Baseball Joe on the School Nine/Chapter 24

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CHAPTER XXIV


TWO OF A KIND


"There is another resignation to act on," said Dr. Rudden, after a pause, and, somehow he did not seem half as worried over it as Luke had hoped he would be. "What shall we do with it?"

"Take it!" exclaimed Tom, and it was accepted with a promptness that startled the former captain.

"The action taken to-night makes it necessary to elect a new manager and a captain," went on the professor. "Perhaps the manager should be elected first. Whom will you have?"

"Peaches Lantfeld," called some.

"Teeter Nelson," said others.

"George Bland! Sister Davis! Ward Gerard! Tommy Barton," called various lads. There were more nominations, but Peaches received the majority of votes, and was declared elected. Teeter was the first to congratulate him, and the others followed.

"Now a captain," suggested the chairman.

"Joe Matson!" yelled scores of voices.

"No, I can't accept," cried Joe, jumping to his feet. "If I'm going to pitch I want to give all my time to that. I'm much obliged, but I decline."

"I think it would not be wise to make your pitcher the captain, especially at this time," spoke Dr. Rudden. "The catcher is in a better position to captain a team, for he can see all the plays. You will have to have a new catcher, and——"

"Ward Gerard!" called Joe. "He's caught for me on the scrub, and——"

"Ward! Ward Gerard!" Scores of lads took up the calling of his name. He was very popular, and was elected in a minute, while Hiram and Luke, followed by Jake Weston, filed from the room in plainly-shown disgust, sneers on their faces.

Nothing more remained to do save to have a conference of the new captain and manager, to arrange for future practice and playing. This was soon done, and Ward told the lads to report early the next Monday afternoon, when they would play the scrub, which organization had also to select a new captain and pitcher, as well as catcher.

"Now, all I want is to get Tom Davis on the school nine, and I'll be happy," said Joe to Peaches and Teeter, as the meeting broke up.

"I think you can," declared Teeter. "Jake Weston is going to get out, I hear, and Tom will fit In. Charlie Borden can take Jake's place at short and Tom can play first, which he's used to. Oh, I guess old Excelsior Hall has come into her own again, and we'll make some of these other teams sit up and take notice."

And Jake did resign, following the example of his two cronies. This made a place for Tom, and he promptly filled it.

There was a snap and a vim to the playing of the school nine when they first went at it with the changed players, that fairly took the breath out of the scrub. Of course that unfortunate collection of players was weakened by the withdrawal of Joe, Ward and Tom, but even with players of equal strength it is doubtful if they could have held the school nine down.

Joe and his mates struck a winning streak, and the young pitcher never was better than in that practice game on Monday afternoon.

"Joe's pitching his head off," observed Tom Davis, and when Ward missed holding one or two particular "hot" ones he thought the same thing. The school team won a decisive victory.

"But that doesn't mean we will beat Trinity on Saturday," said Peaches, the new manager. "Don't begin to take it easy, fellows. And then follows the second game in the series with Morningside. We've got to get that or those boys will think they've gotten into the habit of beating us."

"We'll trim 'em both!" cried Tom.

"Sure," assented Joe. It was like old times now, he reflected, he and Tom together on a team as they had been on the Silver Stars. The only thing that worried Joe was the theft of his father's papers and patent models. He knew it would mean a serious loss to his parents, and Joe was rather in fear that he might have to leave boarding school.

"If I have to go away, I hope it won't be until after I have helped win back the Blue Banner," he confided to Tom.

"Oh, don't worry," advised his chum; and a few days later Joe received a letter from home, telling him the same thing.

Mr. Matson wrote that whereas the loss would badly cripple him, yet he did not want Joe to worry.

The game with Trinity was a source of delight to the Excelsior team. Their rivals came to the diamond battlefield eager for a victory, and they worked hard for it, but the new combination was too much for them. When the final run was chalked up the score stood:

Excelsior Hall, 11; Trinity, 4.

"That's what we want to do to Morningside," said Tom.

"And we will!" predicted Joe.

They had hard practice before the second game with their ancient rivals—for Morningside was a foe whom Excelsior Hall was always eager to beat. In the series for the possession of the Blue Banner she had three games with Morningside and a like number with the other teams in the league.

It was the day of the second Morningside game, and it was to take place on the Excelsior diamond. The weather could not have been better. Spring was just merging into Summer, and the lads were on their mettle. There had been a big improvement in their playing, and they were ready to do battle to a finish.

Luke and Hiram had not been much in evidence since their resignations. They occasionally came to a game, or to practice, but they made sneering remarks, and few of the students had anything to do with them. It was quite a jolt for Hiram, used as he was to running matters to suit himself.

The crowd began arriving early at the Excelsior diamond, for word had gone around that it was to be a game for "blood," and both teams were on edge. If Excelsior had improved, so had Morningside. They had strengthened their men by long, hard practice, and they were confident of victory.

Joe and Tom had expected before this to hear something about their old enemy, Sam Morton, at Morningside, but the former pitcher for the Silver Stars was seldom mentioned. However, it was learned that he was to substitute in the Morningside-Excelsior game.

Out on the diamond trotted the renovated Excelsior nine. They were received with a burst of applause, and at once got to practice. A little later out came their rivals, and there was a cheer for them. Immediately the opposition cheering and shouting contingents got busy, and there was a riot of sound.

"Going to stay and see the game?" asked Luke of Hiram, as they entered the gate.

"Yes, might as well. Gee! But I hope our fellows lose!"

Nice sentiments, weren't they for an Excelsior student? But then Hiram was very sore and angry.

"So do I," added Luke. "It would show them what a mistake they made by dropping us."

"That's right," agreed the conceited Hiram. "If they had only waited we'd have come out all right. It was all the fault of Joe Matson and Tom Davis. I'll get square with 'em yet."

They strolled over the grounds, winding in and out amid the throngs. They almost collided with a Morningside player.

"Beg your pardon," murmured Luke. "Oh, it's Sam Morton," he added, for he had met Sam in town a week or so previously. "Have you met Hiram Shell, Sam," and he introduced the two.

"Oh, yes, you're the manager of the Excelsiors," said Sam. "Glad to know you. I think we'll beat you again. I may pitch after the fifth inning. I'm only the sub now, but I expect to be the regular soon."

"I was manager," replied Hiram bitterly, "but Joe Matson and his crowd put up a game on me, and I resigned."

"Joe Matson, eh? He's the same fellow who made a lot of trouble for me."

"Excuse me," murmured Luke. "I see a friend of mine. I'm going to leave you for a minute."

"All right," assented Hiram. "So Joe Matson made trouble for you, too, eh?" he went on to Sam, curiously.

"Yes, he played a mean trick on me, and took my place as pitcher," which wasn't exactly true, as my old readers know. "I'd like to get square with him some way," concluded Sam.

"Say, so would I!" exclaimed Hiram eagerly. "Shake hands on that. He's a low sneak, and he played a mean trick on me. I'd do anything to get even."

"Maybe we can," suggested Sam.

"How?"

"Oh, lots of ways. Come on over here where no one will hear us. Maybe we can fix up some scheme on him. I'd give a good deal to get even."

"So would I," added Hiram. "I wish I could get him off the nine, and out of the school."

"I'll help you," proposed Sam eagerly; and then the two, who were very much of a kind when it came to disliking our hero, walked off, whispering together.

"Play ball!" came the distant cry of the umpire, and the great Excelslor-Morningside game was about to start. But the plotters did not turn back to watch it.