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Holding Them Down

Baseball circles had rarely been more deeply stirred than by the issue
of the game, by winning which the Giants had tied their record. It was
not merely the winning, but the sensational way in which Baseball Joe's
home run had turned the scales in the last minute and snatched victory
from defeat that excited the fans.

But now that the record was tied, would the Giants be able to hang
up a new one? That was the question on every lip, the question whose
discussion filled column after column of the sporting pages of the

All agreed that the Giants had been lucky to win. If it had not been
for the error of the pitcher on Denton's slow dribble, they would have
lost. But it was conceded that it was not luck that had secured that
mighty home run that Joe had hammered out to the bleachers. That was
ball playing. That was muscle. That was determination. Once again his
cool head and quick eye and powerful arm had shown that the game was
not over until the last man was out.

It was Joe's turn to pitch, and it was upon that fact more than
anything else that the vast crowd that stormed the Polo Grounds relied
for annexing the twenty-seventh game. The Pittsburghs too were holding
out their star pitcher, Hooper, for that critical game, and it was
certain that they would put forth superhuman efforts to win.

In more senses than one, the game was an important one. The last two
victories of the Giants had wiped out the lead that the Pirates had
had over them, and the two teams were now on even terms in games won
and lost for the season, so that the Pirates had a double incentive to
win. If they took the game they would not only prevent the Giants from
breaking their own record for a winning streak, but would also once
more stand at the head of the League.

"It's up to you, Joe," McRae said, just before the bell rang for the
game to begin. "How are you feeling? Are you tired at all from pitching
those last two innings yesterday?"

"Not a bit tired," replied Joe promptly. "That little work yesterday
was just the practice I needed to get into form. I'm feeling as fine as

"You look it," said the manager admiringly, as his eye took in the
strong, lithe figure, the bronzed face and clear eyes of his star
pitcher. "Well go in now Joe and eat them up. Hooper will be in the
box for them, and I'm not denying that he's some pitcher. But he never
saw the day that you couldn't run rings around him. Go in and win."

It was evident from the start that there would be no such free hitting
that day as there had been the day before. Both boxmen were in superb
form, and by the time the first inning for each side was over, the
spectators had settled down to witness a pitcher's duel.

Hooper was a spitball artist, and his moist slants kept the Giants
guessing in the early part of the game. But while he depended chiefly
on this form of delivery, he had other puzzlers in his assortment, and
he mixed them up in a most deceptive manner. In the first three innings
he had four strike-outs to his credit, and when the Giants did connect
with the ball it went up into the air and into the hands of some
waiting fielder. His control of the slippery sphere also was excellent,
and he issued no passes.

In the fourth inning, the Giants began to nibble at his offerings.
Curry rapped one out to right for the first single of the game. Iredell
was robbed of a hit by a great jumping catch of O'Connor, who speared
the ball with his gloved hand. Burkett lined out a two-bagger that
carried Curry easily to third, but in trying to stretch the hit, he
was caught by Ralston's magnificent throw to the plate. Burkett in
the meantime had made a dash for third, but thought better of it, and
scrambled back to second just in time. The next man up went out from
short to first and the inning ended without scoring. But the Giants had
proved to themselves that Hooper could be hit, and it was with renewed
confidence that they took their places in the field.

Joe in the meantime was mowing his opponents down with the regularity
of a machine. His mighty arm swung back and forth like a piston rod.
He had never cared for the spitball, as he knew that sooner or later
it destroyed a pitcher's effectiveness. But in his repertoire of
curves and slants he had weapons far more deadly. His fast straight
one whizzed over the plate like a bullet. He mixed these up with a
slow, dipping curve that the Pirates endeavored in vain to solve. Only
with the head of the Pittsburgh batting order did he at times resort
to the fadeaway. That he kept in reserve for some moment when danger
threatened. Twice in the first five innings he set down the side
on strikes, and not a man reached first on balls. It was wonderful
pitching, and again and again Joe was forced to doff his cap to the
cheers of the crowd, as he came into the bench.

In the sixth inning, the Giants got busy. Wheeler lashed out a whale of
a three-bagger to left. Willis laid down a neat sacrifice, bringing
Wheeler home for the first run of the game. Larry hit the ball on the
seam for a single, but was caught a moment later in trying to purloin
second. The next batter up went out on strikes and the inning ended
with the Giants one run to the good.

The seventh inning came and passed and not a hit had been made by the
Pirates. Then it began to be realized that Joe was out for a no-hit
game, and the crowd rooted for him madly.

Joe himself was about the only cool man on the grounds. He measured
every man that came to the plate and took his time about pitching to
him. Man after man he fanned or made him hit feeble grounders to the
infield. And that wonderful control of his forbade any passes. The
Pirates did not dare to wait him out. It was a case of strike or be
struck out, and so they struck at the ball, but usually struck only the
empty air.

That ball! Sometimes it was a wheedling, coaxing ball, that sauntered
up to the plate as though just begging to be hit. Again it was a
vanishing ball that grew smaller from the time it left Joe's hand until
it became a mere pin point as it glinted over the rubber. Still again
it was a savage ball that shot over the plate with a rush and a hiss
that made the batter jump back. But always it was a deceptive ball,
that slipped by, hopped by, loafed by, twisted by, dodged by, and the
Pirate sluggers strained their backs as well as their tempers in trying
to hit it.

McRae and Robbie on the bench watched with fascination and delight the
work of their king pitcher.

"It's magic, I tell you, John, just magic!" blurted out Robbie, as
another victim went out on strikes and threw down his bat in disgust.

"It sure looks like it," grinned McRae. "He has those fellows jumping
through the hoops all right. I'm free to say I never saw anything like

"He's got the ball trained, I tell you," persisted Robbie, rubbing his
hands in jubilation. "It's an educated ball. It does just what Joe
tells it to."

Almost uncontrollable excitement prevailed as the Pirates came in for
their last inning. Their heaviest sluggers were coming to the bat, and
now if ever was the time to do something. They figured that the strain
must have told on Joe and that a crack was due.

Their hope grew dimmer, however, when Ralston, after fouling off two,
fanned on the third strike. But it revived again when Baskerville
rolled an easy one to Larry, that the latter fumbled for a moment and
then hurled to first a fraction of a second too late.

There was a roar of glee from the Pirates, and they began to chatter
in the hope of rattling the pitcher. Bemis, the next man up, came to
the plate swinging three bats. He discarded two of them and glared at

"Here's where you meet your finish," he boasted, as he brandished his

Joe merely smiled and put one over. Bemis drove it straight for the
box. Joe leaped into the air, caught it in his ungloved hand and shot
it like lightning to first, catching Baskerville before he could get

It was as pretty a double play as had ever been made on the New York

Next: A Crushing Blow

Previous: Striving For Mastery

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