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       Baseball Joe in the Central League; or, Making Good as a Professional Pitcher, p.1

           Lester Chadwick
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Baseball Joe in the Central League; or, Making Good as a Professional Pitcher


  JOE STEADIED HIMSELF, AND SMILED AT HIS OPPONENT.]

  BASEBALL JOE IN THE CENTRAL LEAGUE

  Or

  Making Good as a Professional Pitcher

  by

  LESTER CHADWICK

  Author of"Baseball Joe of the Silver Stars," "Baseball Joe at Yale,""The Rival Pitchers," "The Eight-Oared Victors," etc.

  Illustrated

  New YorkCupples & Leon Company

  * * * * *

  =BOOKS BY LESTER CHADWICK=

  =THE BASEBALL JOE SERIES= =12mo. Cloth. Illustrated=

  BASEBALL JOE OF THE SILVER STARS Or The Rivals of Riverside

  BASEBALL JOE ON THE SCHOOL NINE Or Pitching for the Blue Banner

  BASEBALL JOE AT YALE Or Pitching for the College Championship

  BASEBALL JOE IN THE CENTRAL LEAGUE Or Making Good as a Professional Pitcher

  (_Other Volumes in Preparation_)

  =THE COLLEGE SPORTS SERIES= =12mo. Cloth. Illustrated=

  THE RIVAL PITCHERS A Story of College Baseball

  A QUARTER-BACK'S PLUCK A Story of College Football

  BATTING TO WIN A Story of College Baseball

  THE WINNING TOUCHDOWN A Story of College Football

  THE EIGHT-OARED VICTORS A Story of College Water Sports

  (_Other Volumes in Preparation_)

  =CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, New York=

  * * * * *

  Copyright, 1914, byCupples & Leon Company

  =Baseball Joe in the Central League=

  Printed in U. S. A.

  CONTENTS

  CHAPTER PAGE I DANGER 1 II OFF FOR THE SOUTH 13 III AN ACCUSATION 23 IV IN TRAINING 30 V THE CLASH 41 VI A STRAIGHT THROW 50 VII THE GIRL 58 VIII A PARTING 67 IX THE FIRST LEAGUE GAME 74 X BITTERNESS 84 XI OLD POP CONSOLES 92 XII THE QUEER VALISE 98 XIII MABEL 105 XIV BAD NEWS 113 XV JOE'S PLUCK 120 XVI A SLIM CHANCE 128 XVII OLD POP AGAIN 136 XVIII IN DESPAIR 144 XIX A NEW HOLD 153 XX JOE'S TRIUMPH 161 XXI A DANGER SIGNAL 168 XXII VICTORY 176 XXIII THE TRAMP AGAIN 185 XXIV ON THE TRACK 191 XXV REGGIE'S AUTO 198 XXVI THE TRAMP RENDEZVOUS 206 XXVII THE SLOW WATCH 212 XXVIII THE RACE 220 XXIX A DIAMOND BATTLE 228 XXX THE PENNANT 237

  BASEBALL JOE IN THE CENTRAL LEAGUE

  CHAPTER I

  DANGER

  "Why, here's Joe!"

  "So soon? I didn't expect him until night."

  The girl who had uttered the first exclamation, and her mother whosesurprise was manifested in the second, hurried to the door of thecottage, up the gravel walk to which a tall, athletic youth was thenstriding, swinging a heavy valise as though he enjoyed the weight of it.

  "Hello, Mother!" he called gaily. "How are you, Sis?" and a moment laterJoe Matson was alternating his marks of affection between his mother andsister.

  "Well, it's good to be home again!" he went on, looking into the twofaces which showed the pleasure felt in the presence of the lad. "Mightygood to be home again!"

  "And we're glad to have him; aren't we, Mother?"

  "Yes, Clara, of course," and Mrs. Matson spoke with a hesitation thather son could not help noticing. "Of course we just love to have youhome Joe----"

  "There, now, Mother, I know what you're going to say!" he interruptedwith good-natured raillery. "You rather wish I'd stuck on there at Yale,turning into a fossil, or something like that, and----"

  "Oh, Joe! Of course I didn't want you to turn into a fossil," objectedhis mother, in shocked tones. "But I did hope that you might----"

  "Become a sky-pilot! Is that it, Momsey?" and he put his arm about herslender waist.

  "Joe Matson! What a way to talk about a minister!" she cried. "Theidea!"

  "Well, Mother, I meant no disrespect. A sky-pilot is an ancient andhonorable calling, but not for me. So here I am. Yale will have to worryalong without yours truly, and I guess she'll make out fairly well. Buthow is everything? Seen any of the fellows lately? How's father? How'sthe business?"

  The last two questions seemed to open a painful subject, for mother anddaughter looked at one another as though each one was saying:

  "You tell him!"

  Joe Matson sensed that something disagreeable was in the air.

  "What is it?" he demanded, turning from his mother to his sister. "Whathas happened?" It was not Joe's way to shrink from danger, or from adisagreeable duty. And part of his success as a baseball pitcher was dueto this very fact.

  Now he was aware that something had gone amiss since his last visithome, and he wanted to know what it was. He put his arms on his mother'sshoulders--frail little shoulders they were, too--yet they had bornemany heavy burdens of which Joe knew nothing. What mother's shouldershave not?

  The lad looked into her eyes--eyes that held a hint of pain. His ownwere clear and bright--they snapped with life and youthful vigor.

  "What is it, Momsey?" he asked softly. "Don't be afraid to tell me. Hasanything happened to dad?"

  "Oh, no, it isn't anything like that, Joe," said Clara quickly. "Wedidn't write to you about it for fear you'd worry and lose that last biggame with Princeton. It's only that----"

  "Your father has lost some money!" interrupted Mrs. Matson, wishing tohave the disagreeable truth out at once.

  "Oh, if that's all, we can soon fix that!" cried Joe, gaily, as thoughit was the easiest thing in the world. "Just wait until I begin drawingmy salary as pitcher for the Pittston team in the Central League, andthen you'll be on Easy Street."

  "Oh, but it's a great deal of money, Joe!" spoke Clara in rather awedtones.

  "Well, you haven't heard what my salary is to be."

  "You mustn't make it so serious, Clara," interposed Mrs. Matson. "Yourfather hasn't exactly lost the money, Joe. But he has made a number ofinvestments that seem likely to turn out badly, and there's a chancethat he'll have to lose, just as some others will."

  "Oh, well, if there's a chance, what's the use of worrying until youhave to?" asked Joe, boy-like.

  "The chances are pretty good--or, rather, pretty bad--that the moneywill go," said Mrs. Matson with a sigh. "Oh, dear! Isn't it too bad,after all his hard work!"

  "There, there, Mother!" exclaimed the lad, soothingly. "Let's talk aboutsomething pleasant. I'll go down to the works soon, and see dad. Justnow I'm as hungry as a--well, as a ball player after he's won out in theworld's series. Got anything to eat in the house?"

  "Of course!" exclaimed Clara, with a laugh, "though whether it will suityour high and mightiness, after what you have been used to at college, Ican't say."

  "Oh, I'm not fussy, Sis! Trot out a broiled lobster or two, half aroast chicken, some oysters, a little salad and a cup of coffee and I'lltry and make that do until the regular meal is ready!"

  They laughed at his infectious good-humor, and a look of relief showedon Mrs. Matson's face. But it did not altogether remove the shadow ofconcern that had been there since Joe wrote of his decision to leaveYale to take up the life of a professional baseball player. It hadbeen a sore blow to his mother, wh
o had hopes of seeing him enterthe ministry, or at least one of the professions. And with all hislight-heartedness, Joe realized the shattered hopes. But, for the lifeof him, he could not keep on at college--a place entirely unsuited tohim. But of that more later.

  Seated at the dining-room table, the three were soon deep in a ratherdisjointed conversation. Joe's sister and mother waited on him as only amother and sister can serve a returned son and brother.

  Between bites, as it were, Joe asked all sorts of questions, chieflyabout his father's business troubles. Neither Mrs. Matson nor herdaughter could give a very clear account of what had happened, or was indanger of happening, and the young pitcher, whose recent victory in thecollege championship games had made him quite famous, remarked:

  "I'll have to go down and see dad myself, and give him the benefit ofmy advice. I suppose he's at the Harvester Works?"

  "Yes," answered Mrs. Matson. "He is there early and late. He is workingon another patent, and he says if it's successful he won't mind aboutthe bad investments. But he hasn't had much luck, so far."

  "I'll have to take him out to a ball game, and get the cobwebs out ofhis head," said Joe, with a laugh. "It's a bad thing to get in a rut.Just a little more bread, Sis."

  "And so you have really left Yale?" asked his mother, almost hopingsomething might have occurred to change her son's mind. "You are notgoing back, Joe?"

  "No, I've quit, Mother, sold off what belongings I didn't want to keep,and here I am."

  "And when are you going to begin pitching for that professional team?"asked Clara, coming in with the bread.

  "I can't exactly say. I've got to go meet Mr. Gregory, the manager andthe largest stockholder in the club. So far I've only dealt with Mr.James Mack, his assistant and scout. He picked me up and made a contractwith me."

  "Perhaps it won't go through," ventured Mrs. Matson, half-hopefully.

  "Oh, I guess it will," answered Joe, easily. "Anyhow, I've got anadvance payment, and I can hold them to their terms. I expect I'llbe sent South to the training camp, where the rest of the playersare. The season opens soon, and then we'll be traveling all over thecircuit--mostly in the Middle West."

  "Then we won't see much of you, Joe," and his sister spoke regretfully.

  "Well, I'll have to be pretty much on the jump, Sis. But I'll get homewhenever I can. And if ever you get near where the Pittston club isplaying--that's my team, you know--" and Joe pretended to swell up withpride--"why, just take a run in, and I'll get you box seats."

  "I'm afraid I don't care much for baseball," sighed Mrs. Matson.

  "I do!" cried Clara with enthusiasm. "Oh, we've had some dandy gameshere this Spring, Joe, though the best games are yet to come. The SilverStars are doing fine!"

  "Are they really?" Joe asked. "And since they lost my invaluable servicesas a twirler? How thoughtless of them, Sis!"

  Clara laughed.

  "Well, they miss you a lot," she pouted, "and often speak of you. Maybe,if you're going to be home a few days, you could pitch a game for them."

  "I wouldn't dare do it, Clara."

  "Why not, I'd like to know," and her eyes showed her surprise.

  "Because I'm a professional now, and I can't play in amateurcontests--that is, it wouldn't be regular."

  "Oh, I guess no one here would mind, Joe. Will you have some of thesecanned peaches?"

  "Just a nibble, Sis--just a nibble. I've made out pretty well. You canmake as good bread as ever, Momsey!"

  "I'm glad you like it, Joe. Your father thinks there's nothing likehome-made bread."

  "That's where dad shows his good judgment. Quite discriminating on dad'spart, I'm sure. Yes, indeed!"

  "Oh, Joe, you're so--so different!" said Clara, looking at her brothersharply.

  "In what way, Sis?"

  "Oh, I don't know," she said, slowly. "I suppose it's--the collegeinfluence."

  "Well, a fellow can't live at Yale, even for a short time, withoutabsorbing something different from the usual life. It's an education initself just to go there if you never opened a book. It's a differentworld."

  "And I wish you had stayed there!" burst out Mrs. Matson, with suddenenergy. "Oh, I don't like you to be a professional ball player! It's noprofession at all!"

  "Well, call it a business then, if you like," said Joe good-naturedly."Say it isn't a profession, though it is called one. As a businessproposition, Mother, it's one of the biggest in the world to-day. Theplayers make more money than lots of professional men, and they don'thave to work half so hard--not that I mind that."

  "Joe Matson! Do you mean to tell me a ball player--even one who tossesthe ball for the other man to hit at--does he make more than--than a_minister_?" demanded his mother.

  "I should say so, Mother! Why, there are very few ministers who make asmuch as even an ordinary player in a minor league. And as for the majorleaguers--why, they could equal half a dozen preachers. Mind, I'm nottalking against the ministry, or any of the learned professions. I onlywish I had the brains and ability to enter one.

  "But I haven't, and there's no use pretending I have. And, though I dosay it myself, there's no use spoiling a good pitcher to make a poorminister. I'm sorry, Mother, that I couldn't keep on at Yale--sorry onyour account, not on mine. But I just couldn't."

  "How--how much do you suppose you'll get a year for pitching in thisCentral League?" asked Mrs. Matson, hesitatingly.

  "Well, they're going to start me on fifteen hundred dollars a year,"said Joe rather proudly, "and of course I can work up from that."

  "Fifteen hundred dollars!" cried Mrs. Matson. "Why, that's more than ahundred dollars a month!"

  "A good deal more, when you figure that I don't have to do anything inthe Winter months, Mother."

  "Fifteen hundred dollars!" murmured Clara. "Why, that's more than fatherearned when he got married, Mother. I've heard you say so--lots oftimes."

  "Yes, Clara. But then fifteen hundred dollars went further in those daysthan it does now. But, Joe, I didn't think you'd get so much as that."

  "There's my contract, Mother," and he pulled it from his pocket with aflourish.

  "Well, of course, Joe--Oh! I _did_ want you to be a minister, or alawyer, or a doctor; but since you feel you can't--well, perhaps it'sall for the best, Joe," and she sighed softly. "Maybe it's for thebest."

  "You'll see that it will be, Mother. And now I'm going down street andsee some of the boys. I suppose Tom Davis is around somewhere. Then I'llstroll in on dad. I want to have a talk with him."

  "Shall I unpack your valise?" asked Clara.

  "Yes. I guess I'll be home for a few days before starting in at thetraining camp. I'll be back to supper, anyhow," and, with a laugh hewent out and down the main street of Riverside, where the Matsons madetheir home.

  As Baseball Joe walked along the thoroughfare he was greeted by manyacquaintances--old and young. They were all glad to see him, for thefame of the pitcher who had won the victory for Yale was shared, in ameasure, by his home town. In the case of baseball players, at least,they are not "prophets without honor save in their own country."

  Joe inquired for his old chum, Tom Davis, but no one seemed to havenoticed him that day, and, making up his mind he would locate him later,the young pitcher turned his footsteps in the direction of the RoyalHarvester Works, where his father was employed. To reach the plant Joehad to cross the railroad, and in doing this he noticed a man staggeringalong the tracks.

  The man was not a prepossessing specimen. His clothes were ragged anddirty--in short "tramp" was written all over him.

  "And he acts as though he were drugged, or had taken too much whiskey,"said Joe. "Too bad! Maybe he's had a lot of trouble. You can't alwaystell.

  "But I'm sure of one thing, and that is he'd better get off the track.He doesn't seem able to take care of himself.

  "Look out there!" cried the young pitcher, with sudden energy. "Look outfor that freight, old man! You're walking right into danger!"

  A train of freight cars w
as backing down the rails, right upon the manwho was staggering along, unheeding.

  The engineer blew his whistle shrilly--insistently; but still the raggedman did not get off the track.

  Joe sprinted at his best pace, and in an instant had graspedthe man by the arm. The tramp looked up with bleary, blood-shoteyes--uncomprehending--almost unseeing.

  "Wha--wha's matter?" he asked, thickly.

  "Matter--matter enough when you get sense enough to realize it!" saidJoe sharply, as he pulled him to one side, and only just in time, for asecond later the freight train thundered past at hardly slackened speedin spite of the fact that the brakes had been clapped on.

  The man staggered at Joe's sudden energy, and would have toppled overagainst a switch had not the young pitcher held him.

 
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