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The Game Of His Life






For the ninth and deciding game, McRae had selected Joe to pitch.

"I don't need to tell you, Joe, how much depends on this game," McRae
said soberly, as the two came out of the clubhouse and walked across
the field towards the grandstand, which was crowded to suffocation.
"You know it as well as I do. I'm just counting on you, my boy. You've
never failed me yet in a pinch. You won't fail me now."

"Trust me, Mac," replied Joe. "I'll do my best to win out."

Hudson, the manager of the Yankees, was also pinning his faith on
the leader of his pitching staff, Phil Hays. He was a master of the
underhand delivery, and had already captured for the Yankees the two
games of the series in which he had pitched. In both games he had
sorely puzzled the Giants, for there was no pitcher in the National
League who used that delivery, and they had found it almost impossible
to gauge it. He also had a crossfire, that he used at times with
telling effect. He had not yet matched his pitching strength against
Joe's, and the crowd was all agog with curiosity to see them battle
against each other.

Jim had been a little later than Joe in slipping into his uniform, and
was still in the clubhouse, after his friend had gone out on the field,
when Reggie came rushing in, panting and out of breath.

"Where's Joe?" he asked, looking wildly around.

"He's just gone out to practice," answered Jim. "Why, what's the
matter, Reggie?"

"I've got to get Joe," Reggie panted, making a dash for the door.

But Jim caught his arm.

"Look here, Reggie," he said, holding to him tightly. "Joe mustn't be
upset. I can see that something's happened. Tell me what it is, and
I'll see about letting Joe know."

"It's M-Mabel!" answered Reggie, stammering in his excitement. "She's
disappeared."

"Disappeared!" echoed Jim, in bewilderment. "What do you mean?"

"Just that," answered Reggie. "She went out this morning to call on
a friend, but said she'd get back to go with me to the game. I got
anxious when she didn't come, and called up her friend, who said she
hadn't seen her. Just then a messenger boy brought me this," and he
handed over a typewritten, unsigned note, which read:

"Miss Varley is in safe hands. If Matson loses his game to-day
she will be returned this evening. If he doesn't, it will cost
$25,000 to get her back. Personal in papers to-morrow, signed
T. Z., will give exact directions for carrying on further
negotiations."

"Now you see why I've got to see Joe right away," said Reggie in
frenzied impatience, snatching the note from Jim's hands.

"You mustn't!" ejaculated Jim, barring the way. "Don't you see that
that's just what the rascals want you to do? You'd just be playing
their game. They want to get Joe so frightened and upset that he can't
pitch. It's the scheme of some gamblers who have bet on the Yanks to
win. They want to make sure that they will win, and so they want to
bribe or frighten Joe into losing. But probably if he did, they'd
demand the ransom money just the same. We'll have to keep it from Joe
until the game is over. Nothing will be lost by that. I'll give McRae a
tip and he'll let me off. Then you and I will get busy and do all that
we can for the next two hours. If we turn nothing up, we'll be back
here when the game ends and tell Joe all about it. Wait here a minute
till I see McRae, and then we'll get on the job."

In five minutes he was back with the required permission, and as soon
as he had got into his street clothes he hailed a taxicab, and he and
Reggie jumped in and were off.

When the bell rang for the game to begin, the Giants took the field,
and Milton, the big center-fielder of the Yankees, came to the plate.
Joe wound a high fast one about his neck, at which he refused to bite.
The next one split the rubber, and Milton swung savagely at it and
missed. The next was a called strike. On the following ball, he rolled
an easy grounder to Burkett at first, who made the put out unassisted.
The next man, Pender, Joe put out on strikes in jig time. Then the
mighty Kid Rose strode to the bat.

He grinned at Joe and Joe grinned back. They were both good fellows,
and each thoroughly respected the other. There was no bitterness in
their rivalry.

"Now little ball, come to papa!" sang out Rose.

"Here he comes!" laughed Joe. "Take a look at baby."

The ball whizzed over the plate, and Rose missed it by an inch. The
next he fouled off, as he did the following one. Then Joe tried a
fadeaway, and Rose fell for it, swinging himself halfway round with the
force of his blow.

"You're out!" cried the umpire, and the Giant supporters in the stands
broke out in cheers. It was not often that Rose struck out, and the
feat was appreciated.

In the Giants' half, Hays set them down in one, two, three order. Curry
flied to Russell in right, Iredell went out by the strike route, while
Burkett's grounder to Pender at short was whipped smartly down to first.

The Yankees were easy victims in the second. Russell fanned, Walsh
lifted a twisting foul, on which Mylert made a superb catch close to
the Giants' dugout and Mullen hit a grounder between first and the box,
which Joe captured and fielded to Burkett in plenty of time.

Joe was first up in the Giants' half, and had to doff his cap in
response to the cheers which greeted him as he came to the plate.

Hays sized him up carefully and did not like his looks. The first ball
he threw him was so wide that Banks, the catcher, had to reach far out
to nab it with one hand.

That might have been lack of control on Hays' part, but when a second
followed, that came nowhere in the range of Joe's bat, the crowd jumped
to the conclusion that he was deliberately trying to pass him, and a
storm of protests rained down on the diamond.

"You're a game sport--not!"

"Let Baseball Joe hit the ball!"

"Yellow streak!"

"Matson took a chance with Rose. Why don't you take a chance with
Matson?"

"Where's your sand?"

Whether Hays was stung by these jibes or not, the next ball curved
over the plate and just above the knee. There was a ringing crack, and
the ball sailed aloft in the direction of the bleachers with home run
written all over it. There was no need of hurrying, and Joe simply
trotted around the bases, while pandemonium reigned in the stands and
bleachers.





Next: Champions Of The World

Previous: The World Series



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