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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!"





Next: Three In A Row

Previous: A Baseball Idol



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