Baseball Joe on the School Nine/Chapter 10

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Instantly following Hiram's words a hub-bub burst out In the gymnasium. Everyone seemed to be talking at once, and the crowd of boys split up into two factions.

There were those who were with Joe and Tom in their contention, and who thought that they had not been given a fair opportunity. Among these were, of course, the lads who had not hitherto belonged to the athletic committee, and who had been induced by Tom to put in their applications.

On the other side were what might be called the "conservatives," those who, while not exactly favoring Hiram and his high-handed methods, preferred to take the easiest way and let the old order of things prevail.

Then, too, was a smaller crowd of distinct "Shellites" as Peaches dubbed them—friends and close cronies of the manager who sided with him in all things and looked upon him as a sort of hero. Chief among them, of course, was Luke Fodick, and perhaps next in line stood Charlie Borden, who had replaced Peaches at first.

"It's a rotten, mean shame!" burst out Teeter as he came over to where Tom, Joe and Peaches were standing. "I'm not going to stand for it, either!"

"Well, what can you do?" asked the practical Peaches. "They have it on us good and proper. There's the rule."

"Well, I don't like it, but I'm going to stay here just the same," snapped Tom.

"And so am I," added Joe frankly. "There's no use saying I don't care, for I do. I'd like to get on the team. But if I can't—why I'll root for 'em, that's all."

"Maybe you'll be picked as one of the subs," was what Charlie Borden said. "We always have lots of them to make up the scrub nine. But frankly, Matson, I don't think you'll pitch. Frank Brown is going to make good, and if he doesn't Larry Akers will."

He turned to join some of his own particular crowd, and with them continued the discussion of the unexpected turn given to the athletic meeting. Hiram and Luke were surrounded by a throng of their cronies, and from time to time there could be heard from them such remarks as:

"Serves 'em good and right for trying to butt in."

"What right have new fellows to try to run our affairs for us, anyhow?"

"You sat on 'em proper, Hiram."

"Yes, Luke and I fixed up that scheme," answered the bully, with no little pride.

Joe heard, and the thought came to him that possibly there might be a split in the ranks of the lads—a school divided against itself, and on his account. He took a quick resolve.

Striding over to Hiram he held out his hand, saying with a frank smile:

"Hiram, don't think for a minute I'm sore. It's all right, and I haven't a word to say. I did want to get on the nine, but I realize that I am a new lad here, and maybe next year things will be different. I'm for the team first, last and always. Will you shake on it—you and Luke?"

For a moment the bully eyed our hero. Luke too, gazed at him with a sneer on his face. Then as a little murmur of admiration for Joe's conduct arose—a murmur in which some of Hiram's own friends joined—the latter knew that it was the wisest policy to be at least outwardly friendly with Joe.

"All right, Matson," replied Hiram. "I guess you can come in. I'm sorry if you feel hurt about the way we run things here at Excelsior Hall, but—"

"Not at all—'to the victors belong the spoils.' " quoted Joe. "Maybe you'll let me play on the scrub."

"Sure, if there's a chance," put in Luke eagerly. He, too, saw which way the wind was likely to blow, and noting that Hiram had changed his conduct toward Joe it was up to the bully's toady to do the same. "You can play on the scrub all you want to," Luke added.

Hiram held out his hand and, though the clasp he gave Joe might have been more friendly, our hero took the will for the deed. Luke, also, shook hands, and thus, for the time being, the threatened breach was closed. But Joe knew, and Hiram knew, that never could there be real friendship between them.

Some of the lads began leaving the gymnasium now. There was more talk about the coming ball season, and some still persisted in denouncing the high-handed methods of the manager and his crowd. But in the main the feeling was smothered, due chiefly to Joe's manly act. The young pitcher even remained for a while chatting with Hiram, Luke and some of their cronies.

"Say, you sure did have your nerve with you, when you shook hands with those two sneaks," remarked Tom, when he and Joe reached their room, a little later.

"Yes, it did take nerve, but it was the only thing to do. I'm a thousand times obliged to you, Tom, for what you did for me, and———"

"For what I didn't do for you, I guess you mean," interrupted his chum with a smile. "Well, I meant all right, but they beat us out. But I'm not done trying. Joe, you're going to pitch on the first nine of Excelsior Hall before this season is over, or I'll eat my hat."

"I wish I could believe so," replied Joe with a little sigh of longing.

Baseball practice formally opened the next day, which proved unexpectedly warm and spring-like. The diamond was in good shape, and a crowd of lads turned out. A host of candidates did their "stunts" and Luke and Hiram "sized them up." Joe wanted to pitch on the tentative scrub nine that was picked to play against the first team, but Luke, who seemed to manage the second squad as well as the first, sent our hero out in the field, as he also did Tom.

"Never mind," consoled Peaches, who was on the first team. "Luke doesn't captain the scrub when it's formed regularly, and when the fellow is picked out who is to have charge I'll speak for you, Joe."

"Thanks. I would like a chance to get in the box."

That the first nine had many weak spots was soon made plain to captain and manager, and, to give them credit, they at once set at work correcting them.

"I'll get Dr. Rudden out to give you fellows some pointers as soon as we're in a little better shape," said Hiram, referring to the instructor who usually acted as coach.

"Yes, and you fellows need it all right," said Tom in a low voice.

"Everybody in the gym right after the game," ordered Hiram, during a lull in the play. "We're going to arrange about the Blue Banner parade."

"What's that," asked Joe of Teeter.

"Oh, every year all the teams in the Interscholastic League meet and have a parade to sort of open the season. The nine that holds the banner marches at the head, we have a band, and after that a little feed and it's jolly fun. You'll like it."

"Morningslde holds the banner now, doesn't she?"

"Yes, worse luck. It ought to come here, and would have if Hiram and Luke had run things differently last year. But they wouldn't listen to reason. Well, I've got to play ball. See you at the meeting."

The regulars won the ball game by a small margin, and then the lads trooped off to the gymnasium to the meeting. It was much more friendly and enthusiastic than the organization session had been, and arrangements were quickly made for taking part in the annual parade.

"As is the custom," said Hiram, "We will all meet on the grounds of the school that holds the Blue Banner—that's Morningside, I'm sorry to say, but next season will be different. We are going to win the Blue Banner this time."

"That's what he always says," murmured Peaches in Tom's ear.

"So we will meet on the Morningside diamond, do the regular marching stunt and have a feed there. It will be necessary for you fellows to chip in for part of the expenses as our treasury is low just now. It won't be much. Now the parade cominittee will meet to talk over details, and so will the rooting crowd. Get busy now, fellows; we want to make a good showing in the parade."

The Interscholastic League, of which the Blue Banner was the trophy, consisted of these schools beside Morningside Academy and Excelsior Hall: Trinity School, Woodside Hall and the Lakeview Preparatory Institute—or, more briefly the Lakeview Prep., which I shall call it.

In the parade of the nines of these institutions, and the followers of them, there were always some novel features, and the lads tried to outdo each other in singing, cheering or giving their school yells. A committee generally had charge of the cheering and yelling contingents, and this body of students for Excelsior now got busy making up new war-cries.

The day of the parade was a glorious one. It was Saturday, naturally, as that was the only time the students could be free. Early in the afternoon a big crowd left Excelsior Hall, the nine and the substitutes, including Joe and Tom, in their uniforms, each carrying a bat as an insignia of office. Morningside Academy was about five miles from Excelsior, and could be reached by trolley. Several special cars carried our hero and his companions.

All the other marching contingents save Trinity were on hand when the Excelsior lads arrived at Morningside, and they were noisily greeted. A few minutes later the Trinity lads arrived and then pandemonium broke loose.

"Say, this is great!" cried Joe, as cheer after cheer, and school-yell after school-yell, rent the air. "I guess we'll have some fun after all, Tom."

"Oh, sure. It's jolly."

The managers of the parade were rushing wildly to and fro, trying to get things in shape for the start. Lads who had not seen each other for some time were exchanging greetings, and the members of the various nines were talking "shop" to their hearts' content.

"Get in line! Get in line!" cried the marshals. "We're going to start."

The lads were to parade around the Morningside diamond, as a sort of tribute to the winning team of the league and then go down through the town to the public square, where the yelling, cheering and singing would take place. Then they were to come back to Morningside for the feast.

The band struck up a lively air and a silence fell over the crowd. Then, out from the midst of the throng came the lads of Morningside. They were to lead the line, as was their right, by virtue of being champions, and as they swung into formation Joe looked at them with critical eyes. Here was the doughty foe of his school.

His gaze fell upon one sturdy lad who carried a staff—carried it proudly—and no wonder, for, floating from it was the Blue Banner, glorious in gold embroidery and silver lace—the Blue Banner of the Interscholastic League—the trophy which meant so much.

"'Rah! 'Rah! 'Rah!" yelled the lads. "Three cheers for the Blue Banner!"

And how those cheers welled out! The lad carrying the banner dipped it in response to the salute.

Joe felt his heart strangely beating. A mist of tears came into his eyes—not tears of regret, but rather tears of joy and pride, that he belonged to the school which had a right to fight for that banner. Ah, if he could but enter that struggle himself!

Slowly the Morningside lads filed to their places. Louder played the band. There were more cheers, more salutes to the blue trophy, and then the banner parade was under way.