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Three In A Row

The first jump of the team was to Cincinnati, and there they found
their work cut out for them. The Reds had just lost three out of four
to Pittsburgh, and they had got such a talking to from their manager,
from the fans, and from the press of the city that they knew they had
to do something to redeem themselves. They knew that if they could hold
the Giants even, it would be something; if they could take three out of
four they would be forgiven; while if they could make a clean sweep of
the series they would "own the town."

It was a singular thing what delight all the Western teams, and for
that matter all the teams of the League, took in beating the Giants. A
victory over them, of course, did not count any more in the final score
than a victory over one of the tailenders; but there was a fiendish
satisfaction in taking the scalps of the team from the "Big Town." So
that the managers always saved their best pitchers for the games with
the Giants, while they took a chance with their second string pitchers
against the other teams. This of course was a compliment; but it was a
compliment that the Giants did not especially appreciate, for it made
their task harder than that of any other team in the League.

So when the Giants learned that Dutch Rutter was to try his prowess
against them in the opening game, they were not surprised. Rutter was
a left-hander who had made a phenomenal record the preceding year, and
he had been especially rested up and groomed with the Giant series in
view. Meran, the manager, had figured that if he could win the first
game with Rutter he could come back with him in the fourth, and thus
have at least a chance of getting an even break on the series.

But McRae, anticipating such a move, had so arranged his own selection
of pitchers that Joe was in line for the first game, and he was not
afraid to pit his "ace" against the star boxman of the Cincinnatis.

His confidence was justified, for Baseball Joe won out after a
gruelling struggle. In Rutter he had found an opponent worthy of his
steel. For six innings neither team broke into the run column. Rutter
had superb control for a left-hander, and he showed a most dazzling
assortment of curves and slants. But Joe came back at him with the
same brand of pitching that he had shown in the opening game, and the
Cincinnati batsmen were turned back from the plate bewildered and
disgruntled. In vain their manager raved and stormed.

"Why don't you hit him?" he asked of his star slugger, as the latter
came back to the bench, after having been called out on strikes.

"Hit him!" Duncan came back at him. "What chance have I got of hitting
him, when I can't even hit the ball he pitches?"

Still the Giants had a scare thrown into them when in the ninth
inning, by a succession of fumbles and wild throws, the Cincinnatis
had three men on bases and none out. As they themselves had only one
run, scored in the seventh inning by a three base hit by Joe, aided by
a clean single by Mylert, the chances looked exceedingly good that the
Cincinnatis might tie the score or win the game. A clean single would
have brought in one run and probably two.

But Baseball Joe was always at his best when most depended on him.
While the coachers tried to rattle him and the crowds frantically
adjured Thompson, who was at the bat, to bring the men on bases in to
the plate, Joe was as cool as a cucumber.

He threw a swift high one to Thompson which the latter missed by three
inches. Mylert threw the ball back to Joe, who stopped it with his
foot and stooped as though to adjust his shoe lace. He fumbled an
instant with the lace, and then suddenly picking up the ball hurled it
to second like a shot. Emden, who was taking a long lead off the base,
tried to scramble back, but Denton had the ball on him like a flash.
Mellen who was on third made a bolt for the plate, but Denton shot the
ball to Mylert, and Mellen was run down between third and home. While
this was going on, Gallagher had taken second, and profiting by the
running down of Mellen, kept on half way to third. He did not dare go
all the way to third, because Mellen still had a chance to get back
to that base. But the instant Mellen was touched out, Joe, who had
taken part in running him down, shot the ball to Willis at third and
Gallagher was caught between the second and third bags. Three men were
out, the game was over, and the Giants had begun their Western invasion
with a 1 to 0 victory.

Joe's quick thinking had cleared the bags in a twinkling. It had all
come so suddenly that the crowd was dumbfounded. Meran, the Cincinnati
manager, sat on the bench with his mouth open like a man in a daze. His
men were equally "flabbergasted." Thompson still stood at the plate
with his bat in hand. It seemed to him that a bunco game had been
played on him, and he was still trying to fathom it.

Then at last the crowd woke up. They hated to see the home team lose,
but they could not restrain their meed of admiration and applause. The
stands fairly rocked with cheering. They had seen a play that they
could talk about all their lives, one that happens perhaps once in a
generation, one that they would probably never see again.

McRae and Robbie for a moment acted like men in a trance. Over Robbie's
rubicund face chased all the colors of the chameleon. It almost seemed
as though he might have a stroke of apoplexy. Then at last he turned to
McRae and smote him mightily on the knees.

"Did you see it, John?" he roared. "Did you see it?"

"I saw it," answered McRae. "But for the love of Pete, Robbie, keep
that pile driver off my knees. Yes, I saw it, and I don't mind saying
that I never saw anything like it in my thirty years of baseball. I
have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming."

"A miracle man, that's what he is!" ejaculated Robbie. "That wing of
his is wonderful, but it's the head on him that tops any other in the
league. He wasn't behind the door when brains were given out."

Meran, the Cincinnati manager, who was a good sport, after he had
recovered from his astonishment, came over to the Giants' bench and
shook hands with McRae and Robson.

"It was a hard game to lose, John," he said to the Giants' manager. "I
thought we had it sewed up in the ninth. But there's no use bucking
against that pitcher of yours. I'm only glad that you can't pitch him
in all your games."

Joe, flushed and smiling, was overwhelmed with congratulations, but he
made light of his feat, as was his custom.

"It was simple enough," he protested. "I had the luck to catch Emden
off second and the boys did all the rest."

"Simple enough," mimicked Jim. "Oh, yes, it was simple enough. That's
the reason it happens every day of the week."

It was a good beginning, but the old proverb that "a good beginning
makes a bad ending" was illustrated in this Western tour. For some
reason most of the Giant pitchers could not "get going." Jim pulled out
a victory in the Cincinnati series, but Markwith lost his game, and
Hughson, who tried to pitch one of the games, found that he was not yet
in shape.

That series ended two and two. In Chicago the Giants had to be content
with only one victory out of the series. They hoped to make up for this
in St. Louis. But they found that the fame of "Murderers' Row" had
not been exaggerated, and there was a perfect rain of hits from the
Cardinals' bats that took two games out of three, the fourth that had
been scheduled being held up by rain.

When the team swung around to Pittsburgh, there were some added
wrinkles between McRae's brows.

"If we can only break even with Cincinnati and get the little end of
it in Chicago and St. Louis, what will Pittsburgh do to us?" he asked
Robbie, with a groan.

"What Pittsburgh will do to us, John," replied Robbie soberly, "is a
sin and a shame!"

Next: Right From The Shoulder

Previous: An Old Enemy

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