Baseball Joe on the School Nine/Chapter 8
"WHO WILL PITCH?"
For a moment there was silence—a sort of awed silence—and Teeter uttered a faint cheer.
"That's the way to talk!" he exclaimed.
"You're all right!" declared Peaches.
Luke turned and glared at them. Afterward several lads said the bully's toady looked dazed, as if he did not understand what had happened.
"He'll go tell Hiram now, and he'll be laying for you, Joe," was Tom's opinion.
"Let him. I'm ready to meet that bully whenever he is, and I'm not afraid, either."
"That's the way to talk!" exclaimed Teeter admiringly. "If Hiram got one good licking he wouldn't be quite so uppish. But I'm afraid this will put you on the fritz for the nine, Joe."
"I don't care if it does. I'm going to let 'em know what I think."
Yet in the quietness of his room that night Joe rather regretted what he had done. He realized that he might have turned off Luke's insult with a laugh.
"For if I had done so I'd stand a better chance of getting on the nine," mused Joe.
Then a different feeling came to him.
"No, I couldn't do that either," he reflected. "I'm not built that way. I'm not going to lie down and be walked on, nine or no nine, and I'm going to find some way to play ball, at that!"
There was a determined look on Joe's face, and he squared his shoulders in a way that meant business. If Hiram and his crony could have seen our hero then they might not have been so sure of what they would do to him.
"So that's how he acted, eh? " asked the bully, when his crony had reported to him what Joe had said. "Well, he'll get his all right. He'll never play ball here as long as I am manager.
"No, nor while I'm captain," added Luke. "Nor that friend of his either, Tom Davis."
"That's right; we'll make it so hot here for both of 'em that they'll leave at the end of the term," predicted Hiram.
What a pity he did not know that Joe and Tom were not of the "leaving" kind. The hotter it was the better they liked it, for they both came of fighting stock.
But with all his nerve, and not regretting in the least what he had done, Joe was a bit uneasy as the time for the baseball organization meeting drew near. He hoped against hope that somehow he might get on the team, but he did not see how. He talked with other students, and they all told him that Hiram, Luke and their crowd ran things to suit themselves.
"But I've got something up my sleeve," declared Tom. "There may be a surprise at the meeting."
"What are you up to?" asked Joe. "Nothing rash, I hope."
"You wait and see," his chum advised. "I'm not saying anything."
As the days went by, Tom might have been seen talking in confidential whispers to many students. He made lots of new friends, and it was remarked that they were neither of the "sporting set," nor the crowd that trained with Hiram and Luke. To all questions Tom turned a deaf ear, and went on his way serenely.
It was almost a foregone conclusion as to who would constitute the nine, with the exception of the pitchers. As already explained, the students who, as regular and substitute, had filled the box the previous season had left, and it was up to Hiram and Luke to find new pitchers. Hiram did not play on the nine, being content to manage it, but Luke was catcher and some of the friends of Joe and Tom filled regular places.
"How do you dope it out?" asked Tom of Peaches one day, shortly before the organization meeting.
"Well, it'll be about like this," was the reply. "We will all gather in the gymnasium—as many as want to—and Hiram will be in the chair. He'll call the meeting to order and state what we're there for, which everyone knows already, without being told. Then he'll ask for nominations for secretary, and one of his friends will go in. Then he'll spout about what we ought to do to win this season, and how to do it, and say we're sure to be at the head of the league and win the Blue Banner and all like that.
"Then he'll ask for nominations for players and they'll be voted on; we'll have a little chinning about money matters, Hiram may say who the first few games will be with, and it will be all over but the shouting."
"Well, won't lots of fellows have a chance to nominate players, or won't the players themselves ask to be given a chance?"
"Oh, yes, but what's the use? It's all cut and dried."
"Who'll be on the nine?"
"I can pretty near tell you, all but the pitcher. And that will lay between Frank Brown and Larry Akers—both friends of Hiram. Luke will catch—that's a cinch. George Bland will be in centre-field. I may be at first, though I doubt it."
"Oh, because I dared to say Joe was right for answering Luke back that time. I'll probably be sent out in the daisies, but I don't care, for with Luke catching it's no easy matter to hold down the first bag. He throws so rotten high. Then Teeter will be on second. Nat Pierson on third, Harry Lauter in right, Jake Weston at short, and Charlie Borden in left. That's how it will be."
"And no show for Joe?"
"I can't see any, nor for you, either."
"Oh, I don't care about myself, but I'm interested in Joe. I do wish he could pitch."
"I'm afraid he can't," answered Peaches with a sigh. "I'd almost be willing to give my place to him, but I'm not altogether sure that I'll get on the nine, though I'm going to make a big fight for it."
"Oh, Joe wouldn't think of doing anything like that!" objected Tom. "But maybe my plan will work. If It does, Hiram won't have so much to say as he does now."
"I hope to gracious you can work something. It's rotten the way things are now, and it is our own fault, too. But I'm afraid it's too late to change. No, you can figure that the nine is already made up between Hiram and Luke—that is, all but pitcher."
"Then I think Joe has a chance!" exclaimed Tom. "I'm not going to give up until the last minute. I'm working hard for him, but don't say anything to him about it. I want to surprise him."
"I'm afraid It will be a disagreeable surprise," commented Peaches, as he left his friend.
The time for the meeting was at hand and on all sides there seemed to be but one question:
"Who will pitch?"
There were many shakes of heads and much speculation, but Hiram and Luke kept their own counsel.