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Jack Winters' Baseball Team - Or, The Rivals of the Diamond
by Mark Overton
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No sooner had cold water been applied to his face and neck than he came to, and persisted in sitting up. His gaze wandered wistfully over to where his wife was bending over the crippled girl so solicitously. Jack knew, however, that no matter if the rescue had been made too late, Mr. Badger had undoubtedly earned a right to the forgiveness of the one whom he had so cruelly wronged in the past.

But it seemed that everything was going to come out all right, for now he saw that the women gathered about the mother and child were looking less alarmed. Undoubtedly Lucy was responding to their efforts at resuscitation. She must have fallen on the floor in such a position as to keep her from inhaling much less smoke than would have been the case had she remained on her feet. The air is always found to be purer near the floor during a fire, as many a person trapped within a burning building has discovered.

Now Mrs. Badger had started back toward the spot where the rescuer lay. Perhaps some appealing word from Fred had caused her to remember what she owed to the savior of her crippled child.

Mr. Badger saw her coming; trust his eager eyes for that. He managed to struggle to his feet, and stood there waiting; but he need not have feared concerning the result. What he had done this night had forever washed out the bitterness of the past. All the former tenderness in her heart toward him was renewed when she hurried up, and taking one solicitous tearful look into his blackened face, threw herself into his arms with a glad cry.

"Oh! Donald, we have lost our little home, but I am the happiest woman on earth this night; for what does that matter when I have found you again?"

"Mary, my wife, can you find it in your gentle heart to really forgive me?" Jack heard him ask; not that he meant to play the part of eavesdropper, but he chanced to be very close, and was unable to break away from such an affecting scene.

"Never speak of it again to me," she told him. "It is buried forever, all that is displeasing. We will forget it absolutely. In saving our child you have nobly redeemed yourself in my eyes. I am proud of you, Donald. But oh! I hope your hurts may not be serious."

"They could be ten times as serious and I would glory in them," he was saying as Jack turned away; but he saw the man bend down and tenderly kiss his wife, while her arms were about his neck.

Toby, too, had heard everything. He was the possessor of a very tender heart, and as he trotted off at Jack's side he was making all sorts of queer faces, which the other knew full well were meant to hide the fact that his eyes were swimming in tears, and no boy likes it to be known that he is actually crying.

"Did you ever hear of such a fine thing as that, Jack?" Toby was saying between sniffles. "Why, it just goes away ahead of any story I ever read. Think of that man we believed might be a city sport, bent on bribing Fred to throw the great game, turning out to be his own dad! I reckon he treated his poor wife right mean some years ago, and she's never been able to think of him except as a bad egg. But say, he certainly has come back in the last inning, and carried the game off with a wonderful home-run hit."

"And Toby," remarked the delighted Jack, "we can easily understand now why that man hung around the Badger cottage at the time we discovered him leaning on the picket fence. He was hungering for a sight of his wife's face, and counting the minutes until Fred could find some way to introduce the subject to his mother."

"And then about little Barbara, I rather guess he was taken with her pretty face and quaint speech," continued Toby, reflectively. "Why, at the time he skipped out she could not have been any more than a baby. Well, it's all been a drama equal to anything I ever saw shown in the movies; and in the end everything has come out well. I feel like shouting all the way home, I'm so tickled over it."

"Another thing pleases me," continued Jack. "We needn't be bothering our heads over Fred turning traitor to his team after this."

"That's so!" echoed Steve.

"For one," added Toby, sagaciously, "I've had a hunch, Jack, you never could bring yourself to believe that there was anything about that same affair. In spite of the circumstantial evidence in the case you always kept believing Fred must be innocent. Am I right?"

"Perhaps you are, Toby, but I do confess I was considerably worried. Fred's actions were all so suspicious; and besides, we knew that he had great need for a certain sum of money at home. If ever I allowed myself to fear the worst, at the same time I understood that the temptation was great, because of his love for his mother."

"But it's all going to come out just bully now," laughed Toby. "You both heard what Fred said about his father having made a fortune honestly in the mines, working ever so hard, just to prove to his wife how he had surely reformed, and wanted to show it by deeds. They'll have no need to worry over money matters from this time out. And let's hope the prodigal dad will make everybody so happy that they'll almost be glad he went bad and had to reform."

The other boys had to laugh at Toby's queer way of putting it, but they understood what he meant. The fire was still burning furiously, and despite the efforts of Chester's valiant fighters it seemed disposed to make a clean sweep of the cottage with its contents, all but the few precious heirlooms Fred had been able to drag out in the beginning.

"I certainly do hope, though," Steve thought to say presently, "that Fred won't be so knocked out by his blow on the head, and all this wonderful excitement, as not to be able to play in our big game Saturday."

"Gee whiz! that would be a calamity for sure!" exclaimed Toby. "Jack, you wondered whether anything else could happen to give you trouble about your line-up against Harmony, and here it has come along. Better have a little heart-to-heart talk with Fred, and get him to promise not to go back on his old pals; for we certainly couldn't fill the gap at third if he dropped out, not at this late day anyhow."

"I meant to do that without your mentioning it, Toby," responded the other, patting his chum on the shoulder as he spoke. "I'll hang around and try to get a chance to speak with Fred when things simmer down a bit. But I tell you right now that boy isn't the one to go back on his friends. He'll play if he's in fit condition, no matter how his home conditions have altered for the better. Why, he'll be so full of happiness, I reckon, Fred Badger will star through the whole game."

"According to all reports from Harmony," remarked Steve, drily, "we'll be apt to need all the starring we can get. They're working like troopers over there, I'm told, because we threw such a scare in 'em that last game, when we got on to Hendrix, and most knocked him out of the box."

"Well, Chester is going some in the bargain," retorted Toby Hopkins. "We believe our team is ten per cent. better than it was last Saturday. Donohue says he never felt so fit as right now; and every fellow on the nine is standing on his toes, ready to prove to the scoffers of Chester that Jack's team here is the peer of any aggregation in the whole country, not even barring the hitherto invincible Harmony crowd. We've got it in for Hendrix, believe me!"

Jack liked to hear such enthusiasm. If every member of the team were as much inspired as Toby seemed to be, they would almost certainly prove unbeatable. With such a spirit to back them up, a ninth inning rally was always a strong possibility.

The fire was now beginning to die down, for the house had been pretty well gutted, and there was little standing save the charred walls. Of course the firemen continued to play the hose upon the smoldering pile, but the picturesque part of the conflagration was over, and many people had already commenced to start back home.

Numerous neighbors had offered the family temporary accommodations, and insisted on them coming to stay until they could secure fresh quarters. Perhaps these offers were all of them wholly sincere, though it would perhaps have been only human for some of the good women to be a bit curious concerning the unexpected appearance of Mr. Badger on the scene, whom they had all believed to be dead; and they might relish hearing about the family reunion; though Jack could well believe little would ever be told reflecting on the good name of the repentant husband and father.

He managed to find a chance to speak with Fred, and the squeeze of his hand told the other how much Jack sympathized with him, as well as rejoiced over the happy ending of all Fred's troubles.

"Will I stand by you fellows, and work in that game, are you asking me, Jack?" he ejaculated, presently, when the captain had found a chance to put his question. "Why, wild horses couldn't drag me away from that baseball field. This glorious thing that has come to my dear mother and the rest of us just makes me feel like I could perform better than ever in my life. Make up your mind, Jack, old fellow, Little Fred will be on guard at that third sack on Saturday, barring accidents, and trying to put up the game of his young life. Why, I'm just bubbling over with joy; and I feel like I ought to do my little part toward putting Chester on the map as a center for all boys' sports."

And when later on Jack wended his way toward home, accompanied by Toby and Steve, he felt more positive than ever that a great future was beginning to loom up for the boys of Chester; and the winning of the coming contest would be a gateway leading into the Land of Promise.



CHAPTER XVIII

HENDRIX AGAIN IN THE BOX

On Friday there was a light fall of rain that gave the boys of Chester a fear lest the great game be postponed. It turned out that this was a needless scare, for Saturday opened with fair skies, while even the air seemed delightful for a day in the middle of summer, with a gentle breeze blowing from the west.

The exodus began early in the day, and after noon traffic along the main road leading to Harmony was exceedingly heavy, all sorts of vehicles rolling onward, from sporty cars and laden motor trucks, down to humble wagons and buggies, with plenty of bicycles and motorcycles in evidence.

Once they arrived at the Harmony Field Club grounds, they found that there was to be a most amazing crowd of people to cheer the respective teams on with all manner of encouraging shouts and class yells.

There would not be any change in the line-up of Chester, for luckily all the boys had come through the grilling work of the past week without encountering any serious injuries. Harmony had not been quite so lucky, for their efficient third baseman, Young, had had his collarbone fractured during practice, and would be incapacitated from service the balance of the season.

In his place, a fellow by the name of Parsons was expected to guard third. None of the Chester boys remembered ever having seen him work, so they were utterly in the dark as to his abilities. The Harmony fellows gave out mysterious hints about the "great find" they had made in picking up Parsons, who was a most terrific batter, as well as a dandy third-sacker. He was very likely, they claimed, to break up the whole game by his way of slamming out three-baggers every time he stepped up to bat.

Of course few Chester boys really believed all this high talk. They understood very well that if a weakness had really developed in Harmony's infield, it would be policy on the part of the local rooters to try to conceal the fact, so that the Chester batters might not focus all their hits in the direction of third. Nevertheless, the boasting of the Harmony fans gave more than one visitor a cold feeling around the region of his heart. He watched Parsons in the practice before the game was called, and every little stunt which he performed was horribly magnified in their eyes.

Fortunately, Mr. Merrywether, the impartial umpire, was able to officiate again, which fact pleased both sides. They knew they could be sure of a square deal at his hands, and that was all any honest ball player could ask. When the public understands that an umpire always tries to do his duty as he sees it, and cannot be swerved from his path by any hoodlum tactics, they seem to feel a sort of affection for such a man, who is an honor to his chosen profession.

Long before the time came for play to begin every seat was taken, and hundreds were standing; while every avenue leading to the enclosed grounds seemed to be choked with hurrying, jostling throngs. They were anxious to at least get within seeing distance of the diamond, where they could add their voices to the cheers bound to arise as brilliant plays were pulled off by either side.

This was certainly the biggest event in the line of boys sports that had ever occurred at or near Harmony. Such a vast outpouring of people had never before been seen. Chester was represented by hundreds of her best citizens, attended by their wives. And really it would be hard to think of a Chester boy over ten years of age who had not managed somehow or other to get over, so as to watch how Jack Winters and his team came out in the conclusive game with the great Hendrix.

All species of noises arose all around the field, from a myriad of automobile horns and frequent school yells given under the direction of the rival cheer captains, who stood in front of the bleachers, and waved their arms like semaphores as they led their cohorts in concert, whooping out the recognized yells of either Harmony or Chester.

The pitchers were trying out in one corner of the grounds in full view of the entire mass of spectators. Many curious eyes watched them limber up their arms for the work before them. Besides Hendrix and Donohue several reserve pitchers on either side were in line, sending and receiving in routine; but of course never once delivering their deceptive curves or drops, lest the opposing players get a line on their best tricks, and prepare to meet them later on.

No one had any doubts concerning who was slated to occupy the box. It was bound to be the same batteries as in the last game, Hendrix and Chase for Harmony, Donohue and Mullane for Chester. If for any reason either of these star pitchers should be so unfortunate as to get a "lacing," then possibly one of the substitutes might be introduced so as to save the day; but there was a slim chance of any such thing coming to pass.

Jack had no reason to feel discouraged. To be sure, he had passed through quite a strenuous week, and been worried over a number of his leading players; but after all, things had turned out very well. Now that the great day had arrived, he believed every fellow on the nine was feeling first class.

There was Donohue, for instance, who had been on the verge of throwing up his job as pitcher because he believed he would be over in Harmony when the day arrived, living there for good; but Jack had fixed all that, so that he was now firmly settled as a citizen of Chester, and could put his whole heart into his work in the box.

Joel Jackman had come close to drowning, but it was Jack who had been instrumental in rescuing him when he caught that cramp in the cold water of the lake; and, so far as appearances went, Joel was feeling as he declared, "just prime." He ran after the loftiest flies that were knocked his way as though he had the speed of the wind; yes, and not once was he guilty of a flagrant muff, though some of those balls called for an exhibition of agility and skill bordering on genius.

Lastly, there was Fred Badger, who had also given Jack many a heartache since the last tie game with Harmony; but Fred was jumping around his favorite third sack, smothering every grounder that sped his way, and pegging to first with a promptness and accuracy that made some of the Harmony fans shiver as they thought of how easily their fastest runner would be caught miles from the base by such wonderful playing as that, provided Fred could do as well in the real game.

The time was close at hand for the umpire to call play, and of course there was an eagerness as well as a tinge of anxiety running through the crowds of spectators. In a hotly contested game such as was very likely to develop, often a little thing will seem like a mountain; and upon a mere trifle the fate of the contest may in the end depend. Should any one of the players "crack" under the strain, such a thing was likely to settle the controversy for good.

Since there was such a monstrous crowd present that ropes had to be used to keep them from surging on to the field, of course ground rules had to be arranged in advance. This was certain to work a little in favor of the home team. For instance, every Harmony batter knew that a hit toward right would send the ball into the near bleachers, which feat would count for two bases; whereas, if the ball were free to travel, it might be fielded back in time to hold the runner at first. Then again, a little more steam would send the horse-hide careening over right-field fence for a home-run. Doubtless Harmony batters had practiced for just such special hits many, many times; whereas, the Chester fellows, being almost green to the grounds, would be apt to hit as they were accustomed to doing at home.

Jack, like a wise general, saw this opening, and one of the first things he did in giving counsel to his players was to point it out to Big Bob Jeffries, Joel Jackman, Steve Mullane and the rest of the heavy sluggers.

"Start them for right field every time you can, boys," he advised. "It doesn't take so much of a tap to put them across the fence there; and if you can't get so far land a few in the bleachers for a double."

"How about the third sack, Jack?" asked Phil Parker. "You know I'm a great hand to knock across the line there. Some get into foul territory, passing outside the bag; but when they do go over squarely they always count for keeps. Do you believe half they're saying about that Parsons being a regular demon for grabbing up ground scorchers, and tossing fellows out at first?"

"None of us will know until we make the test," Jack told him. "Start things up lively for Mr. Parsons the first time you face Hendrix, Phil. If we find he's all to the good there, we'll change off, and ring in a new deal. But somehow I seem to have a sneaking notion that same Parsons will turn out to be the Harmony goat in this game. They've done their best to replace Young; and now hope to hide the truth by all this bragging."

"I wouldn't be at all surprised if what you say turns out to be a fact, Jack," remarked Steve. "You know we read a whole lot these days about the war over in Europe, and how the French have a masterly way of hiding their big guns under a mattress of boughs, or a painted canvas made to represent the earth, so that flying scouts above can't see where the battery is located. Well, perhaps now Harmony, in making all this brag is only trying to hide their gap. Camaflouge they call it, I believe. But we'll proceed to see what Parsons has got up his sleeve. You watch me get him to guessing. If he gets in the way of the cannonball I shoot at third, it'll feel like a hot tamale in his hands, believe me."

"Well, there's Mr. Merrywether going to announce the batteries, and so we'll have a chance to see what we can do at bat, for of course Harmony takes the field first. Every fellow fight tooth and nail for Chester. We want to go home this afternoon in a blaze of glory. Win or lose, we must show that we are a credit to our folks. That's all I've got to say as a last word; every fellow on his toes every second of the time, at bat, and in the field!"

The umpire raised his voice, and using a megaphone proceeded to announce that the opposing batteries of the two rival teams would be:

"Hendrix and Chase for Harmony; Donohue and Mullane for Chester!"

A storm of approval greeted the announcement. Everybody settled back as though relieved, and confident that no matter who won, they would see a game well worth patronizing.

Hendrix received the new ball, and proceeded to send a few swift ones to his basemen. They of course managed to drop it on the ground as often as they could, so that it might be dextrously rolled a bit, and discolored, for it is always considered that a new ball works in favor of the batter.

Jack was the first man to face Hendrix, as he led the batting list. From all over the place loud cries greeted the captain of the Chester team as he stepped up to the plate, and stood there with his bat on his shoulder. Of course most of these encouraging cries came from the faithful Chester rooters; but then there were fair-minded fellows of Harmony who believed in giving due credit to an honorable antagonist; and Jack Winters they knew to be such a type of boy, clean in everything he attempted, and a true lover of outdoor sports.

"Play ball!"

Hendrix took one last look all around. He wished to make sure that his fielders and basemen were just as he would have them placed. He knew that Jack could wield a bat with considerable skill; and moreover had proved his ability to solve his delivery on that former occasion. So proceeding to wind up he sent in the first one with sizzling speed, and a sharp drop.



CHAPTER XIX

THE LUCKY SEVENTH

"Strike One!" announced the wideawake umpire, in his stentorian voice.

Subdued applause ran through the immense throng. Apparently Hendrix had perfect control over the ball. That wonderful drop had been too quick for Jack, who, considering that it was entirely too high, had not struck. Perhaps, though, he was waiting to see what Hendrix meant to feed him.

The next one went wide in a curve that elicited murmurs of admiration from the sages of the ball game, who invariably insisted on sitting in a direct line with catcher and pitcher, their one occupation being to gauge the delivery, and shout out approval or disdain over every ball that comes along; or else plague the umpire because his decision differs from their wonderful judgment.

Then came the third toss. Jack stepped forward, and before the break could occur he had met the twisting ball with the point of his bat, sending it humming down toward short.

Bailey was on his job, and neatly smothered what might have been a splendid single. When Jack reached first after a speedy rush, he found the ball there ahead of him gripped in Hutching's fist, and was greeted with a wide grin from the astute first baseman.

"One down!" remarked Toby Hopkins, as Phil Parker toed the mark, and watched the opposing pitcher like a hawk, meaning to duplicate Jack's feat if possible, only he aspired to send the ball through the infield, and not straight at a man.

"But Jack got at him, you noticed," said Joel Jackman, who did not seem to be showing any signs of his recent adventure in the chilly waters of the lake. "Hendrix may be a puzzle to a good many fellows, but once you solve his tricks well, say, he's as easy as pie at Thanksgiving."

Well, Joel had a chance that very inning to show what he meant, for while Phil reached first on a Texas leaguer, and Herbert Jones whiffed vainly at three balls that came over the plate with lightening speed, there were only two out.

Joel made a swing at a wide one on purpose, for he had received the signal from Phil that he meant to make a break for second when next Hendrix started to wind up to deliver the ball. Luck was with Phil, thanks partly to the great slide with which he covered the last ten feet of ground; and also to the fact that the generally reliable Chase, Harmony's backstop, managed to draw the second baseman off his bag to stop his speedy throw.

Hendrix showed no signs of being alarmed. He tempted Joel to take a chance at a most deceptive drop, which put the batter two in the hole with just as many balls called on the box-man.

With the next toss, Joel, meaning to emulate Jack's manner of stepping forward and meeting the ball before the break came, entirely miscalculated Hendrix' scheme. As a consequence, the ball, instead of being a sharp drop, seemed to actually rise in the air, and in consequence, Joel missed it by half a foot.

He went to his position out in centre, fastening his glove, and shaking his head.

"How'd you find Hendrix today, Joel?" asked Oldsmith, the Harmony middle-field man, as they passed on the way. "Some stuff he's got on that ball, hey?"

"That last was certainly a new one for me," confessed Joel, frankly. "Why, honest to goodness, it seemed to jump up in the air just before I swung."

"Sure, that's the new jump ball he's been practicing lately," grinned Oldsmith, though whether he really believed such a thing himself or not was a question, for he seemed to be a practical joker. "Old Hendrix is always hatching up something fresh, for the other side. You fellows needn't expect to do much running today, for most of you will only whiff out at the rubber. He's got your number, all right."

Of course that did not bother Joel very much. He knew how prone baseball players are to boast when things are turning their way; and at the same time find all sorts of plausible excuses when the reverse tide begins to flow against them.

Donohue seemed to be at his best, for he immediately struck out the first man who faced him, tossing up just three balls at that. This was quite a creditable performance the Chester rooters kept telling their Harmony neighbors, considering that he was no veteran at this sort of thing, and Hutchings could usually be counted on as a dependable hitter.

Clifford fared but little better, though it was through a lofty foul to right field which Big Bob easily smothered, that he went out. Then Captain Martin tried his hand, and he, too, seemed unable properly to gauge the teasers that Donohue sent in, for after fouling several, he passed away on the third strike.

The crowd made up its mind that it was going to be a pitchers' duel in earnest. Many would go the way of those who had been unable to meet the puzzling curves and drops that had come in by turns.

When next the Chester boys tried their hand, Toby got his base through Parsons juggling the hot grounder which came his way, and failing to send it across the diamond in time to nip the runner. The Chester folks took notice of this error on the part of the third baseman, who had been touted as a wonder at snatching up everything that came his way, regardless of its character. Still, that had been a difficult ball to handle, and the error was excusable, Jack thought.

There was no run made, though Big Bob did send out a terrific drive that under ordinary conditions should have been a three-bagger at least. Oldsmith, after a gallant sprint at top speed, was seen to jump into the air and pull the ball down. He received a storm of applause, for it was a pretty piece of work; and Chester fans cheered quite as lustily as the home crowd; for, as a rule, baseball rooters can admire such splendid results regardless of partisanship.

Badger struck out, in his turn, being apparently unable to solve those puzzling shoots of the cool and smiling master in the box. But then Harmony was no better off in their half of that inning, for not a man got as far as second; though O'Leary did send up an amazing fly that dropped squarely in the hands of Big Bob. The other two only smashed the thin air when they struck, for they picked out wide ones, and let the good balls shoot over the edges of the plate like cannonballs.

"Notice one thing," said Jack to several of the Chester players when once more it was their turn at bat. "Every Harmony fellow turns partly toward the right when he bats. That's the short field in this enclosure, and with the bleachers in between. They know the advantages of sending the ball in that direction every time it's possible. Phil, Joel and Bob, make a note of that, will you, and try to duplicate their game? They know the grounds, and have the advantage over us."

"Watch my smoke, Governor," chuckled Big Bob Jeffries, confidently. "I'm only trying things out so far. When the right time comes, me to cash in with a ball clean over that short field fence. They'll never find it again either, if I get the swoop I'm aiming for."

"Well, use good judgment when you make it," laughed Jack, "and see that the bases are occupied. We may need a homer before this gruelling game is over."

It certainly began to look like it when the sixth inning had ended and never a run was marked up on the score-board for either side. Once Fred Badger had succeeded in straining a point, and reaching third with a wonderful exhibition of base stealing; but alas! he died there. Steve, usually so reliable, could not bring him in, though he did valiantly, and knocked a sky-scraper which O'Leary scooped in after a run back to the very edge of the bleachers. Five feet further and it would have dropped safe, meaning a two-bagger for Steve, and a run for Badger.

So the seventh started. Both pitchers were going as strong as in the start, even more so, many believed. It was a wonderful exhibition of skill and endurance, and thousands were ready to declare that no such game had ever been played upon the grounds of the Harmony Field Club.

"Everybody get busy this frame," said Jack, encouragingly, as Donohue picked up a bat and strode out to take his place. "We've got to make a start some time, and the lucky seventh ought to be the right place. Work him for a walk if you can Alec. And if you get to first, we'll bat you in, never fear."

Considerably to the surprise of everybody, Donohue, instead of striking out, managed to connect with a swift ball, and send up a weak fly that fell back of second. Three players started for it, but there must have been some fierce misunderstanding of signals, for they all stopped short to avoid a collision, each under the belief that one of the others had cried he had it. In consequence, the ball fell to the ground safely, and the Chester pitcher landed on the initial sack.

Such roars as went up from the faithful and expectant Chester rooters. They managed to make such a noise that one would have been pardoned for thinking the entire crowd must be in sympathy with the visitors. Anticipation jumped to fever heat. With a runner located on first base, no one out, and several reliable batters coming up, it began to look as though that might yet prove the "lucky seventh" for the plucky Chester boys.

Jack knew that Hendrix would have it in for him. He would depend on sweeping curves that must deceive, and try no more of that drop ball, which Jack had proved himself able to judge and meet before it broke.

So Jack, after one swing at a spinner which he did not expect to strike, dropped a neat little bunt along the line toward first. This allowed the runner to reach second, although Jack himself was caught; for Hendrix instantly darted over to first, and was in time to receive the ball after Hatchings had scooped it out of the dirt.

But the runner had been advanced to second, and there were still two chances that he could be sent on his way by a mighty wallop, or even a fine single. Phil did crack out one that did the trick, and he found himself landed on first, though Donohue, unfortunately, was held at third. Bedlam seemed to be breaking loose. Chester rooters stormed and cheered, and some of the more enthusiastic even danced around like maniacs. Others waited for something really to be accomplished before giving vent to their repressed feelings.

Next up stepped Herb Jones, with a man on third, another on first, and but a lone out. He failed to accomplish anything, Hendrix sending him along by the usual strike-out line.

Everything depended on Joel. A single was all that was needed to bring in the tally so ardently desired. It was no time to try for a big hit. Even Phil on first was signaled not to take risks in starting for second.

Joel waited. He was fed a couple of wide ones that the umpire called balls. Then came a fair one clean across the rubber, but Joel did not strike. Jack made a motion to him. He believed the next would also be a good ball, for Hendrix was not likely to put himself in a hole right there, depending more on his dazzling speed to carry him through.

Joel struck!

They heard the crack of the bat, but few saw the ball go, such was its momentum as it passed through the diamond. Hendrix, however, made a stab with his glove and managed to deflect the ball from its first course. That turned out to be a fatal involuntary movement on his part, for it made Bailey's job in knocking down the ball more difficult. The nimble shortstop managed to recover the ball and send it in home; but as the runner at third had of course started tearing along as he heard the blow, he had slid to safety before Chase caught the throw in.

And so the first tally of the game fell to Chester in the lucky seventh!



CHAPTER XX

AFTER THE GREAT VICTORY—CONCLUSION

Toby Hopkins made a gallant effort to duplicate the performance of some of his mates. He cracked out a dandy hit well along toward the bleachers out in right field. Again did O'Leary run like mad, or a "red-headed meteor," as some of his admirers yelled. They saw him actually leap amidst the bleachers, the spectators giving way like frightened sheep. Yes, and he caught that fly in a most amazing fashion, well deserving the loud salvos of cheers that kept up as he came in, until he had doffed his cap in response to the mad applause.

But Harmony came back in their half of the seventh with a tally that resulted from a screaming hit by the hero of the game, O'Leary, which carried far over the famous right-field fence.

With the score thus evened up, they went at the eighth frame. Big Bob got a single out in right. He was advanced to second by a fine bunt on the part of Fred Badger, which the new third baseman found it difficult to handle, though he did succeed in nailing the runner at first. Along came Steve with a zigzag hit that made a bad bound over shortstop's head and allowed Big Bob to land on third. He was kept from going home by the coacher there, who saw that Oldsmith had dashed in from short center, and was already picking up the ball for a throw home, which he did with fine judgment.

Donohue was unable to duplicate his previous lucky pop-up, for he struck out. Jack was given his base on balls, an unusual occurrence with Hendrix. Apparently, however, he was banking on being better able to strike out Phil Parker, which he immediately proceeded to do, so that after all, the Chester rally did not net a run, and the score was still a tie.

Chester went to the field for the finish of the eighth, determined that there should be no let down of the bars. Jack had spoken encouraging words to Donohue, and was confidently told by the pitcher that he felt as "fresh as a daisy, with speed to burn."

He proved the truth of his words immediately by striking out the first man to face him. Then the next Harmony batter managed to send up several high fouls that kept Big Bob in right hustling; though he finally succeeded in getting hold of one, and putting the man out.

The third batter hit the ball with fierceness, but Jack took it for a line drive, and that inning was over. The ninth was looming up and the game still undecided. Indeed, they were no better off than when making the start, save that they had had considerable practice whiffing the thin air.

"You see, they persist in trying to drive toward right," urged Jack, as his players came trooping in, eager to get busy again with their bats, so as to win the game in this ninth round.

"Yes, and they kept me on the jump right smart in the bargain," remarked Big Bob Jeffries, wiping his reeking forehead as he spoke. "Never mind, I'll have a chance at Hendrix again this inning, likely, if one of you fellows can manage to perch on the initial sack. Then watch what happens. I'm going to break up this bally old game right now."

"Deeds talk, Big Bob!" chuckled Toby, as Herb Jones stepped up to see what he could do for a starter.

His best was a foul that the catcher smothered in his big mitt after quite an exciting rush here and there, for it was difficult to judge of such a twister. Herb looked utterly disgusted as he threw down his bat. Joel Jackman struck the first offering dealt out to him, and got away with it in the bargain. Perched on first the lanky fielder grinned, and called out encouragingly at Toby, who was next.

Hendrix tightened up. He looked very grim and determined. Toby wanted to bunt, but he managed instead to send a little grounder along toward first. Joel was already booming along in the direction of second, and taking a grand slide, for fear that the throw would catch him.

But after all Chase had some difficulty in picking up the ball, as sometimes happens to the best of them; and while he did hurl it to second, the umpire held up his hands to announce that Joel was safe. No one disputed his decision, though it had been a trifle close.

Matters were looking up for Chester again. One man was down, but that was Big Bob Jeffries striding up to the plate, with a grim look on his face. If Hendrix were wise he would send him along on balls; but then the pitcher had perfect faith in his ability to deceive the heaviest of hitters.

Twice did Big Bob swing, each time almost falling down when his bat met with no resistance. He took a fresh grip and steeled himself. Jack called out a word of warning, but Big Bob shook his head. No matter what Hendrix gave him, he could reach it, his confident, almost bulldog manner declared.

Well, he did!

He smacked the very next offering of the great Harmony pitcher so hard that it looked like a dot in the heavens as it sped away over right-field fence for a magnificent home run.

Big Bob trotted around the circuit with a wide grin on his face, chasing Joel and Toby before him, while the crowd went fairly wild with joy—at least that section of it representative of Chester did. The Harmony rooters looked pretty blue, to tell the truth, for they realized that only a miracle could keep their rivals from running off with the hard-fought game.

"That sews it up, I reckon!" many of them were heard to say.

There were no more runs made by Chester, for Hendrix mowed the next batter down with comparative ease; but the mischief had already been done.

Harmony made a last fierce effort to score in their half of the ninth. Chase got his base on balls, and Hendrix tried to advance him with a sacrifice, but succeeded only in knocking into a double. Then Hutchings cracked out a two-sacker, and Clifford came along with a neat single that sent the other runner on to third, while he occupied the initial sack. Harmony stock began to rise. Those who had made a movement as though about to quit their seats sat down again. Possibly the game was not yet over. Some clever work on the part of Martin, Oldsmith and Bailey might tie the score, when, as on the last occasion, extra innings would be necessary in order to prove which of the teams should be awarded the victor's laurel.

Everybody seemed to be rooting when Captain Martin stepped up. He succeeded in picking out a good one, and with the sound of the blow there was an instinctive loud "Oh!" on the part of hundreds. But, alas! for the fate of Harmony! the ball went directly at Fred Badger, who sent it straight home in time to catch Hutchings by seven feet, despite his mad rush.

And so the great game wound up, with the score four to one in favor of Chester. Doubtless, the most depressed member of the defeated Harmony team would be Hendrix, who had failed to baffle those batters with all his wonderful curves and trick drops.

On the way home after the game, with the Chester players occupying a big carryall, their joyous faces told every one along the way how they had fared, even if their shouts failed to announce their victory.

"This is a grand day in the history of Chester," said Jack for the tenth time, since he shared in the enthusiasm that seemed to run through every fellow's veins. "It will be written down as a red letter day by every boy, young and old; for we have put the old town on the baseball map for keeps. After this folks will speak of Chester teams with respect, for we've gallantly downed the champions of the county two to one, with a great tie thrown in for good measure. I want to thank every one of you for what you've done to help out—Phil, Herb, Joel, Toby, Big Bob, Fred, Steve, and last but far from least our peerless pitcher Alec Donohue. Not one of you but played your position to the limit; and as to batting, never this summer has Hendrix had the lacing he got today, so I was privately told by one of the Harmony fans whose money has been back of the team all summer."

"We'll make Rome howl tonight, boys, believe me!" asserted Big Bob. "Bonfires and red lights all over the town, while we march through the streets, and shout till we're hoarse as crows. The like never happened before in Chester, and it's only right the good folks should know we've made the place famous."

"What pleases me most of all," Jack went on to say, when he could find a chance to break into the lively talk, "is the bright prospect that looms up before us. This glorious baseball victory clinches matters. I know several gentlemen who will now be eager to back up our scheme for a club-house this winter, as well as a football eleven to compete for the county championship up to Thanksgiving. And during the balance of the summer I've got a lively programme laid out that ought to give the bunch of us a heap of pleasure, as well as profit us in the way of healthy exercise."

His announcement was greeted with hearty cheers, for they knew full well that when Jack Winters engineered any scheme it was likely to turn out well worth attention. But it would hardly be fair just now to disclose what Jack's plans were; that may well be left to the succeeding volume in this series of athletic achievements on the part of the Chester boys, which can be found wherever juvenile books are sold under the title of "Jack Winters' Campmates; or, Vacation Days in the Woods."

THE END



VICTORY BOY SCOUT SERIES

Stories by a writer who possesses a thorough knowledge of this subject. Handsomely bound in cloth; colored jacket wrapper.

1 The Campfires of the Wolf Patrol 2 Woodcraft; or, How a Patrol Leader Made Good 3 Pathfinder; or, the Missing Tenderfoot 4 Great Hike; or, The Pride of Khaki Troop 5 Endurance Test; or, How Clear Grit Won the Day 6 Under Canvas; or, the Search for the Carteret Ghost 7 Storm-bound; or, a Vacation among the Snow Drifts 8 Afloat; or, Adventures on Watery Trails 9 Tenderfoot Squad; or, Camping at Raccoon Bluff 10 Boy Scouts in an Airship 11 Boy Scout Electricians; or, the Hidden Dynamo 12 Boy Scouts on Open Plains

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BOY SCOUT SERIES

By

G. HARVEY RALPHSON

Just the type of books that delight and fascinate the wide awake boys of today. Clean, wholesome and interesting; full of mystery and adventure. Each title is complete and unabridged. Printed on a good quality of paper from large, clear type and bound in cloth. Each book is wrapped in a special multi-colored jacket.

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By Louis Arundel

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THE END

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