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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFrank Merriwell At Yale - Chapter 15. On The Ball Field
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Frank Merriwell At Yale - Chapter 15. On The Ball Field Post by :afarrell Category :Long Stories Author :Burt L. Standish Date :May 2012 Read :1287

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Frank Merriwell At Yale - Chapter 15. On The Ball Field

CHAPTER XV. ON THE BALL FIELD

The sophomores went in to watch the freshmen practice and incidentally to have sport with them.

Two nines had been selected, one being the regular freshman team and the other picked up to give them practice.

As Merriwell had been given a place on the team as reserve pitcher, his services were not needed at first, and so he went in to twirl for the scrub nine.

Walter Gordon went into the box for the regular team, and he expected to fool the irregulars with ease. He was a well-built lad, with a bang, and it was plain to see at a glance that he was stuck on himself. He had a trick of posing in the box, and he delivered the ball with a flourish.

The scrub team did not have many batters, and so it came about that the first three men up were disposed of in one-two-three order, not one of them making a safe hit or reaching first.

Rattleton had vainly endeavored to get upon the regular team. He had played pretty fast ball on a country nine, but he was somewhat out of practice and he had not made a first-class showing, so he had failed in his ambition.

He went into catch for Merriwell, and they had arranged a code of signals beforehand, so that they were all prepared.

There was no affectation about Frank's delivery, but the first man on the list of the regulars found Merriwell's slow drop was a hard ball to hit. He went after two of them before he saw what he was getting. Then he made up his mind that he would get under the next one and knock the peeling off it.

He got under it all right, for instead of being a drop it was a rise, and the batter struck at least eighteen inches below it.

"Well, say," laughed Gordon, who had been placed second on the list at his own request. "I'll go you something he doesn't work that on me."

He was full of confidence when he walked up to the plate. The watching sophomores were doing their best to rattle Merriwell, and it seemed that he must soon get nervous, even though he did not seem to hear any of the jolly that was being flung at him.

The very first ball seemed to be just where Gordon wanted it, and he swung at it with all his strength. It twisted in toward him and passed within two inches of his fingers.

Gordon looked mildly surprised, but he was still confident that he would be able to hit the next one with ease. He found out his mistake later on when he went after an out drop and failed to come within six inches of it.

Then it was Gordon who grew nervous. He did not fancy the idea of being fanned out by his rival, and he felt that he must make connections with the next one. He resolved to wait for a good one, and Frank fooled him by putting two straight ones right over the center of the plate. Gordon felt sure that both would be curves, and so he offered at neither of them. The umpire, however, who was a particular friend of Gordon, called them both balls. Then Gordon went after the next ball, which was a raise, but found nothing but empty air.

The third man was easy, and he fanned, also, making three in succession.

Parker punched Browning in the ribs.

"Say," he observed, "I'll go you two to one that Merriwell is on the 'Varsity team before the end of next season."

"If he is alive he may be," returned the king, grimly.

Our hero's pitching was a surprise to his friends, for until that day he had not seemed to let himself out. Even then he did not appear to be doing his best work, and one who watched him in a friendly way fancied he might do still better if forced to make the effort.

Walter Gordon was filled with disgust and dismay.

"He's having great luck," muttered Gordon. "Why, I don't see how I missed a ball I struck at. Every one was a dead easy thing, and I should have killed any of them."

He squirmed as he heard Burn Putnam--familiarly called Old Put--the manager of the team, compliment Merriwell on his skillful work.

"I fancy I'll be able to use you more than I thought I should at first, Merriwell," said Putnam. "We can tell more about that in the future."

"I've got to strike that fellow out," thought Gordon as he went into the box.

But he did not. Merriwell came first to bat in the second inning, and he sent a safe single into right field, deliberately placing it, as was evident to every ball player present.

Gordon turned green with anger, and then he became nervous. To add to his nervousness, Merriwell obtained a lead from first and stole second on his delivery, getting it easily.

But that was not the end of Gordon's woes, for Merriwell seemed in a reckless mood, and he made for third on the next pitch, getting it on a beautiful slide, although the catcher made an attempt to throw him out.

The catcher came down scowling, and Gordon went to meet him, asking as he did so:

"What's the matter with you? You ought to have stopped him at second and held him there."

"I ought to have stopped him!" came derisively from the disgusted backstop. "I came down to ask you if this was the way you were going to pitch in a regular game. Why, that fellow is getting a long start on your delivery, and he does it every time. You've got to stop that kind of business."

For some moments they talked, and then Gordon sulkily walked back to the box. He tried to catch Frank playing off third, but simply wasted time. Then he made a snap delivery and hit the batter, who went down to first.

By this time Gordon was rattled, and he sent the next ball over the heart of the plate. The batter nailed it for two bags, and two men came home.

Gordon walked out of the box and up to the bench where Old Put was sitting.

"I am sick," he declared.

He looked as if he spoke the truth.

"I thought something was the matter with you," said the manager. "You're white as a sheet. It's folly for you to practice while you are in this condition."

Gordon put on his sweater and then drew his coat over that. He wandered off by himself and sat down.

"Hang that fellow Merriwell!" he whispered to himself. "I never thought he would bother me so much. I am beginning to hate him. He is too cool and easy to suit me."

The practice was continued, and Merriwell showed up finely, so that Old Put was pleased.

The sophomores quit trying to have sport with the freshmen, as it happened that two of the professors had wandered into the park and were looking on from a distance.

Browning saw them.

"Why are they out here?" he snapped. "Never knew 'em to come before. I won't even get a chance to talk to Merriwell."

"Better keep away from him this afternoon," cautioned Hartwick. "He can't escape you, and there is plenty of time."

"That's so," agreed Bruce. "But I hate to think how he is crowing to himself over the way the freshies got into the park. I'd like to take the starch out of him at once."

Hartwick induced Browning to leave the park, and the departure of the king caused the sophomores to wander away in small groups.

As a general thing they were discussing Merriwell, his position with the freshmen, and his pitching. Some insisted that he was not a pitcher and would never make one, while others were equally confident that he was bound to become a great twirler some day.

Some of the groups discussed the antagonism between Merriwell and Browning, and all were confident that the king would do the freshman when he got himself into condition. It was not strange that they believed so, for they remembered how Bruce had knocked out Kid Lajoie, who was a professional.

Browning himself proceeded directly to his rooms, where he sat himself down and fell to thinking. Twice had he been up against Merriwell, and he had found out that the leader of the freshmen was no easy thing. In neither struggle had he obtained an advantage through his own unaided efforts, and in this last affair he had felt that he was losing his wind, while Merriwell seemed as fresh as ever till he was thrown by a third party.

"That's where I am not yet his match," Bruce soberly decided. "If I were fortunate enough to land a knockout blow with my left at the outset I'd finish him easily; but if he should play me and keep out of my reach he might get me winded so he could finally get the best of it. I must work off more flesh."

Having arrived at this conclusion, Browning was decidedly glad that his friends had kept him from closing in on Merriwell and forcing a fight on the ball field.

"Another week will do it," Bruce thought. "No matter what is said, I'll not meet that fellow till I am his match--till I am more than his match, for I must do him. If I do not my days as king of the sophs are numbered. I can see now that some of the fellows sympathize secretly with Merriwell, although they do not dare do so openly. It must be stopped. He may be a first-class fellow, but when he treads on my corns I kick."

Hartwick tried to talk to Bruce, but the latter would say very little, and it was not long before he left the room.

Browning stepped out briskly, and a stranger who saw him could not have believed that he had the reputation of being the laziest lad in college.

In one line Bruce was thoroughly aroused, but he was neglecting his studies in a shameful manner, and more than once a warning voice told him that while he was putting himself in condition to dispose of Merriwell he was getting into trouble in another quarter.

He did not heed that warning, however. His one thought was to retain his position as king of the sophomores, and in order to do that he must not let any freshman triumph over him.

In town he went directly to a certain saloon and stopped at the bar, although he did not order a drink.

"Is the professor in?" he asked.

"I think he is," replied the barkeeper.

Then Browning passed through into a back room and climbed some dirty stairs, finally rapping at a door.

"Come in!" called a harsh voice.

Bruce pushed open the door and entered. The room was quite large, but was not very clean. The walls were pasted over with sporting pictures taken from illustrated papers. There was a bed, some old chairs, one of which had a broken back, a center table, a cracked mirror, and two cuspidors. A door opened into another room beyond.

Lounging in a chair, with his feet on the table beside an empty beer bottle and dirty glass, was a ruffianly-looking chap, who had a thick neck that ran straight up with the back of his head. His hair was close cropped and his forehead low. There was a bulldog look about his mouth and jaw, and his forehead was strangely narrow.

The man was smoking a black, foul-smelling pipe, while the hands which held a pink-tinted illustrated paper were enormous, with huge knuckles and joints. His hand when closed looked formidable enough to knock down an ox.

"How do you do, professor?" saluted Bruce.

"Waryer," growled the man, still keeping his feet on the table. "So it's you, is it? Dis ain't your day."

"I know it, but I decided to come around just the same. I am not getting the flesh off as fast as I ought."

"Hey?" roared the man, letting his feet fall with a crash. "Wot's dat? D'yer men ter say I ain't doin' a good job wid yer? Wot der blazes!"

"Oh, you are doing all right, professor, but I find I must be in condition sooner than I thought. My gymnasium exercise doesn't seem to--"

"Dat gymnasium work is no good--see? I knows wot I'm givin' yer, too. I told yer in der first place ter stick ter me, an' I'd put yer in shape. It'll cost more, but--"

"I don't mind that. No matter what it costs, I must be in condition to lick that fellow I was telling you about, and I must be in condition one week from to-day."

"Dat's business. I'll put yer dere. An' yer know wot I told yer--I'll show yer a trick dat'll finish him dead sure ef de mug is gittin' de best of yer. It'll cost yer twenty-five extra ter learn dat trick, but it never fails."

Browning showed sudden interest.

"I had forgotten about that," he said. "What will it do?"

"It'll do der bloke what ye're after, dat's wot."

"Yes, but how--how?"

"T'ink I'm goin' ter give der hull t'ing erway? Well, I should say nit! I tells yer it'll fix him, and it'll fix him so dere won't be no more fight in him. It'll paralyze him der first t'ing, an' he won't be no better dan a stiff."

"How bad will it hurt him?"

The man paused a moment and then added:

"Well, I don't mind sayin' dat it'll break his wrist. Yer can do it de first crack arter I shows yer how, but it'll cost twenty-five plunks ter learn der trick."

After a few moments of hesitation Browning drew forth his pocketbook and counted out twenty-five dollars.

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