“Well,” asked Mr. Windam, as Cap stood before him. “What name?”
“Um. Spell it with a ‘Y’”
“Not much. Just plain Smith.”
“Good; and the position?”
“We’ve got three, but never mind. Accidents will happen. Next!”
“Smith,” said Bill laconically. “Plain Bill.”
“I see. And you’d like to be—”
“Good again, as Mr. Pumblechook would say. Do you know Mr. Pumblechook?”
“Slightly,” answered Bill, as he recalled his Dickens.
“Pitcher; eh?” mused the coach, as he jotted Bill’s name down. “We’ve
got about seven candidates, but the more the merrier. Glass arms are
“Smith—Peter,” and the third member of the well-known family stood
“Great Scott! Any more? What is this anyhow, a family affair?”
There was a laugh, and Mr. Windam wrote Pete’s name down with
“shortstop” opposite it.
“Not so bad,” the coach murmured. “We need a good man at short, and you
look as if you’d fill the bill.”
Sawed-off smiled in a gratified manner, and the taking of names
proceeded. There was a large number of candidates, and they appeared
promising, the coach, captain and manager agreed as they looked them
over later. Then, announcing that work in the cage would start in two
days, and admonishing the lads to be on hand, and do their best, the
meeting was called to a close.
“Think we’ll make it?” asked Bill anxiously as he and his brothers,
together with Whistle-Breeches, walked to their rooms, to at least make
a pretense of reading and studying.
“We will if work is going to count for anything,” declared Cap.
The work soon began, and within the next few days there was a
Our heroes were lucky, or, rather their former good playing stood them
in excellent stead, and they, together with their friend of the former
corduroy trousers, were among the fit survivors. True they were not
assured of any particular positions on the team, but they realized that
they would be fortunate if they made the Varsity at all. In batting
Pete did better than either of his brothers, and he received some
compliments from the coach.
Cap was on the anxious seat regarding his position behind the bat,
and it was not until on one occasion he did some fearless work, and
demonstrated a good throwing ability that he drew from the coach and
captain a word of praise that meant much.
“I guess you’ll do, ‘Plain’ Smith,” said the coach with a reassuring
smile. “Of course I can’t tell until I see you out of doors, but you
look good to me.”
“How about Bill?” asked Cap anxiously, for he wanted to see his brother
fill the twirling box, and he knew that the control Bill had of the
ball, his curving ability, and his lasting qualities would win him a
place if he had a fair try-out.
“Well, I don’t know,” was the somewhat dubious answer. “Alex Mersfeld
pitched all last season, and naturally he’s entitled to it again. He’s
our star man, but of course if your brother is better—well, we’ve got
to have the best—that’s all. I don’t play any favorites.”
And with this Cap had to be content.
Spring came with a rush, the ground dried up, and two weeks after
the applications for the team were all in out-of-door practice was
ordered. Then the ranks were further thinned, but our heroes and
Whistle-Breeches still held their own.
Cap was slated as first substitute catcher, and Pete was honored with a
firm place on the Varsity as shortstop. But with Bill it was different.
Mersfeld held his old position, and there was no denying that he had a
Still, when Bill got a chance to show what he could do he opened the
eyes of the coach and captain.
“If we ever need to take Mersfeld out there’s a chap who can fill the
box to perfection,” declared Mr. Windam. “I almost wish we could play
“But he’s only a Fresh,” objected the captain, “and if we put the three
Smith boys on the team, it’ll be said we are trying to make a family
affair of it.”
“Can’t help it—we want to win.”
And, as the days went on the Smith boys further demonstrated their
abilities. Practice was now held regularly and there were games between
the Varsity and scrub nines, Bill pitching on the latter team. His
curves were a source of wonder and delight to his team mates, and
chagrin to his opponents, and on one occasion, when they did not get a
hit off him in five innings, the coach shook his head in doubt.
“I don’t know about it,” he murmured. “If he keeps on improving as he
has he’ll displace Mersfeld.”
“Nonsense!” said the captain easily.
It was one afternoon toward the close of a practice game, when the
scrub was one run ahead, and the coach was exhorting the Varsity lads
to “perk up,” and put some ginger into the contest. Bill was in the
box, and had been doing some excellent work for the scrub when Graydon,
of the Varsity, came up to the bat.
“Now’s a chance to strike me out!” he called good-naturedly. “If you
don’t I’m going to make a home run.”
“Then you’d better go sit down now,” replied Bill, as he wound up for
a swift out. It went from his hand with a speedy whizz, and the batter
caught it squarely on his stick. There was a resounding whack, and the
ball came straight for Bill, at about the level of his head.
He put up his hands for it, instinctively, but so swift was the
horsehide sphere traveling that it broke through and hit him on the
head, just over the left eye. He dropped like a stone, and Graydon,
tossing aside his bat, raced for the fallen lad.
“By Jove old man!” he cried contritely, all thoughts of the game
forgotten. “I’m sorry for that. Wow! But that’s a nasty bump!”
Poor Bill was lying in Graydon’s arms, unconscious, while a big lump
was swelling up on the pitcher’s head.
“Some water!” cried Graydon, and they brought the pail. Pete and Cap
hastened up, as did Mr. Windam.
“Now don’t cut off all the air,” said the coach. “Harris, perhaps you’d
better ask Dr. Blasdell to step down,” there being a physician on the
school’s staff of teachers.
But Bill opened his eyes as the cold water trickled down his face, and
“I’m—I’m all right. I’m not hurt—just a little dizzy.”
“Take it easy, old man,” advised the coach. “A little more water. Here,
Snyder, mix a little of that aromatic spirits of ammonia. You’ll find
the bottle in my valise,” for Mr. Windam kept a few simple remedies in
readiness for first aid to the injured.
Soon Bill was much better, and there was no need for the services of
Dr. Blasdell, who came hurrying down at the summons. He found that
there was no apparent injury to Bill’s skull, and the plucky pitcher
wanted to go on with the game, but they would not hear of it, and put
another man in, while our hero was taken to his room to lie down. The
Varsity won the game, but took little credit for it, and when the
contest was over there were many inquiries for Bill.
“Well, how do you feel?” asked Pete the next day, as his brother got up
and looked in the glass at the strip of plaster over the big bump, for
the skin was broken.
“I feel as though I tried to stop a taxicab with my head. Dizzy, you
know. But I guess it will pass over.”
He felt much better as the day passed, and wanted to get into practice
that afternoon, but the coach would not let him.
However, on the following afternoon, Bill insisted so strenuously
that he was allowed to get into a uniform, and take his place on the
diamond. There was no game, but he and Cap did some work together.
The first few balls Bill pitched went a bit wild, and his brother did
not pay much attention to them, but when, after he had delivered about
the seventh one, and it went wide of the plate, Cap called:
“Get ’em over, Bill. They’re a bit too far out.”
“Too wide! What’s the matter? That cut off as big a corner of the plate
as you’d want.”
“What? It was four inches out.”
“Nonsense!” exclaimed Bill. “You can’t see straight. Here, how’s this?”
The ball shot from his hand, but Bill had to step some distance out to
gather it into his big mitt.
“Worser and worser,” he said with a smile. “Guess your vacation didn’t
do you any good.”
“Say, what’s the matter?” demanded Bill somewhat peevishly. “I’m
getting those over all right.”
“Then there’s something the matter with your eyes,” declared his
brother seriously, and he looked anxiously at the younger lad.
“Watch this!” called Bill.
He threw very carefully but he seemed to lose control of the ball,
which ability was one of his best features. It again went wide, and Cap
had to reach out for the sphere.
The catcher shook his head.
“How are your eyes, Bill?” he asked kindly, walking toward his brother.
“Maybe the jar they got when you were hit, sort of put them on the
blink for a few days. Don’t you think so?”
“I don’t see how it could be. Just try a few more.”
They did, but Cap only shook his head. Other players were noticing
something wrong, and as soon as Cap saw this he called the practice off.
“We’ve had enough for to-day,” he declared, as though it was of no
consequence, but Bill knew that his brother’s light tone covered a
deeper meaning. There was a vague alarm in the heart of the lad who
aspired to be the Varsity pitcher.
Was his eyesight going back on him? Was he losing his control? What
He hardly dared answer, yet he resolved to put it to the test soon.
“My head does feel a little queer,” he admitted to himself, and much
against his will. “And my eyes—my eyes—I wonder if there can be
anything wrong?” and he walked moodily off the diamond, while Cap and
Pete gazed apprehensively after him.
“Maybe if you take a few days’ rest you’ll be all right, Bill,”
suggested Pete a little later, when the brothers were in their
“That’s it,” agreed Cap eagerly. “A rest will do you good, Bill, and
then you’ll be in shape for the try-out just before the first league
game. Take a good rest.”
“I’m not tired,” protested Bill who sat in a corner nervously fingering
his pitching glove. “Why should I need a rest?” He asked the question
fiercely as though there was some disgrace attached to it.
“But your eyes,” said Cap. “You know you’re off in your pitching.”
“That’s right—I did rotten to-day, and if I’d been in a game they’d
have knocked me out of the box. But I’ll be all right in a few days
more. That lump is still as sore as the mischief,” and he tenderly felt
of the place where the batted ball had hit him.
“And if you don’t get all right?” asked Cap softly.
“Then I’ll see a doctor!” exclaimed Bill with energy. “I’m not going to
lose a chance to pitch on the Varsity this season, and I believe I will
have a chance. I’ve been watching Mersfeld, and he’s not such a wonder.”
“I don’t think anything of him,” admitted Cap. “I’ve caught for him
in a couple of practice games, and he hasn’t half your speed, though
he has some nice curves, and a good control. I don’t believe he’d last
through a hard game.”
“Oh, we’ll fix Bill up, and have him on the Varsity yet,” declared
Pete easily. He could afford to speak thus for he was sure of his own
position at short, and Cap had at least a tentative promise of being
behind the bat in a number of the big games that would soon be played.
The brothers talked over the situation, and then fell to studying,
with more or less energy, until interrupted by the entrance of
Whistle-Breeches and Dick, or “Roundy,” Lawson, the genial senior
having gotten into the habit lately of calling on his neighbors.
“What’s wrong?” demanded Whistle-Breeches as he noticed Bill’s rather
“Oh, I’m on the blink. Can’t see to throw straight,” and then the
story, which was already known to several in the school, was told.
“I’ll tell you what it is,” began Lawson, and his words were carefully
listened to, as befitted a Senior. “You want to see a doctor, Bill.”
“You mean Doc. Blasdell?”
“No, he’s all right for a pain on your insides, but I mean an eye
doctor—an oculist. I know a good one. I had trouble with my eyes once,
and I went to him. He can fix you up. Maybe there’s a little strain
which some medicine will cure. Why don’t you go to see him?”
“I believe I will. It’s tough to be knocked out before the season
starts. I’ll go to-morrow.”
Then they fell to talking of the baseball prospects, how this player
was making out at first, another in the field, what the chances were
for good batters, the prospects of Westfield holding the pennant, and
All the while Bill sat in a darkened corner, for Lawson had insisted on
this since his advent into the room, saying that darkness was good for
weak eyes. And poor Bill fingered his pitching glove, wondering if he
would ever get back into the box again. Cap was straightening a bent
wire in his mask and Pete was re-winding some tape on a favorite bat
that always opened at the split every time he used it. But he could not
bring himself to throw it away.
“Mind now,” stipulated Lawson, as he and Whistle-Breeches took their
leave, “you see that eye man to-morrow.”
And Bill promised.
They went to the oculist’s together, Cap and Bill, and the pitcher was
put through a number of tests. He sat and looked at candles, while
the medical man put a lens in front of the lights, and turned the
glass sideways to make the single image develop into two. Then when
Bill admitted that the two lights were not on the same level (as they
should have been to one of normal vision) the oculist shook his head
Next he looked through the eye away into the back of Bill’s head, with
a queerly constructed instrument, and reflected glaring lights into
the lad’s orbs until he blinked in pain. Reading cards of different
size type, taking a stick, and trying to impale a series of concentric
circles, first with his left eye closed and then with the right one
shut, ended the test.
“Well,” announced the oculist at length, “it’s not as bad as it might
be. Your left eye is considerably out of focus, and I should say it was
caused by some pressure on the optic nerve—possibly the result of that
blow with the ball.”
“But what can be done about it?” demanded Bill with a note of despair
in his voice.
“Well, nothing much. In time it may readjust itself, and again—it may
“Do you mean that I’ll always be this way—not able to throw straight?”
demanded the pitcher almost springing up from his chair.
“Easy now, old man,” cautioned Cap in a low voice.
“Won’t I ever be able to throw straight again?” cried poor Bill.
“I’m afraid not,” answered the doctor. “Of course if the pressure on
the nerve could be removed it would be possible, but that would take
an operation, and I don’t recommend it. In fact it might make matters
worse. But it’s not so bad. It will cause you no annoyance.”
“Not a bit. You can see as well as ever. You can read, write, walk
about, in fact only in matters requiring a critical judge of distance
will you be at all hampered.”
“But that’s just it!” cried Bill. “I _need_ to be a judge of distance
if I’m going to pitch on the team.”
“I’m sorry, but you can’t pitch any more,” was the doctor’s verdict,
and to Bill, who like his brothers had his whole soul wrapped up in
baseball, the words sounded like a doom.
“Not pitch any more?” repeated Bill dully.
“Not until that nerve pressure is removed,” was the answer, “and I
advise against any operation for that. I can fit you with a pair of
glasses that will take off any strain when you are reading, and that’s
all you need. But you can’t pitch—that is if you have to be accurate.”
“And that’s just what I have to be,” murmured Bill. “Not pitch any
more—not pitch any more,” and he covered his eyes with his hand, and
“There—there old man!” spoke Cap, a trifle hoarsely, for he was much
affected by the way his brother had taken the blow that had fallen.
“Maybe it won’t be as bad as it seems. You may get better.”
Bill shook his head despondently.
“Come on,” he said to his brother. “I—I’ll come back for the reading
glasses later, doctor. I—I don’t just feel like it now,” and Cap
linked his arm in that of Bill’s and led him away, the footsteps
seeming to recite mockingly over and over again, like some death knell.
“You can’t—pitch—any—more! You can’t—pitch—any—more!”