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Lining Them Out

The pain in his injured hand was intense that night, and Joe paced
the floor for hours before he was able to get to sleep. By morning,
however, the hand had yielded to treatment, and the swelling had
greatly decreased. At the earliest hour possible Joe, accompanied by
Jim, was at the surgeon's office.

The doctor's face expressed his satisfaction, as, after an examination,
he rendered his verdict.

"It isn't as bad as I feared," he said while he deftly rebandaged the
injured member. "This dislocation is slight and you'll soon be as right
as ever. But you've got to take good care of it. It will be some time
before you can pitch."

"But how about batting?" asked Joe anxiously. "That isn't a steady
strain, as I'd only have to do it three or four times in the course of
the game."

"I don't know," replied the doctor with a smile. "I'm not familiar
enough with the game to tell where the strain comes in that case. I
can imagine, however, that it would be chiefly in the arm and shoulder.
It's possible that you may be able to bat before you can pitch. But I
can tell more about that later on, as I see how your hand mends. For
the present, you'll have to go slow."

The sporting writers had no reason to complain of the dullness of news
for that day's issue. The papers were ringing with the stirring events
of the day before. Columns of space were devoted to the story of the
game, and there was unstinted praise of Joe for his wonderful exploit.

But mingled with the jubilation was a strain of apprehension. The
accident that had befallen the great pitcher was a subject of the
keenest anxiety. It was recognized that a great blow had been struck at
the Giants' hope for the pennant. To have the greatest twirler of the
team put out of the game just in the hottest part of the fight was a
disaster that might prove fatal. Pittsburgh stock took a decided upward
bound in consequence.

The effect on the Giants themselves, as far as their morale was
concerned, was almost certain to be hurtful. The tremendous strain
under which they had been, while compiling their twenty-seven
consecutive wins, had brought them to a point where a sudden blow like
this might make them go to pieces.

As a matter of fact, that is just what did happen to them that very
afternoon. The whole team was depressed and had a case of nerves. They
played like a lot of schoolboys, booting the ball, slipping up on easy
grounders and muffing flies that ordinarily they could have caught with

The Pittsburghs, on the other hand, played with redoubled skill and
courage. Their hopes had been revived by the misfortune that had
befallen their most dangerous opponent. Joe was personally popular with
all the players of the League, and they were sorry that he was hurt.
But that did not prevent them from taking advantage of the chance to
make hay while the sun shone.

The game developed into a farce after the third inning, and from that
time on it was only a question of the size of the score. When the game
ended, the Giant outfielders were leg-weary from chasing hits, and the
visitors were equally tired from running bases. The Pittsburghs won by
a score of 17 to 3, and the Giants' winning streak came to an end.

But for once the team escaped a roasting from McRae. The team had done
wonderful work, and any nine that wins twenty-seven games in succession
has a right to lose the twenty-eighth. Besides the break was due, and
the manager hoped that with this one bad game out of their systems the
team would pull itself together and start another rally.

For the next week or two, the race see-sawed between the two leading
teams. By this time it had become generally recognized that the pennant
lay between them. The other contestants had occasional spurts, when
great playing for a short period would revive the waning hopes of their
admirers, but they soon fell back again in the ruck. It was quite
certain that the flag would fly either over Forbes Field or over the
Polo Grounds.

In the meantime, Joe's hand was mending rapidly. His superb physical
condition helped him greatly, and the doctor was visibly surprised and
gratified by the progress of his patient. But it was hard work for Joe
to be laid off just at the time that his team needed him most. Still he
believed in the proverb "the more haste the less speed," and he tried
to be patient, even while he was "chafing at the bit."

About ten days after the accident, the doctor delighted him by telling
him that he need not come to see him any more. But he still ordered
him to refrain from pitching. As to batting, he said cautiously that
Joe could try that out a little at a time. If he found that after easy
batting practice his hand did not hurt him, he might be permitted to
bat in an actual game.

Joe was quick to avail himself of the permission. Very cautiously he
tried batting out fungo hits. While at first the hand felt a little
sore and stiff, this soon passed off. Then Joe had Jim pitch him some
easy ones in practice, and found that he could line them out without
ill effects. Finally he let Jim put them over at full speed, and was
delighted to find that he could lift them into the right field stands
and not suffer much of a twinge. At last he was himself again, as far
at least as batting was concerned.

His recovery came just in time to be of immense benefit to the team.
The men had slumped considerably in batting, though they still held up
to their usual form in fielding. But fielding alone cannot win games.
Defensive work is all very well, but combined with it must be the
offensive work on the part of the batsmen. The best fielding in the
world cannot put runs over the plate.

Joe's return put new spirit into the team at once. The batting picked
up noticeably, with Joe leading the way. At first he was a little
cautious about putting his whole strength into his blow, and for a few
days when he was used in emergencies as a pinch hitter, he gathered a
crop of singles with an occasional double and triple. But with every
successive day he let out a new link, and at length he put his whole
strength into his swing. Home runs became again a common feature, and
the Giants started in joyously on a new upward climb.

The season was to end this year in the West, and by the time the Giants
started on their last swing around the circuit, they had a lead of four
games over the Pirates. It was not necessarily a winning lead, but it
was very comforting just the same to have those four games as a margin.
Still, the Pittsburghs were hanging on gamely, ready to forge to the
front on the least sign of weakening shown by their competitors. It
was one of the hottest races that had ever been seen in the National
League, and there was a chance that it would not be decided until the
last day of the season.

"The last lap," remarked Jim, as the team started on its trip. "Here's
where we win or lose."

"Here's where we win," corrected Joe.

Next: The Tireless Foe

Previous: A Crushing Blow

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