Word had been brought to the anxious Hugh that Alan Tyree would be utterly unable to be on the field that day, not to speak of pitching. An unlucky accident after lunch had injured his left leg, and the doctor absolutely forbade his getting into uniform, or even leaving the house, under severe penalty for disobedience.
It was in the nature of a dreadful calamity, after the way Frazer had been actually knocked out of the box by those crude players from Mechanicsburg. Still the game must be played, or forfeited to Allandale; and Scranton fellows are not in the habit of giving anything up without the hardest kind of a struggle. So with a sigh, and trying to appear calm, Hugh turned to his second-string pitcher.
HUGH TRIES HIS “FADE-AWAY” BALL
“Are you game, Frazer, for a desperate fight?” asked Hugh, smiling in a way he hoped would inspire the other with confidence.
Frazer was a bit white, but he had his jaws set, and there was a promising flash in his eyes that Hugh liked to see. His Scotch blood was aroused, and he would do his level best to hold the Allandale last-year champions down to few hits. That humiliation which Frazer had suffered in asking to be taken out of the box on the preceding Saturday had burned in his soul ever since; and he was in a fit frame of mind to “pitch his head off” in order to redeem himself.
Hugh talked with him a short time. He told him all he knew about the various players on the opposing team, and in this way Frazer might be able to deceive some of the heavy batters when they came up. Unfortunately Frazer could not vary his speed and drops and curves with an occasional deceptive Matthewson “balloon ball,” so called because it seems to look as large as a toy hot-air balloon to the batter, but is advanced so slowly that he strikes before it gets within reach.
Hugh on his part had always practiced that sort of a ball, and indeed he had nothing else beside fair speed and this “floater.” But in practice, when Hugh went into the box, he had been able to fool many of his mates, and have them almost breaking their backs trying to hit a ball that was still coming. As a last resort Hugh meant to relieve Frazer, but only after the game was irrevocably lost; for he wanted to give the other every chance possible to redeem his former “fluke.”
There was not any great amount of genuine enthusiasm shown by the crowd of local rooters when Frazer walked out to take his place, though many did give him a cheer, hoping to thus hearten the poor fellow, and put some confidence in his soul.
If he had not been able to hold those boys from Mechanicsburg, who were reckoned only “half-baked” players, as some of the Scranton fans called it, what sort of a chance would Frazer have against the Champs, who had toyed with Belleville just a week back, and looked tremendously dangerous as they practiced now upon the local field, so as to become a little accustomed to its peculiarities?