Baseball Joe on the School Nine/Chapter 23

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There was an ominous silence over the gathering in the gymnasium. It was entirely different from the former meeting which started in such a hub-bub, and which created such a stir. This time it meant "business," as Peaches said.

Hiram called the session, but refused to preside. He wanted to be able to say what he thought from the floor, and from the manner in which he and Luke and one or two of their friends conferred before the session opened, It was evident that Hiram was going to make a fight to maintain his prestige.

"Come to order, young gentlemen," suggested Dr. Rudden, when the gymnasium was well filled. It seemed as if every lad in Excelsior Hall was there. "You know what we are here for—"

"To elect a new manager and captain!" shouted someone.

"Stop!" commanded the coach, banging his gavel.

"Who said that?" cried Hiram, springing to his feet. "If I find out—"

"Silence!" commanded the chairman, while Luke pulled his crony to his seat.

"This meeting will be conducted in a gentlemanly manner, or not at all," went on the professor quietly; but the boys knew what he meant. "We are here to discuss the baseball situation, and try to decide on some plan for bettering the team. I will hear suggestions."

"I just want to say one thing," began Hiram. "I have managed this team for three seasons, and—"

"Mis-managed it," murmured someone.

"Why didn't we get the Blue Banner?" asked another voice.

"Young gentlemen, you will have to keep from making side remarks, and interrupting the speakers," said Dr. Rudden. "Go on. Shell."

"I never had any kicking on my management before," continued Hiram, glaring at those around him. "I can manage it all right now, and it's only some soreheads—"

"Rather unparliamentary language," the chairman warned him.

"If we had a few good players we could win every game," went on the bully. "But the season is young yet, and—"

"I don't think that is a valid excuse," said the professor. "You had your choice of the whole school in picking the nine, so it is the fault of yourself and the captain if you haven't a good team. As for the earliness of the season, the boys have had plenty of practice and they ought to have struck their gait before this. I'm afraid something else is to blame."

"We need better pitchers for one thing!" called someone.

"That's right!" yelled a double score of voices, and Dr. Rudden, seeing the sway of sentiment, did not object.

"We've got two good pitchers!" fairly yelled Hiram. "I know what this all means—that Joe Matson and his crowd—"

"That will do," the chairman warned him.

"It's true!" exclaimed Frank Brown, jumping to his feet. "I'm not a good pitcher, and I don't mind admitting it. I can't hold the other fellows down enough. If I could, we would have won these last two games, for our boys can bat when they haven't the heart taken out of them."

"That's the way to talk!" cried Tom Davis.

"Nothing like being honest about it," commented Dr. Rudden. "That statement does you credit, Brown. How many of you think the same—that a different pitcher would strengthen the team?"

"I! I! I!" yelled scores.

"It's not so! Our pitchers are good enough!" These cries came from Luke, Hiram and a few of their cronies.

"There seems to be a division of opinion," began the chairman. "I think we had better vote on it."

"There are a lot of fellows here who have no right to vote!" cried Hiram.

"That won't do, Shell," said Dr. Rudden sternly. "This is a matter that concerns the entire school—to have a winning nine. Every student is entitled to vote."

"Hurrah!" yelled Tom. "This is a victory all right. The end of Hiram, Luke and Company has come."

"You'll pitch on the school team, Joe!" called Peaches in our hero's ear.

"I'd like to," Joe answered back, "but I'm afraid—"

"All in favor of having a change in pitchers, since Frank Brown has been good enough, and manly enough, to say that he knows his own weakness—all in favor of a change vote 'aye'," directed the chairman.

"Aye!" came in a thunderous chorus.

"Contrary minded—"

"No!" snapped Hiram. Luke and Jake Weston followed with feeble negatives. They, too, were beginning to see which way the wind blew.

"Whom will you have for pitcher?" asked the Professor. "Can you decide now, or will you wait and—"

"Decide now!" was yelled. "Joe Matson for pitcher! Baseball Joe. Joe Matson!" was cried in different parts of the room.

"Very well," assented the chairman. "This may be a wise move. All in favor of Joe Matson as pitcher, since Frank Brown, the regular boxman, has practically resigned—all say 'aye'."

Again came the hearty assent, and again the feeble objection of Hiram.

"Joe Matson is now the regular pitcher for the school nine," said Dr. Rudden.

"And I want to say that I'm glad of the change," put in Larry Akers.

"Hurray! Hurray!" yelled the now excited and enthusiastic students. Things seemed to be coming out right after all.

"I want to say," exclaimed Joe, "that while I appreciate the honor done me, we may need substitute pitchers. In fact, I'm sure we will, and I wish Frank and Larry would remain to help me. I'll coach them all I can, and I know they both have pitching stuff in them. I've made quite a study of pitching as an amateur. Some day I hope to be a professional, and I'm willing to tell Frank and Larry all I know."

"Good!" exclaimed the chairman. "I think they'll take your offer. Well, we have now made one change. Are there any more that you think necessary?"

It was rather a delicate question, for everyone knew what was meant. But the lads were saved from doing what most of them knew ought to be done."

"Do I understand that Joe Matson is the regular pitcher on the school team? " asked the manager, sourly.

"That seems to be the sentiment of the students, Shell," answered Dr. Rudden.

"And without me, or the captain, having anything to say about it?"

"You were out-voted, Shell."

"Well, then all I've got to say is that I don't manage this nine any more!" fairly yelled Hiram. "There's my resignation, and it takes effect at once!" and, walking down the aisle he threw a folded paper on the table at which the professor sat.

"Shall this resignation be accepted?" asked the chairman, amid a rather tense silence.

"Yes!" came so quickly and with such volume that there was no doubt about the sentiment of the crowd. Perhaps Hiram had hoped that he would be asked to reconsider it, but if so he was disappointed. He walked back to where Luke sat. He leaned over the captain and said something in a whisper.

"I'm not going to," replied Luke, loudly enough for all in the room to hear.

"Go on!" ordered the bully. "If you don't, I'll—" and then his voice sank to a whisper again.

"All right," assented Luke, and walking forward as his crony had done, he, too, tossed a paper on the table. "There's my resignation as captain and a member of the Excelsior baseball nine!" he exclaimed.

There was a gasp of surprise from the crowd. Hiram and Luke both out! It was rather unexpected, but Tom and his friends felt elated. Now they would have a chance to play. It looked like the dawn of a brighter day for Excelsior Hall.