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Falling Behind

"Braxton's the more likely one of the two to use violence--or have it
used," said Jim. "Not but what either one of them would be mean enough
to do it. But Braxton has got more nerve than Fleming. Then, too, I
happen to know that Fleming has run pretty well through his money,
while Braxton is a millionaire. He was pretty hard hit by the failure
of the All-Star League to go through last year, but he's got plenty
left. He could give those rascals a thousand, or five thousand if
necessary, and never feel it."

"Speaking of money," said Joe, "reminds me of something else that may
be connected with this case. Do you remember what Reggie told us when
he was in Riverside about that fellow in Chicago that was betting great
wads of money that the Giants wouldn't cop the flag? Betting it, Reggie
said, as though he had something up his sleeve, as though he were
betting on a sure thing. Now what could be a surer thing in a race as
close as this than to cripple the Giant team by robbing it of one of
its pitchers? He'd be getting a double satisfaction then--making a pile
of money to make up for his losses last season and getting even with me
for the thrashing I gave him. That is, of course, if the man is really

"By Jove, I believe you're right!" exclaimed Jim. "Of course that
might seem a little far-fetched, if it weren't for the other things
that point to the same man. But when you remember that Braxton hails
from Chicago, that the anonymous letter had a Chicago postmark, when
you recall that somebody tried to injure us in that road blockade the
day after I thought I saw Braxton in the training town, and that he
was the only one besides ourselves who knew the road we were going
to take--when you take all these things together, it seems a dead
open-and-shut proposition that Braxton was the man that plotted all
this scoundrelism."

"Some day soon I hope we'll know the truth," said Joe. "And when that
day comes----"

He did not finish the sentence, but his clenched fist and flashing eyes
were eloquent.

The next morning the chums went around early, to learn how the girls
were feeling after their trying experience. They found them still a
little nervous and overwrought, but the society of the boys and the
knowledge that they had come through without injury soon brightened
them up, and before long they were their natural selves again. The way
the boys had carried themselves in the fight with their assailants made
them more than ever heroes in the eyes of those they loved best, and if
it had not been for the deeper knowledge they had of the affair, Joe
and Jim would have been rather glad it happened.

Reggie, of course, had been told of the holdup and was almost
stuttering in his wrath and indignation. But he, like the girls,
figured that it had been an attack simply for the purpose of robbery,
and the boys were not sure enough of Reggie's discretion to tell him
the real facts. They feared that some slip of the tongue on his part
might reveal the matter, and they knew that a constant fear would from
then on shadow the lives of Mabel and Clara.

In about ten days the next Western trip of the Giants was to begin, and
then Clara would return home, while Mabel would go on with Reggie to
Goldsboro. But those precious ten days were enjoyed to the full by the
young folks. Every hour that the boys could spare from the games was
spent in the society of the girls, and every day that a game was played
Mabel and Clara occupied a box in the grandstand at the Polo Grounds.
The knowledge of the bright eyes that were following their every move
put the boys on their mettle, and they played up to the top of their
form. Jim's progress as a boxman was evident with each succeeding game,
and Joe covered himself with laurels as both pitcher and batsman. But
more than once, after Joe had let down an opposing team with but a
few hits, he had an involuntary shudder as he looked at the mighty
arm that had scored the victory and thought of it as hanging withered
and helpless at his side. And only by the narrowest of margins had he
escaped that fate.

The hour of parting came at last, and it was a great wrench to all of
them. There were promises on both sides of daily letters, that would
serve to bridge the gulf of separation.

The fight for the pennant was waxing hotter and hotter. The Giants and
the Pittsburghs were running neck and neck. First one and then the
other was at the head in victories won. At times one would forge ahead
for a week or two, but the other refused obstinately to be shaken off
and would again assume the leadership. Everything promised a ding-dong,
hammer-and-tongs finish.

Some of the other teams were still in striking distance, but the first
two were really the "class" of the League. The great pitching staff of
the Brooklyns had gone to pieces, and it looked as though they were
definitely out of the running. The Bostons, after a poor start, had
braced and were rapidly improving their average, but they seemed too
far behind to be really dangerous. The unfortunate Phillies were in
for the "cellar championship" and did not have a ghost of a chance.
Of the Western teams, outside of Pittsburgh, no fear was felt, though
the consistent slugging of the Cardinals gave the leaders some uneasy
moments. Still, batting alone could not win games, and the Cardinals'
pitching staff, though it had some brilliant performers, was surpassed
in ability by several teams in the League.

In the American League also a spirited contest was going on. The White
Sox, who had usually been a dangerous factor, were out of the running
because they had had to build up practically a new team. But the
Clevelands were as strong as they had been the year before, and were
making a great bid for the flag. Detroit had started out brilliantly,
and with its hard hitting outfield was winning many a game by sheer
slugging. Washington loomed up as a dangerous contender, and only a
little while before had won fifteen straight games.

But the chief antagonist of the Clevelands was the New York Yankee
team. For many years they had struggled to win the championship, but
though they had come so close at one time that a single wild pitch beat
them out of it, they had never been able to gain the coveted emblem.

"It seems at times as though a 'jinx' were pursuing the Yankees,"
remarked Jim. "But this year they have got together a rattling good
crowd in all departments of the game. Most of all that counts in their
hopes, I imagine, is the acquisition of Kid Rose."

Kid Rose was a phenomenal batter of whom every baseball fan in the
United States was talking. He had been a pitcher on the Red Sox and
had done fine work in the box. It was only after he had been playing
some time in that position that he himself, as well as others, began
to realize the tremendous strength that resided in his batting arm and
shoulders. He was a left handed batter, so that most of his hits went
into right field, or rather into the right field bleachers, where they
counted as home runs. In one season he accumulated twenty-nine home
runs, which was a record for the major leagues.

The Yankee owners made a deal with the Red Sox by which the "Kid" was
brought to the New York club at a price larger than had ever been paid
for a player. It was a good investment, however, for the newcomer was
excelling his home run record of the year before and drew so many
people to the parks where he played that a constant golden stream
flowed into the strong boxes of the club. He made as many home runs as
all the other players of his team together. Now, owing to his work,
the Yankees were fighting it out with the Clevelands for the lead, and
the papers were already beginning to talk of the possibility of both
championships coming to New York. If this should be the case, the World
Series games would probably draw the greatest crowds that had ever
witnessed such a contest, and the prize money for the players would
undoubtedly be larger than ever before in the history of the game.

Joe and his comrades needed no such spur as this to make them play
their best. A strong loyalty to the club marked every player of the
team. Still it was not at all an unpleasing thought that the result of
winning would add a good many thousand dollars to the salary of every

The Giants started out in high hopes on this second Western invasion.

"Sixteen games to be played on this trip, boys," McRae had said to
them, as they boarded the train at the Pennsylvania Station. "And out
of that sixteen I want at least twelve. Nix on the breaking even stuff.
That won't go with me at all. I want to get so far ahead on this trip
that we'll be on easy street for the rest of the race."

"Why not cop the whole sixteen, Mac?" asked Larry, with a broad grin.

"So much the better," answered McRae. "But I'm no hog. Give me an
average of three out of four in each series and I'll ask for nothing

The team started out as though they were going to give their manager
what he wanted. Their first stop this time was Pittsburgh, and here
they won the first two games right off the reel. The third, however,
was lost by a close margin. In the fourth the Giants' bats got going
and they sent three Pirate pitchers to the showers, winning by the
one-sided score of eleven to two. So that it was in high spirits that
they left the Smoky City for Cincinnati.

Here they met with a rude shock. The Reds were in the midst of one
of their winning streaks and were on a hitting rampage. They had the
"breaks," too, and cleaned up by taking every game. It was a complete
reversal, and the Giants were stunned.

Next: In The Throes Of A Slump

Previous: The Attack On The Road

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