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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."


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!"





Next: Lining Them Out

Previous: Holding Them Down



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