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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?






Previous: The Game Of His Life



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