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GRANT STEELE, baseball coach of Blue River College, scowled and shook his head in disgust as he watched the red-haired recruit drop a pop-fly in center-field. The youth, who was garbed in a baggy white uniform with red stripes, had made a good run for the ball, but had been unable to hold it when it fell into his hands. “That 's what wearies me,” said Grant, “that fellow Anthony Brooks. See him muff that? Well, he does it more than half the time. And you ought to see him bat! If he barely fouls the ball, it's as unusual as a home run for the ordinary man—he 's that bad.” “Why bother about him, then?” inquired Don Haskell, student-manager of the team, yawning under the spell of spring. “Tell him he is n’t needed.” The coach laughed dryly. “I 've done it several times already, but it 's no use. You think it 's difficult to get the fellows out for practice, but making
“You 'll never make the team—not in ten thousand years.” A rueful smile appeared on the other's good-natured, homely, freckled countenance. He presented a grotesque figure in the oversized striped uniform, making Grant think of a huge stick of peppermint candy shrunken by the heat. “Oh, well, I might as well try it awhile longer,” said Anthony. “I need the exercise, you know.” But he was more disappointed than he made manifest. From the village of Cooper Center, he had come to prepare for a college course in civil engineering and to help Blue River accumulate athletic honors. He was fast on his feet and a good high-jumper; so his ambition had a substantial foundation. But Blue River dispensed with a track team, and as nothing but baseball was available, Anthony sent home for the uniform worn by his fat brother Sam when the latter was catcher for the Cooper Center Invincibles. Anthony was one of those rare specimens that never had played the national game, but he bought a guide, studied the rules, and reported for practice. He was disappointed over his wretched showing, but persistence was one of his prominent characteristics. Blue River played its first game, however, without Anthony's assistance, except as an enthusiastic spectator. He did his bk by leading the cheering, and Wilbur Academy was beaten 11 to 2. Ralph Conlin, in the pitcher's box, and Garvin Newcomb, on first base, were easily the stars for Blue River. Five more teams did Blue River defeat without a set-back, and then came the final struggle of the year, and the most formidable. For Gibson Academy had conquered the same teams as Blue River, and with heavier margins, and was boasting that it would retain the central state championship honors which it had captured for the last three years. So that neither team might have an unfair advantage, it was agreed to play on neutral ground at Wilbur Academy, situated on the shore of Silver Lake. Blue River enthusiasts had a different opinion about the outcome of the approaching struggle, but their confidence received a staggering jolt on the day before the game when it became known that three of the
“THE CATCHER LUNGED FOR THE WIDE BALL. . . . ANTHONY PUT ALL HIS ENERGY INTO A SPRING FOR FIRST BASE"
regular players had failed in their monthly standings and thus, because of interscholastic rules, were barred from taking part. The day of the conflict began with a drizzle from a gloomy sky, and this did not tend to raise the spirits of the team or its adherents. Consequently, it was only a handful of loyal backers that accompanied the crippled team aboard the gasolene launch Mayflower. As the boat proceeded downstream, the drizzle subsided, but the sun persisted in hiding behind dark clouds, and a brisk wind did not augur for a smooth voyage. Sure enough, a choppy sea had been churned up, and when the party reached Wilbur Academy, Joe Webb was put to bed in the dormitory, suffering from acute seasickness. This caused a vacancy in centerfield, and the only extra player that had been brought along was sent in to stop the gap. As the opposing teams gathered for practice the sun broke from the confines of a cloudy prison back of Purple Peak, a miniature mountain that loomed out of the woods
across the lake, and bathed the field in a warm glare that quickly dried the wet spots. It was noticeable that Anthony Brooks's voice was not among those that acclaimed the sun. Shortly before the game commenced, the missing one sauntered on the field, garbed in his peppermint baseball suit, and it set the spectators to laughing. “Here, what 's the idea?” called Captain Leverick. “You ’re no good on the field; we need your voice in the audience.” Something like a tear took shape in a corner of Anthony’s pale-blue left eye. “Look here, captain,” he pleaded, “I 've sat on the bleachers and yelled myself hoarse at every game this season; and I 'd like to feel, just once, that I was a member of the team. Now, why can’t I act as a substitute to-day? I can coach on the base-lines.” The captain conferred with Coach Steele. “I give it up,” said the latter. “The boy's persistence deserves a reward, I guess. But we 'll hope with all our might that he won’t be needed in the game.” The toss of a coin gave Gibson first bat. Conlin was in good form and his curves dazed the first three batters to oppose him. “Here we go! Let's win the championship right now!” chirped the cheerful Anthony, near the first base-line. But Blue River failed to score, although Garvin Newcomb sent a Texas Leaguer to center-field for a single. In the second inning, Winfield, the left-fielder, got to third base after two men were out, and Hollock, the catcher, who was next at bat, lined the ball along the third base-line. The Gibson third baseman juggled the ball, then hurled it home. “Slide!” shrieked Anthony Brooks, and Winfield slid, while Hollock stood grinning on first. Winfield had scored, but in sliding he sustained an injury that forced him out of the game. The side was retired when Hollock was caught stealing. “The score looks good, but Winfield's
accident means that clown Brooks will have to play,” Coach Steele growled. As most of the Gibson batters were right
“Third BASEMAN JACOBs LEAPED HIGH, BUT THE BOUNDER BARELY GRAZED HIS GLOVE"
handed, right-field was deemed the safest place for the youth in the peppermint uniform, and Henry, who usually played that position, was transferred to left. No further runs were made until the fourth inning, when Gibson staged a batting rally and brought two men across the plate, giving them a lead of one. Newcomb was first to bat for Blue River, and he got a handsome two-bagger, advancing to third on Henry's sacrifice. Then Anthony Brooks walked to the plate with a heavy club. Determined to “play the game,” Anthony stood with bat poised and had the satisfaction of hearing two balls called. The next two deceived him, however, and he swung too late, while on the third strike he slashed far above the sphere. With a spurt, he headed for first base, heedless of jeering laughter. The Gibson catcher had clung to the ball, so Anthony's effort was useless, and Blue River's chances in the fourth ended when the next batter lifted a fly to left-field. In the sixth, Anthony repeated the performance, running on the third strike, but again the back-stop caught the ball. Out in the field, the red-haired substitute was anxious for an opportunity, while at the same time apprehensive of the result; and in the seventh it came. With two men out, a Gibson batter hit to short right. Anthony fairly flew over the ground, and, bending over as he ran, got his hands on the ball— only to let it drop, and it rolled stupidly away, while the Gibson man reached first. Fortunately, the batter who followed was thrown out on a weak grounder.
In the ninth, Gibson had another rally and filled the bases, due to the fact that Conlin’s arm suddenly had gone lame, depriving him of his customary speed. But the Blue River pitcher remained cool, and, while every throw made him wince, served the balls red-hot, causing three men to fan. “I 'm just about all in,” Conlin confessed to Steele. “Every ball seems to tear my arm out of the socket. We 'll have to win right now, because I could n’t last through an extra inning if we should tie the score.” Newcomb started the last half of the ninth with an electrifying three-bagger that gave the Blue River crowd new courage. When Henry singled and Newcomb raced across the plate with the tying run, the roar from those few loyal backers frightened the chirping birds from the near-by trees, and even a brindle cow, grazing and dozing in a meadow, cocked her ears forward and took an interest in life. It seemed that the shouting of Newcomb's name never would cease, and the enthusiasm did not subside in the least when Henry was caught trying to steal second. The impossible Anthony fairly quaked as he stood up to the plate. His legs were shaking, but the baggy trousers effectively concealed this manifestation of panic. The Gibson spectators hooted and laughed, while the Blue Riverites, though somewhat tamed when they recognized the batter, did their best to lend encouragement. Coach Steele and Captain Leverick consoled each other over their inability to use a
"OVER SECOND HE RUSHED, WITH NO LET-UP in his GAit”
pinch hitter, there being no substitute to serve in that capacity. At the first ball, Anthony swung and missed by more than a foot. Then he obtained a grip on himself and waited while two balls and a strike were called. He would have given a year of life to crack the sphere far beyond the reach of any Gibson fielder, not for the glory it would bring, but because he wanted his team to triumph. Grinning confidently, disdainfully, Smoot, the Gibson pitcher, tied himself in a knot, drew back his arm and brought it forward. The ball must have slipped as he let it loose, for it was wide of the plate by twelve inches. Hesitating only an instant, Anthony reached out with his stick, flourished it wildly, dropped it, and put all his energy into a spring for first base. The Gibson catcher had felt certain Anthony would run on the third strike, and the knowledge made him nervous. He lunged for the wide ball, but it rolled behind him after striking the end of his mitt. ately he wheeled about and pawed for the sphere, while his other hand jerked the mask from his face. He located the ball, seized it, dropped it, picked it up again, and hurled it toward first. But Anthony Brooks, swift on his feet, already was there. Moreover, the throw to first was too wide for the baseman to reach, although he made a heroic effort. Anthony saw what had happened, and he did not pause. With
shrieked at him, but he had no idea what they said, nor did he care. The youth from Cooper Center was a wild man on a rampage, and there was no stopping him. At the edge of right-field two players were groping madly in tall grass, and finally the first baseman uncovered the ball. He shot it toward third, but the distance was too great for his arm, trained for short throws, and the sphere bounded just beyond reach of the short-stop. Third baseman Jacobs leaped high, but the bounder barely grazed his glove. The left-fielder was after it, and presently placed his hand on it. He made an accurate throw for the plate, but Anthony Brooks, runner extraordinary, had crossed it just one second before. The crowd was hushed, astounded, paralyzed; but the silence was shattered by a warwhoop from Coach Steele, who leaped two feet into the air and roared: “What 's the matter with Brooks?” The answer came in a swelling boom that
" 'I MIGHT As WELL TRY IT Awhile LONGER, SAID ANTHONY. "I NEED THE EXERCISE, You KNow" " (PAGE 563)
amazing speed, he ate the distance between first and second, and over the latter bag he rushed, with no let-up in his gait. By this time he had lost track of the ball. Coaches
went reverberating out across Silver Lake
and was flung back by Purple Peak. The coach looked for Anthony and spied
the peppermint suit going through the gate.
“THERE must be some other way!” Margaret Arnot's voice was quiet, but determined. “There must be some other way!” She hesitated a moment as she saw the perplexed look on her father's face, but went on bravely. “I can’t go back to the “U” next semester, even if my life depends upon it. There must be something I can do besides waiting on the table. It is a hopeless task. They could n’t make a waitress out of me no matter how hard they tried.” “It is more difficult for you than I had thought,” admitted Dr. Arnot, as he looked into the dark, appealing eyes of his pretty daughter. “The very sight of the dining-room makes me tremble. When I close my eyes at night I see all those grinning faces staring at me,
just as they did when I tipped the tomato soup into Sally Brooke's lap.” Dr. Arnot smiled. “It may seem funny now, but the agony I've suffered won't pay for my education.” Margaret drew her cushion nearer her father as they sat in their favorite places before the fireplace. “Please let me stay home with you, Daddy.” “You 're not a quitter, little daughter. You would n’t give up your work now, even if you could.” “I’d do anything to get away from that grinning mob; but even you don't want “Butter-fingers' around. Yes, that is what they call me. Don't look so astonished. I guess I’ve earned the title. The minute I take up a plate, my hands begin to shake. If it happens to have peas or boiled potatoes