is an unusual story. There was a wreck, and the lads, in their
power launch, set out to the rescue. A vivid picture of a great storm
adds to the interest of the tale.


  THE SPEEDWELL BOYS IN A SUBMARINE
  _or The Lost Treasure of Rocky Cove_

An old sailor knows of a treasure lost under water because of a cliff
falling into the sea. The boys get a chance to go out in a submarine
and they make a hunt for the treasure.


  THE SPEEDWELL BOYS AND THEIR ICE RACER
  _or The Perils of a Great Blizzard_

The boys had an idea for a new sort of iceboat, to be run by combined
wind and motor power. How they built the craft, and what fine times
they had on board of it, is well related.


  CUPPLES & LEON CO., Publishers,      NEW YORK



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

 --Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected
   except as indicated below.

 --Archaic and variable spellings were preserved.

 --Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.

 --Inconsistencies in formatting and punctuation of individual
   advertisements have been retained.

 --A List of Illustrations has been provided for the convenience of
   the reader.





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allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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