Baseball Joe on the School Nine/Chapter 11

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CHAPTER XI


JOE HOPES AND FEARS


Around the Morningside diamond marched the singing, cheering and yelling lads. The Blue Banner fluttered in the Spring breeze, and not a student in the crowd but either hoped it would stay in the possession of the present owners, or would come to his school, the desires varying according to the allegiance of the wisher.

It was a gala occasion for the town of Morningside, this Blue Banner parade, and the people turned out in great numbers to watch the lads. Throngs came from neighboring towns and villages, and some even from a distant city, for the boys could always be depended on to make the occasion enjoyable.

The Excelsior Hall crowd did some new "stunts." Under the leadership of Luke and Hiram they rendered some odd songs and yells, and then, as they passed around the public square, Hiram executed his main surprise. The leader

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AROUND THE MORNINGSIDE DIAMOND MARCHED THE SINGING, CHEERING AND YELLING LADS.

of Excelsior, none other than Luke Fodick, had been carrying a pole, on the top of which was a canvas bundle. It was tied about with strings in such a manner that, by pulling on one cord the wrapping would fall off, as when a statue is unveiled. To all questions as to what was on the pole under the canvas Luke and Hiram returned only evasive replies.

But on reaching the public square, when the cheering was at its height, Luke pulled the string. At once there floated from the staff an "effigy" of the Blue Banner. It was made of blue calico and worked on it in strands of yellow rope were the words:

We'll have the real banner this year!

Surmounting the odd trophy was a stuffed eagle, rather the worse for being moth-eaten, and worn "to a frazzle," as Tom said. But it made a hit, and the yells of laughter bore evidence of how the crowd appreciated it.

"Guess we've made good all right," said Hiram to his crony. "There's nothing else like it in the parade."

"That's right," answered Luke. "Oh, it takes us to do things."

"And sometimes not do them," murmured Teeter. "We ought to have the real banner."

"Maybe we will," spoke Joe.

The other schools had their own specialties in singing, cutting queer capers, or in cheers, and made hits in their own way. Around the square marched the lads, and then, with a final chorus, rendered by all the students, the parade was over. Back to Morningside Academy they went, and sat down to what the papers described later as a "sumptuous repast; a feast of reason and a flow of soul."

Jolly good fellowship prevailed at the board. Speeches were made, toasts responded to, and baseball talk flowed on all sides. Hiram and Luke made remarks, as did the managers and captains of the other nines. Predictions were freely expressed as to who would have the banner the next year, and then came more singing, more cheering and more yelling.

The dinner broke up finally, and then the various managers and captains got together to arrange the Interscholastic League schedule of games.

"Well, it was all right; wasn't it?" asked Tom of Joe, when they were on their way back to Excelsior Hall.

"Fine and dandy," was the answer. "They're a nice lot of fellows—all of 'em."

"Quite some class to those Trinity School lads," remarked Tom. "It's a swell place—a lot of millionaires' sons go there I understand."

"Yes, but I hobnobbed with some of 'em, and they weren't a bit uppish. Right good fellows, I thought."

"Oh, yes, all millionaire lads aren't cads though money sometimes makes a chap that way. Trinity must be quite a school."

"I guess it is, but Excelsior is good enough for me. We're in with a dandy crowd of fellows, though, and that makes it nice if you've got to play a lot of games with 'em. Nothing like class when it comes to sport. We ought to have some corking good games this Summer."

"I only wish you and I were more in it," went on Tom.

"Wait until we see about the scrub," suggested his chum. "I'm not worrying as much as I was at first."

But, though Joe thus lightly passed over the matter, deep down in his heart there was a great longing. To him baseball meant more than to the average player. From the time when he had seen his first game, as a little chap, our hero had fairly lived, eaten and slept in an atmosphere of the diamond. He had organized a team of lads when he was scarcely nine years old, and played those little chaps in a sort of improvised circuit.

Then, as he grew, and developed, and found that he could pitch, the world seemed to hold something worth while for Joe Matson. "Baseball Joe," he had been dubbed, when as a small chap he shouldered his bat and started off across the lots to a game, and "Baseball Joe" he was yet.

How he longed to be on the regular nine, even in the outfield, none but himself knew. And when he dreamed of the possibility that he might some time occupy the pitching mound—well, he had to stop short, for he found himself indulging in a too high flight of fancy.

"Get back to earth, Joe," he told himself. "If you want to pitch for Excelsior you've got to do a heap of waiting, and you are pretty good at that game."

And so Joe had hopes and fears—hopes that his dream might come true, and fears lest the enmity of Hiram and Luke would keep him one of the "scrubbiest of the scrubs."

He was tired after the excitement of the parade, and so was Tom, but they were not too weary to accept an invitation to gather in the room of Teeter and Peaches that night for a surreptitious lunch of ginger snaps, cheese and bottled soda water, which had been smuggled in. And, as before, the lads took the same precautions with the fake books and the tubes, hose and bottles. But they were not disturbed.

"Well, we'll have to get busy next week," remarked Teeter as he slowly sipped his glass.

"How so?" asked Joe.

"Hard practice against the scrub starts Monday."

"Who's captain of the scrub; did you hear?" asked Peaches eagerly.

"Yes, Ward Gerard—a nice fellow, too."

"That's the stuff!" cried Peaches. "Now there's a chance for you, Joe. Ward's room is on this corridor. I'm going to see him."

"You'll be caught," warned Teeter.

"Caught nothing! " retorted his chum. "It's so late none of the profs. or monitors will think a fellow will dare go out. Ward isn't an early sleeper, and I'm going to see him and ask him to let Joe pitch on the scrub before some one else gets the place. I'll be back in a few minutes, fellows. Don't eat up all the grub," and with that Peaches slipped noiselessly from the room.