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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."





Next: A Delightful Surprise

Previous: Jim's Winning Ways



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