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In The Throes Of A Slump

Robson's round face had lost its usual smile. McRae's was like a
thundercloud, and the players evaded him as much as they could. Even
Larry was "Laughing Larry" no longer. It was a disgruntled crowd of
baseball players that shook the dust of Cincinnati from their feet and
started for Chicago.

"Better luck next time," Joe comforted his mates. "After all it's the
uncertainty of the game that makes baseball. How many people would have
been at the park if they thought their pets didn't have a chance to

"That's all very well," grumbled Curry, "but we ought at least to have
had our share of the breaks. We hit the ball hard enough, but every
time it went straight to the fielders. They didn't hit any better, but
the ball went just out of the reach of our fellows. Talk about fool
luck! If those Cincinnati players fell in the water they'd come up with
a fish dinner."

"That's just the reason we're due for a change," argued Jim. "We'll get
it all back from the Cubs."

But here again there was disappointment. Joe pitched the first game and
won in a close fight, although the Cubs tied it up in the ninth and Joe
had to win his own game in the eleventh by a homer. But the next two
went to Chicago, and in the fourth game, which Jim pitched, the best
he could do was to make it a tie, called in the twelfth on account of

This time it was not luck that gave to the Giants only one game out of
three. They had as many of the breaks of the game as their opponents.
They simply slumped. One of those mysterious things that come to almost
every team once at least in a season had them in its clutches. Perhaps
it was overanxiety, perhaps it was a superstitious feeling that a
"jinx" was after them, but, whatever it was, it spread through the
team like an epidemic. Their fingers were "all thumbs." Their bats had
"holes" in them. The most reliable fielders slipped up on easy chances.
They booted the ball, or if they got it they threw either too high or
too low to first. Double plays became less frequent. Two of the best
batters in the team, Larry and Burkett, fell off woefully in their

In vain McRae raged and stormed. In vain Robbie begged and pleaded
and cajoled. In vain Jim and Joe, who still resisted the infection,
sought to stem the tide of disaster. The members of the team with a few
exceptions continued to act as if they were in a trance.

McRae did everything in his power to bring about a change. He laid off
Willis and Iredell, and put two promising rookies, Barry and Ward, in
their places. This added a little speed on the bases to the team, but
did not materially add to the batting or fielding, for the rookies were
nervous and made many misplays, while they were lamentably short on the
"inside stuff" that takes long experience to acquire. He shook up the
batting order. But the hits were still few and far between.

St. Louis gave the Giants a sound trouncing in the first game, but in
the second the Giants came to life and reversed the score.

Joe was in the box in this contest, and as he came in to the bench in
the fourth inning, he noted, sitting in the grandstand, a figure that
seemed familiar to him. The man seemed to have seen Baseball Joe at the
same time, but he hid himself behind the form of a big man sitting in
front of him, so that Joe could not be sure of his identification.

"What were you looking at so steadily, Joe?" inquired Jim, as his
friend sat down on the bench beside him. "Did you by any chance catch
sight of the jinx that's been following us?" he continued jokingly.

"Maybe I did, at that," replied Joe. "I could have sworn that I got a
glimpse of Bugs Hartley in the grandstand."

"Bugs Hartley?" echoed Jim in surprise. "How could that old rascal have
got as far as St. Louis?"

"Beat his way, perhaps," answered Joe. "Of course I'm not dead sure but
that I might have been mistaken. And I won't have much time to look for
him while I'm in the box. But suppose in the meantime you go down to
the coaching line near first. While you're pretending to coach, you can
take an occasional look at the grandstand and see if you can pick out
Bugs. He's somewhere about the third row near the center. Just where
the wire netting is broken."

Jim did as suggested, and studied the grandstand with care. He had only
a chance to make an affirmative nod of the head as Joe, the inning
ended, went out again to the box, but when he returned after pitching
the side out on strikes, Jim told Joe that he was right.

"It's Bugs all right," he said. "I had a good chance to see that ugly
mug of his, and there can't be any mistake. But what in thunder can he
be doing in St. Louis?"

"Oh, panhandling and drinking himself to death, I suppose," answered
Joe carelessly, his mind intent upon the game.

"But how did he get here?" persisted Jim. "I don't like it, old man. It
takes money to travel, and I don't think Bugs could hustle up railroad
fare to save his life. And if somebody gave him the money to get here,
why was it done? I tell you again, Joe, I don't like it."

"Well, perhaps it's just as well we caught sight of him," admitted Joe.
"It will help us to keep our eyes open."

In the seventh inning for the Giants, with the score tied at 3 to 3,
Larry started a rally for the Giants by lining out a screaming single
to right. Denton followed with a hit to short that was too hot for
the shortstop to handle. He knocked the ball down, however, and got
it to first. Denton had thought the play would be made on Larry, who
was already on his way to third. Denton, therefore, had rounded first
and started for second, but saw the ball coming and scrambled back to
first. There was a grand mixup, but the umpire declared Denton safe.

It was a close play, and the St. Louis team was up in arms in a moment.
Some of them, including their manager, rushed to the spot to argue with
the umpire. The crowd also was enraged at the decision and began to
hoot and howl. One or two pop bottles were thrown at the umpire, but
fell short.

Joe, who was next at bat, had taken his stand at the plate, awaiting
the outcome of the argument. Suddenly a bottle, aimed with great skill
and tremendous force, came through the broken wire netting, whizzed
close by his head, the top of it grazing his ear in passing. If it had
hit his head, it would have injured him greatly beyond a doubt.

Joe turned toward the stand and saw a man hastily making his way out
toward the entrance. He could only see his back, but he knew at once to
whom that back belonged.

"Stop him! Stop him!" he shouted, as he threw aside his bat and rushed
toward the stand.

But Jim had already vaulted over the barrier and was rushing through
the aisle.

Next: A Close Call

Previous: Falling Behind

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