Had you looked over Will Temple’s shoulder you’d have seen, very neatly
set down in his score-book–a brand-new one for the occasion–the
following batting orders of the rival camps:
The Wigwam–Brown, 2b.; Thursby, ss.; Meldrum, rf.; Gifford, lf.;
Groom, cf.; Crossbush, 3b.; Murdock, 1b.; Craig, c.; Porter, p.
Mount Placid–Cochran, 1b.; Benson, ss.; Smith, lf.; Walters, cf.;
Connell, 3b.; Phillips, 2b.; Hanford, c.; Williams, p.; Cather, rf.
At the last moment The Wigwam had thought it best to put its full
strength in the field at the start, and so it was decided that Mr.
Gifford should take Peterson’s place in left. In that way the line-up
would contain the best batting talent. In arranging the order of
batting Mr. Gifford started out on the assumption that Steve Brown was
the fastest man on bases and that, once on first, he would be able to
advance without aid. Consequently, Ed Thursby was to follow him, since
Ed, although not a hard hitter, was a fast runner between bags. Meldrum
was as good a bunter as the team possessed, and Mr. Gifford was placed
fourth in the hope that he would be able to score one or more of the
preceding players. Groom and Crossbush were fair hitters, while Murdock
was rather weak. Sam was to follow the latter and, if possible, clean
up. Porter was the weak man at bat.
Of the Mount Placid team, Cochran, Connell, Phillips, and Williams were
councillors, although, as The Wigwam learned afterwards, only Cochran
and Williams were players of experience.
Both teams showed nervousness in the first inning or two and the play
was rather ragged. The Mount Placid fellows were at least a year
older than their rivals, all being, probably, over sixteen, while
the visiting boys were all under that age, with one, Ralph Murdock,
only fourteen. Along the base-lines was assembled quite a good-sized
audience, representing Mount Placid, Greenwood, and The Wigwam.
Naturally enough, the Greenwood fellows rooted for Mount Placid, and,
so far as cheering was concerned, The Wigwam was bested from the
start. Mount Placid, bunched together some seventy strong behind the
third base-line, chanted: “Rah, rah rah! Who are we? We are the boys
of M. P. C.! Team! Team! Team!” Greenwood, nearby, gave less often
her, “Greenwood! Greenwood! Greenwood! Rah, rah, rah! Rah rah, rah!
Greenwood!” The Wigwam, still fewer in numbers, did its best under the
leadership of Dick Barry, and its novel cheer, short and sharp, was
applauded from across the diamond: “W! Rah! I! Rah! G! Rah, rah, rah!
W! Rah! A! Rah! M! Rah, rah, rah! Wigwam!” In spite of the fact that
there were only some thirty Wigwam supporters there, Dick Barry managed
to get excellent results.
Steve Brown started the game by striking out, and Thursby and Meldrum
were thrown out at first. Mount Placid fared no better at bat. Cochran
flied to Mr. Gifford, Benson struck out, and Smith made the third,
Crossbush to Murdock. No runs, and, so far, no errors. But the second
inning told a different tale. Mr. Gifford flied out to left field and
Groom fell victim to Mr. Williams’s slow ball. And then, with two
gone, the Mount Placid third baseman fumbled an easy attempt of Tom
Crossbush’s and that youth reached first. Murdock received an in-shoot
on the elbow and took his base, briskly rubbing his arm. Then Sam,
cheered hopefully by The Wigwam boys, lined one into deep centre and
Crossbush reached the plate a yard ahead of the ball and scored the
first tally. That gave the blue-shirted youths something to celebrate,
and Dick Barry didn’t let the opportunity get by them. A minute later,
however, the inning was over, George Porter fanning.
There was no scoring in the last of the second and none in either half
of the third. In the latter inning Mount Placid got to Porter for two
singles, but no one went beyond third. In the fourth it looked for a
while as if the visitors were going to score again, for, with one down,
Crossbush singled sharply to left and went to second on Murdock’s out,
pitcher to first. Sam was again called on for a hit, but this time Mr.
Williams fooled him badly and he struck out, and again Porter proved
easy. Mount Placid filled the bases in their half, but George Porter,
with one out, made Mr. Cochran hit into a double, and once more The
Wigwam barked its cheer into the air.
The fifth began with the score still one to nothing, and Steve Brown
tried desperately to get a start. But the rival pitcher’s skill was too
much for Steve, and when, as a last resort, the latter got in the way
of the ball the thing was so palpable that Mr. York laughingly shook
his head and Mount Placid jeered good-naturedly. Thursby laid down a
bunt in front of the plate, but he couldn’t beat the throw to first.
Meldrum made the third out, short to first. The Mount Placid shortstop,
Benson, opened the inning for the home team with a slow bunt down
third-base line that neither Crossbush nor Porter could field, and an
instant later he stole second, being aided by a poor pitch of Porter’s
that Sam couldn’t pick from between his feet in time to throw.
Mount Placid, and Greenwood too, was cheering lustily now, and the
coachers were adding their turmoil to the total of sound. With two
strikes and one ball on Smith, Porter let down and handed out a base.
With a man on first and second, Walters flied out to Mr. Gifford, who
held the runners. Then Mr. Connell, one of the councillors, and third
baseman, found Porter for a long fly into right, which George Meldrum
badly misjudged, and two runs trickled across. Mr. Connell took third
on the throw-in. Mr. Phillips scored him a minute later when he landed
a Texas Leaguer behind first base. There was still but one out. Sam
walked down and whispered to Porter. He had nothing to say to the
pitcher, for George was pitching coolly and well, but he seemed to be
planning all sorts of strategies, and The Wigwam cheered and the rivals
indulged in the usual humourous remarks held sacred to such occasions:
“That’s right, talk it over!” “Let’s all hear it!” “I’ll bet it’s a
good story!” “They’re changing the signals. It’s all up now!” “Play
ball, Wigwam! Tell him about it afterwards!”
Mr. York cautioned Sam that he was taking too much time, and Sam,
nodding untroubledly, donned his mask again and stooped behind Hanford,
the Mount Placid catcher. Hanford liked a low ball and Sam saw that he
didn’t get one. A strike, breast-high, went over. Then an out-shoot
that might have been a strike or ball, and was judged by the umpire
as the latter. Then another ball, much too high. Then a waister, that
the batter struck at and missed, was followed by a foul. Sam, pulling
his mask down again, laid one finger against the back of his big mitt.
Porter rubbed the back of his head reflectively and, had anyone been
regarding Steve Brown attentively, he would have seen that player turn
slightly toward second base. Then Porter stepped forward and the ball
whizzed to the plate. It was one of George’s fast, straight ones, and,
while it actually crossed the centre of the plate lower than Sam wanted
it to, it did the business. Hanford swung too late and missed it by
inches. It thumped into Sam’s glove, was plucked forth instantly and
sent, fast and true, to second. Steve was already awaiting it. Almost
with one motion he caught the throw, knee-high, and swept the ball to
the left. Mr. Phillips, sliding feet-first, was out by a yard! And some
thirty blue-shirted youths cheered and capered!
But Mount Placid had a two-run lead now and The Wigwam tried hard to
cut it down in the first half of the sixth. Mr. Gifford landed on a
straight ball and hit safely for two bases into far left. Then Joe
Groom fouled out to first baseman. Crossbush fanned. With two out the
inning seemed over, but when Murdock knocked a slow grounder across to
third baseman that youth, pausing to hold the runner at second, threw
wide to first and Murdock was safe. When, however, a double steal was
called for a few moments later, Hanford proved too much for the success
of the venture. Although Sam swung at the ball, the Mount Placid
catcher side-stepped quickly and plugged to third. The decision was a
close one and Sam looked sorrowfully at Mr. York when the latter waved
Mr. Gifford out. Mount Placid, too, failed to get a runner across in
that inning and the seventh started with the score still 3 to 1.
Sam was up, having been left at bat in the sixth, and Sam wanted
desperately to start something! But Mr. Williams had a slow ball
that he didn’t at all like. Twice Sam tried for it and each time hit
too soon. The first result was a foul that third baseman narrowly
missed and the second a mighty swipe through empty air and a loud and
disgusted grunt from Sam. After that, with two strikes and one ball
against him, Sam let two more go by and things looked brighter. The
next delivery was palpably bad and Sam, dropping his bat, trotted
to first amidst the acclaim of The Wigwam boys, wishing that he had
Steve’s ability to purloin bases!
As it turned out, however, Sam was not called on to steal. Mr.
Williams at once set about trying to catch him off his base. He
apparently resented that youth’s luck, and, as Sam thought, even showed
some temper in the vindictive way in which he slammed the ball across
to Mr. Cochran. Sam each time took as much of a lead as he dared, more
than willing that the pitcher should throw across. Five times Mr.
Williams attempted to surprise Sam and five times he failed, but always
by so narrow a margin that he was encouraged to try it again. Then the
pitcher disgustedly turned his attention to Porter, who was impatiently
waiting at the plate, and Sam, watching for a signal, poised himself on
The first ball pitched was too good to refuse and Porter leaned against
it. Off it travelled, straight between first and second, and Sam,
racing for the next base, had to leap aside to avoid it. It was too
fast for handling by the infielders, although second baseman made a
gallant attempt, and Sam reached third well ahead of the throw, while
George Porter, a much surprised youth, perched himself on first. A
minute later he was sent to second and stole handily, Hanford being
unwilling to risk a throw-down for fear that Sam would score. The
Wigwam supporters were now making enough noise for twice their number,
and even Mr. Haskins was seen shouting himself red in the face. Steve,
who had sacrificed a strike when Porter had gone to second, now tried
hard to find something he could hit. But Mr. Williams, after one
attempt to catch Porter at second, settled down again and disposed of
Steve with four deliveries, and there was one gone. Ed Thursby tried
bravely to bring in a run, but only succeeded in making the next out,
second to first. Meldrum was next in order, but Mr. Gifford, trusting
to the psychological effect of introducing a pinch-hitter, called him
back and sent Pete Simpson in to bat for him. Simpson was no more of
a hitter than Meldrum, but that was something the opponents couldn’t
know. Nor did they know the new player’s batting weakness as they
now knew Meldrum’s. Pete was a small youth, rather stocky, and only
fourteen years of age, and he didn’t look especially formidable as
he walked to the plate and, with a somewhat nervous smile which he
strove to make appear confident, swung his bat invitingly. Hanford
experimented with a low ball which Pete disdained and which went for
a strike. Then came a slow one and Mr. York called “Ball!” Pete knew
what he wanted, but Hanford hadn’t yet discovered it. As a matter of
fact, what Pete was wishing for was a plain, every-day waister in the
groove, which was about the only sort of a ball he could hit! It didn’t
look as though he was to get one, though, for after teasing him with
another slow one which was just too wide of the plate to be a strike,
Mr. Williams curved one over the outer corner and the umpire announced
“It only takes one, Pete!” called Tom Crossbush from the bench. “Make
him pitch to you!”
Then Mr. Williams slipped a cog and what was meant for a straight, slow
ball went past well over Steve’s shoulder and a howl of delight went up
from the bench.
“He’s got to put it over now!” called Mr. Gifford. “Just tap it, Pete!”
Hanford glanced a bit nervously toward where Sam was taking a ten-foot
lead off third. Suddenly the Mount Placid catcher became alarmed. A hit
meant two runs and a tied score! Beckoning to Mr. Williams, he advanced
halfway toward the box and the two consulted. This was the visitors’
chance to jibe and they took advantage of it.
“You’ve got them worried, Pete!” “Up in the air, fellows! Here’s where
we tie it up!” “Play ball! Play ball!”
The coachers added their contributions, while Sam, dancing about at
third, seriously interfered with the conversation between Mr. Williams
and Hanford by threatening to steal home every instant. Finally the
Mount Placid battery returned to their places and Hanford knelt and
gave his signal, or pretended to. What followed was a pitch-out, a
quick peg to the pitcher by Hanford and an equally speedy throw to
third, and Sam, two yards from base, was caught flat-footed for the
The Wigwam was quiet and disappointed while the teams changed places.
From across the diamond came the applauding cheers of the enemy. Sam,
thoroughly disgusted with himself, donned protector and mask in grim
silence. Joe Groom, who had been coaching at third, generously strove
to take the blame.
“That was my fault, sir! I ought to have known they were up to some
“No one’s fault but mine,” replied Sam decisively. “I played it like an
Benson went to bat for the home team in the last of the seventh and
cracked out a two-bagger over shortstop and was caught off second a
minute or two later by a quick return from Sam to Porter, who whirled
instantly and pegged to Thursby. The Wigwam recovered from its gloom
and cheered. Then the Mount Placid left fielder fouled out to Sam and
two were gone. But the inning was not yet over, for Walters, a thin,
freckled-faced youth with extraordinarily long legs, took it into his
head to bunt, after once trying to knock the cover off the ball, and
caught Crossbush napping. By the time Tom had gathered in the rolling
ball and sent it to first Walters was making the turn. Mr. Connell was
up next, and, profiting by Walters’ example, he laid the sphere down a
few feet from the plate and lit out for the base like a runaway horse.
By the time Sam had dashed his mask aside, got the ball and pegged to
Murdock, the runner was safe and Walters was on second, and the grey
shirts and the green shirts were shouting madly.
Mr. Phillips, the next batter, had one hit to his credit and, as Sam
had discovered, liked a low ball. So Porter fed him high ones and got
two strikes and one ball on his. Then came a foul and a second strike.
Porter wasted one then and the score was two and two. Sam called for a
fast one and Porter tried it. Unfortunately, Mr. Phillips outguessed
him and when the ball came along he met it squarely for a long fly
into left. Mr. Gifford was after it like a shot, but he had to run
back a dozen yards and when he finally got his hand on it he failed
to hold it. The best he could do was to recover quickly and throw to
third in time to hold the second runner there. Walters scored and the
game stood 4 to 1. With runners on second and third, things still
looked dubious for The Wigwam, and Porter made them more so by utterly
failing to locate the plate with the first three deliveries! Hanford,
who was up, swung his bat and stepped back and forth in the box. Sam
signalled a straight ball and got it for a strike. Hanford let it go
past unchallenged, for he had two more chances and was waiting for
the last one. Again Porter essayed a fast one in the groove, but this
time he failed and Mr. York waved Hanford to first. The bases filled,
Mount Placid cheered exultantly and the grey-shirted coachers danced
and yelped; and the base-runners too did their level best to rattle the
Mr. Williams was at bat now and Sam had what he would have called a
“hunch” to the effect that Mr. Williams was dangerous at this stage of
affairs. While Porter sent the first delivery in, a curve that failed
to win approval from Mr. York, Sam studied the runners on the bases.
At third, Walters was taking a good lead on the wind-up, but hugging
the bag safely at other times. On second Mr. Connell was watching the
baseman carefully in spite of his seeming recklessness. At first,
though, Hanford, feeling safe from attack, was leading a good twelve
feet. Sam tossed the ball back to Porter.
“Keep after him, George!” he called. Then he stooped, dropped his mitt
between his knees, and gave the signal. But it was a closed fist that
Porter saw, and that called for a throw-out. Porter walked to the side
of the box, picked up an imaginary pebble and tossed it away. Then he
tugged at his cap, wound up and sped the ball four feet wide of the
batsman and straight into Sam’s waiting mitt. One step forward toward
first, a quick throw, and the trick was won! Frantic shouts of warning
from coachers, a desperate slide to the bag by Hanford, a scurry for
the plate by Walters! But Murdock had been ready. At the instant the
ball had settled in Sam’s mitt he had run toward the bag. The throw was
perfect and Murdock caught it, fell to one knee and let Hanford slide
into the ball as he tried for safety!
The shouts of delight came from the third-base side of the field,
for across the diamond a dense silence reigned. Sam and Ralph Murdock
received an ovation as they returned to the bench. Mr. Gifford slapped
Sam on the back and many of the boys would have followed suit had they
dared. Pandemonium reigned until Mr. York called, “Batter up, please!”
When Sam, passing the plate to reach the coacher’s box at first, went
by him the umpire smiled as he said softly: “Quick work, Craig!”
Four to one now and only two innings left! The Wigwam realised the fact
that if the game was to be pulled out of the fire, and they had by no
means given up hope yet, something must be done now, that it wouldn’t
do to count on a ninth-inning rally. And so they went at the task very
determinedly, very carefully. Mr. Gifford, the first man up, showed no
eagerness to hit. Instead he allowed Mr. Williams to put a strike and
two balls over before he made his first attempt. Then he swung and a
foul-tip resulted. At two-and-two Mr. Williams chose to try a curve
and, since the batter refused to be deceived by it, put himself in the
hole. Amidst a strained silence Mr. Williams wound up again and sent
in one of his deceptive slow balls. But Mr. Gifford had profited by
experience, and guessed what was coming. The result was that he hit
slowly and caught the offering fairly a foot from the end of his bat
and the ball went arching gaily and gracefully into centre field and
Mr. Gifford went speeding quite as gaily–if not so gracefully–to
first base. That hit, for it was a hit, landed untouched between centre
fielder and shortstop, with second baseman just out of the running. It
was the fielder who scooped up the rolling ball and set himself for
the throw to second. Unfortunately for him, however, second base was
for the moment uncovered. Mr. Williams and Mr. Gifford arrived there
simultaneously an instant later, but by that time the centre fielder
saw no reason for throwing!
That was a fine opening for the inning, and no mistake! And The Wigwam
jumped and shouted and pounded each other’s backs and barked out their
cheer. And Steve Brown scuttled to third and shouted himself hoarse in
the desperate attempt to upset Mr. Williams’ coolness; desperate, since
the Mount Placid pitcher was not easily rattled.
Joe Groom went to the plate looking determined, but only succeeded
in flying out to shortstop. Tom Crossbush managed to reach first on
a scratch-hit past third baseman. Murdock struck out miserably. The
Wigwam’s hopes began to dim. But with Sam up something might yet happen
to their liking, and so they cheered him encouragingly and held their
breaths while Mr. Williams did his utmost to put him out of the way.
A strike–a ball–another ball, by a scant margin–a foul-strike! Sam
watched and waited, gripping his bat tightly, and looking as cool as if
the outcome of the game might not depend on the next delivery. Perhaps
Sam’s confidence affected Mr. Williams. At least it is probable that
the Mount Placid pitcher never intended to send across just what he
did, for the ball came up to Sam with nothing on it but the cover and
Sam smote it lustily and thirty-odd youths sprang into the air and
Around the bases sped Mr. Gifford, his flannel trousers a grey streak
above the turf, and behind him came Tom Crossbush. Off for first leaped
Sam, while, far out in right field, the ball was leisurely descending
to earth. Eight fielder was sprinting desperately toward the fence
that enclosed the ground on that side. If only, prayed the Wigwam
supporters, that ball would land on the other side! But it didn’t. It
came down a dozen feet inside the boundary, and Cather, with a final
plucky spurt, shot his hand into the air and–well, then fielder and
ball went down together and rolled over! There was one breathless
instant of uncertainty, broken by the triumphant yells of The Wigwam
when Cather, scrambling to his feet, searched the turf hurriedly,
recovered the ball and made a wretched throw to second baseman. At that
moment Mr. Gifford was trotting across the plate, Tom Crossbush was
past third, and Sam was rounding second. Second baseman sped the ball
home, but too late to catch Tom, and Hanford desperately pegged it to
third. But Sam reached the bag just as the ball did and had one scuffed
shoe snuggled against it when Mr. Connell tagged him none too gently.
Four to three now! Only one run needed to tie! Two out, but a man on
third! If only Porter could make good! Mr. Gifford consulted Thursby
and The Wigwam waited anxiously. Then a cheer went up, for Peterson was
off the bench and pawing at the bats! Porter was coming out! Peterson
was to bat for him! A hit would tie the game!
Dan Peterson received a veritable ovation as he hurried to the plate.
He was loudly invited to contribute a hit, a two-bagger, a home run! To
bust it! To tear the cover off! To–to—-
Then quiet returned, or, rather, comparative quiet, for the coachers
had no intention of letting up on their babel. From back of first base
Joe Groom shouted at the top of his lungs to Sam on third, and back of
Sam Mr. Gifford clapped his hands and added to the noise. And then Mr.
Williams brought down upon himself ridicule and wrath by deliberately
passing Peterson! The Wigwam was incensed indeed! Mount Placid and
Greenwood, however, laughed and applauded, and Peterson, deprived of
the chance to distinguish himself as a pinch-hitter, scowled darkly at
Mr. Williams as he walked unwillingly to base.
Steve Brown was up then, and Steve had played in hard luck all day. Not
once had he been able to get to first. This rankled in Steve’s breast,
and as he faced the Mount Placid pitcher he resolved that this time,
his last opportunity, he would not be foiled! On the first ball pitched
Peterson legged it for second and Sam danced forward halfway along the
base line toward home. But Hanford knew better than to risk a throw to
second and contented himself with a motion that sent Sam scuttling back
to third. Steve had offered at the delivery and so had one strike on
him. To bring in a run he must hit safely and Steve waited his chance.
But before it came something happened.
On second Peterson, perhaps disgruntled at the trick worked on him,
was set on showing his contempt for the enemy by risking a lead that
simply cried for punishment. On each wind-up he went fully half the
distance to third. Now Hanford was canny enough, but that was too great
a temptation for him to resist. And so he gave a signal, Mr. Williams
turned quickly, stepped out and shot the ball to shortstop. Peterson
was twelve feet off base and there was but one thing to do and that was
to keep away from the ball long enough for Sam to score. So he set out
toward third and Sam looked on and watched his chance. It came when
shortstop tossed the ball over Peterson’s head to third baseman. Then
Sam set out desperately. And that, of course, was what Hanford wanted.
Third baseman turned and pegged to the plate while Sam was still ten
feet away. But, alas for Hanford’s hopes! The ball slammed into the
dust and, although he tried desperately to get it, he failed, and while
he was still groping for it with one hand and striving to block off
Sam with his body that youth slid to safety in a cloud of red dust and
Peterson romped to third!
Mount Placid listened gloomily to the visitors’ wild outpouring of joy,
saw them drag the runner to his feet and pull him ecstatically to the
bench, saw Hanford, rather pale and wrathful, slap the dust from his
clothes, recover his mask, and disspiritedly send the ball back to Mr.
Williams; saw, too, Mr. Connell on third trying his best to look as if
he didn’t know he had thrown the game away!
“W! Rah! I! Rah! G! Rah, rah, rah! W! Rah! A! Rah! M! Rah, rah, rah!
Wigwam! Wigwam!! Wigwa-a-arm!!!” And Dick Barry cavorting about like
a thing built of springs, waving his arms and kicking his legs and
shouting his voice away! And the score 4 to 4, and everyone on the
third base side very, very happy and noisy!
And then, after a minute, when one more run might have given the
visitors the victory, when Steve had still another strike to be scored
against him, Peterson, made careless by his previous good fortune, took
just that extra inch forbidden by safety–and the coacher–and slid
back to the bag too late!
That was disappointing, but there was another inning, and if only they
could keep Mount Placid from adding to her score; and could themselves
put just one other little tally across—-
And so Mount Placid went to bat for her half of the eighth looking
firmly resolved to do or die, and Mr. Gifford, pulling a pitcher’s
glove on, stepped into the box to do his best. Peterson took the
councillor’s place in left field, Peterson rather chastened in spirit
now. Mr. Williams, first batter, was an easy victim to the infield,
going out at first, Steve to Murdock, and Cather followed him, the
assist going to Tom Crossbush. That brought the head of the Mount
Placid list up, and Mr. Cochran had a fearsome glint in his eye as he
faced the substitute pitcher. Mr. Gifford’s offerings were not very
baffling and the rival first baseman landed on the second delivery and
sent it speeding down the alley between shortstop and third. One base
was all he got, however, for Joe Groom, running in like a streak,
fielded prettily to second. Then Benson followed with a hit past third
and Mount Placid had runners on first and second. But the danger was
over a moment later when Smith, lifting a long fly to the outfield, saw
it settle cosily into Simpson’s hands.
Then it was the ninth, with Steve Brown up and only one run needed.
Steve and Mr. Gifford and Ed Thursby consulted a minute ere Steve
stepped to the plate. “You’ve got to get your base somehow, Steve,”
said Mr. Gifford. “Think you can hit him?” Steve looked doubtful.
“I’m going to make an awful try,” he said grimly.
“Maybe if you can get him in a hole—-” began Ed.
“Bunt,” said Mr. Gifford. “That’s your best chance. Swing like fury on
one and then watch for a good one and just hold your bat in front of
it. If you connect, run like the dickens, Steve!”
“If I should get to first don’t you sacrifice, Ed. Make the bluff, but
don’t swing. That fellow Hanford’s slow on throwing-down and I can beat
“Batter up!” called Mr. York.
Mr. Williams motioned the infielders in and Steve’s hopes dropped.
Evidently the pitcher was looking for an attempt at a bunt. At all
events, Steve’s chance of “getting away with it,” as he mentally
phrased it, seemed pretty slim. He wished he could manage to lay
against the ball just hard enough to carry it out of the diamond,
since, with the infielders all inside the base lines, a short, low fly
would be the safest sort of a hit. But it was soon evident that Mr.
Williams had no idea of letting him so much as touch that ball! The
Mount Placid pitcher was never more deliberate or careful. The first
offering went as a ball and the second looked low, but was called a
strike by Mr. York. Mr. Gifford and Sam were shouting encouragingly.
“Hit it out, Steve!” “Choose your alley!” “All the way ’round
this time, Steve!” Mr. Williams studied the catcher’s signal very
attentively, hesitated, shook his head, looked again, nodded, wound
up, and pitched. The ball broke to the right and Steve stepped warily
back only to realise the next instant that the sphere had crossed the
inner corner of the plate and to hear the umpire fatefully announce,
Steve glared wrathfully at the pitcher as that gentleman again settled
the ball between his fingers, and tried to guess what the next one was
to be. With two strikes against him, it was probable that Mr. Williams
would waste one, but Steve wasn’t certain and so, when the dirty-white
sphere again shot toward him, he glued his eyes to it and in the scant
moment of time that elapsed tried his hardest to judge it. Then he
brought his bat around, there was a slight tingle in his hands and he
was sprinting toward first. But luck was still against him, for the
discouraging cry of “Foul!” caught him halfway along the path, and he
turned back, picked up his bat, and again faced the pitcher. Steve was
hopeless now, and a little desperate. The absurd notion of striking
at the next delivery, no matter what it might be, and so ending the
suspense, came to him, and he dallied with it while Mr. Williams,
slowly and deliberately, wound-up, stepped forward, and shot the ball
once more toward the plate. And then Steve found himself suddenly
undecided, quite lost sight of the ball for an instant, found it again
just as it came close, brought his bat around half-heartedly in a
despairing effort which he was perfectly certain was a hopeless one,
and then felt the shock of bat and ball, heard the sudden shriek that
went up from behind him and, digging his toes into the dust, put his
head down and raced!
That hit was the joke of the game. The ball would have crossed the
outer corner of the plate at about a level with the top of Steve’s
shoes had he allowed it to. Hanford had dropped to his knees to get it,
and whether Hanford or Steve was the more surprised is hard to say.
The latter’s ridiculous swing had, by some stroke of luck, caught the
ball on the tip of the bat. There had been no force in the swing, Steve
had even failed to grasp the stick firmly, but the result could have
been no more satisfactory had he studied and worked for it, for that
ball arose from almost in the dust and described a pretty arch over the
pitcher’s head and descended fifteen feet behind the base line, and a
little to the right of second. Second baseman tried for it desperately,
and first baseman went to his assistance, but the hit was never in
danger of being caught. Had the second baseman been playing his usual
position he would only have had to step back a couple of yards and put
his hand up to have caught it, but with that player well inside the
diamond the ball was quite safe. And so was Steve, one toe poised on
first base and a look of deep surprise on his countenance. Mr. Gifford
was slapping him on the back and saying, for the sole benefit of the
enemy: “No one out, Steve! Play it safe and look out for a double!”
At the plate Ed Thursby faced the pitcher and gave an excellent
imitation of a man wanting to bunt. Steve took a six-foot lead. Mr.
Williams turned. Steve slid back to base. The ball slapped into first
baseman’s mitt. The Wigwam scoffed loudly. Once more the pitcher
tried, but Steve was like a cat for quickness. Mr. Williams turned his
attention then to the batter and Steve edged further away and watched
the wind-up and reckoned his chance. Ed Thursby showed how eager he was
to hit by stepping almost on top of the plate to get that delivery,
and, apparently, only failing to swing because it was palpably a
pitch-out. Hanford, getting the ball, recovered quickly and looked more
than surprised when he saw that Steve had made no attempt to steal! One
ball to Ed’s credit then. Steve again took his lead and Mr. Williams
studied him a moment in deep silence ere he turned back, took a short
wind up and—-
“_There he goes!_” shouted the first baseman.
Ed never even so much as offered at that ball, but you may be sure he
didn’t step out of the way! Hanford side-stepped, shot his arm back and
then forward and off sailed the ball to second base. It reached there
in a cloud of dust, and shortstop, covering base, made a brilliant
catch and swung downward. But Steve had one foot hooked into the bag
and was smiling sweetly as Mr. York, trotting by, spread his hands
wide, palms downward. The Wigwam cheered and capered. Then Steve was
up again, patting dust from his grey trousers and edging along the
path toward third. Twice shortstop circled behind him to base, but Mr.
Williams refused to throw. There was not in his estimation any danger
of the runner stealing third with no one out. Besides, he was already
in difficulty with the batsman, for his second delivery had been
far too high and the score was two balls and no strikes. Ed Thursby
suddenly recovered from his fierce desire to hit. He stood idle while
Mr. Williams put a fast ball over for a strike and while he tried to do
it again and missed it by an inch or two. One-and-two, then, and Mr.
Williams showing some discomfort, and the rival coachers making life
hideous with their shouts. But the Mount Placid pitcher took plenty of
time; cast a look toward Steve, dancing challengingly about on the base
path, sent him hurrying back to second with a none too fast throw to
the second baseman, got the ball back, fixed it between his fingers,
and finally sent it in.
“Strike–two!” said Mr. York.
Ed only smiled. There was still another chance and this time the
offering must be good. His glance shot across to Steve while the ball
was returned. Whatever he did, he reflected, he must not put the
ball into the infield where it could be played to third, for he knew
perfectly well that Steve meant to steal on the next delivery. And
then the ball was coming and he set his body for it. And as it came
bedlam was let loose!
“Third! Third! There he goes!” shrieked Mount Placid. For Steve was off
with the wind-up, his legs fairly twinkling along the path. Around came
Ed’s bat, the ball thumped into Hanford’s glove and, an instant later,
flew through the air to third. But once more Steve had stolen cleanly,
ending his sprint with a ten-foot fallaway slide! And again The Wigwam
jubilated riotously! Ed Thursby, trailing his bat back to the pile,
reflected that even if he had been ingloriously struck out the day was
not yet lost.
Simpson had his instructions to bunt, if he could, along the first-base
line. Mr. Williams again signalled the infield to close in toward the
plate, for they must play for the man on third no matter what became
of the batter. Simpson tried hard to carry out instructions, missed
one strike, fouled off a second and, finally, with two strikes and two
balls on him, actually bumped the sphere across the diamond in a very
good imitation of a hit. But it was an imitation only and he would have
been an easy out had not Benson, the opposing shortstop, delayed too
long to throw to first. Benson was so sure that the runner on third
was putting out for home that it took him several valuable moments to
convince himself that that player was actually only ten feet from base.
By that time Simpson, who could run if he couldn’t bat much, was almost
at the bag, and Benson’s desperate peg failed to get him.
Mount Placid showed signs of nervousness now. Mr. Gifford went to bat.
On the first pitch Simpson scuttled to second. Hanford threw quickly
to the box, but Steve was not to be fooled by so ancient a trick and
trotted back to third. There was no necessity for taking risks, anyway,
for there was but one down and any sort of a hit or a long sacrifice
fly would score him. But five minutes later the outlook was darker,
for Mr. Gifford, in spite of all his efforts, only managed at last
to hit straight at the box. Mr. Williams knocked the ball down, held
Steve at third, and tossed out the runner. The Wigwam, almost pale with
excitement, groaned and cheered together. The rivals across the diamond
found cause for rejoicing and shouted encouragingly.
Joe Groom picked out a bat and faced the pitcher, scowling intently.
At second Simpson took a long lead, but watched the ball closely. On
third Steve had grown suddenly shy and hugged the bag until the ball
was in the air. But the coachers kept up their din and the infield
still played short-field and Mr. Williams looked a little bit anxious.
The first offer was a straight ball right across the plate and Joe
Groom frowned. The next was wide and evened the score. Then a curve
fooled Joe completely and his vicious swing at it passed harmlessly by.
“Two-and-one!” called Hanford hoarsely. “Let’s have him now!”
Mr. Williams smiled grimly, began his wind-up and–faltered! For
there, running like a grey-legged rabbit along the path, sped Steve!
Mr. Williams recovered quickly, stepped forward and shot the ball to
Hanford. Some two hundred voices shrieked together. Joe Groom held his
place grimly, his eyes fixed on the ball, his bat poised. But there
was no need of offering, for that one instant of hesitation had done
the business. The ball, sent away as an out-curve, broke wildly, and
although Hanford, dropping to his knees, threw himself in the way of
it, it trickled past, and Steve, sliding to the plate in a maelstrom
of dust, had scored!
Joe and half a dozen others lifted him to his feet. Above the outburst
of joy from the third-base side of the diamond could be heard Mr.
Gifford’s reiterated ejaculation of “You old thief! You old thief!” Off
to the bench they hustled him, shaking his hand, thumping his back.
Down at first base Ed Thursby was trying hard to stand on his head and
wave his legs. Behind third Sam was absolutely grinning!
And then, order restored again, Joe Groom stood idly by and watched Mr.
Williams put two balls past, and then walked to first.
“Let’s have a couple more!” shouted Thursby. “We’ve got ’em going,
But the rest was drowned in the cheer that Dick Barry was leading. But,
although Ed took second unchallenged on a passed ball, Tom Crossbush
failed to deliver the required hit, popping a miserable little foul to
Hanford, and the side was out.
Five to four was the score now, and “Hold ’em!” pleaded The Wigwam
supporters. “Hold ’em!”
Walters, Connell, and Phillips were up for Mount Placid in that last
of the ninth, and Mr. Gifford was a victim to dire forebodings as he
stepped into the pitcher’s box. Nothing he possessed, he felt sure,
would deceive the two councillors, and so it was up to the fielders to
hold the game safe. Walters was far too anxious and nervous and put
himself to the bad at once by fouling the first two deliveries. Then,
growing cautious, he misjudged the next ball and stepped aside.
“One gone!” called Sam. “Here’s the next victim, Andy!”
But Mr. Connell was not so easy. He lighted on Mr. Gifford’s second
offering and poked it well into left for two bases, to the great joy
of Mount Placid. A hit now would tie the game again. Sam called for
high ones and Mr. Gifford tried his best to send them in that way.
But he didn’t always succeed, and with one strike and two balls he
unfortunately gave Mr. Phillips just what that gentleman fancied. There
was a sharp _crack_ and off into short right sped the ball. On second
Mr. Connell poised himself to start the instant the ball landed. And
start he did, and run he did! Down came the ball into Simpson’s
glove after that youth had run halfway to the infield, and Simpson,
putting on brakes, made the throw that saved the day. Sam, astride the
plate, hands outstretched, waited anxiously. Along the path from third
raced the ambitious Mr. Connell. The air was filled with unintelligible
cries and noises. Then the ball struck the sod well in front of the
plate, bounded straight and thudded into Sam’s hands, and Sam, dropping
to his left knee, thrust it against Mr. Connell’s oncoming foot,
toppled over on the runner, rolled over and aside and held a hand
aloft, the ball still firmly clasped!
And above the din and through the red dust-cloud sounded Mr. York’s
voice, “_He’s out!_”