The Triple Play by Ralph Henry Barbour
"If they hadn't gone and made Don captain last year," said Satterlee, 2d, plaintively. "That's where the trouble is."
"How do you mean?" asked Tom Pierson, looking up in a puzzled way from the hole he was digging in the turf in front of the school hall.
"Why," answered Satterlee, 2d, with a fine air of wisdom, "I mean that it doesn't do for a fellow to have his brother captain. Don's been so afraid of showing me favoritism all spring that he hasn't given me even a fair chance. When I came out for the nine in March and tried for second he was worried to death. "Look here, Kid," he said, "there's no use your wanting to play on second because there's Henen and Talbot after it." "Well, how do you know I can't play second as well as they?" says I. He was--was horrified. That's it; a fellow can't understand how a member of his own family can do anything as well as some one else. See what I mean?"
Tom Pierson nodded doubtfully.
"'You try for a place in the outfield,' said Don. 'But I don't want to play in the outfield.' I told him. But it didn't make any difference. 'There's three fellows for every infield position.' said Don, 'and I'm not going to have the fellows accuse me of boosting my kid brother over their heads.' Well, so I did as he said. Of course I didn't have any show. There was Williams and Beeton and 'Chick' Meyer who could do a heap better than I could. They'd played in the outfield ail their lives and I'd always been at second--except one year that I caught when I was a kid. Well, maybe next year I'll have a better show, for a whole lot of this year's team graduate to-morrow. Wish I did."
"I don't," said Tom. "I like it here. I think Willard's the best school in the country."
"So do I, of course," answered Satterlee, 2d. "But don't you want to get up to college?"
"I'm in no hurry; you see, there's math; I'm not doing so badly at it now since Bailey has been helping me, but I don't believe I could pass the college exam in it."
"You and 'Old Crusty' seem awfully thick these days," mused the other. "Wish he'd be as easy on me as he is on you. You were fishing together yesterday, weren't you?"
Tom nodded. "Sixteen trout," he said promptly.
"Wish I'd been along," sighed Satterlee, 2d. "All I caught was flies during practice. Then when they played the second I sat on the bench as usual and looked on."
"But Don will put you in this afternoon, won't he?"
"I dare say he will; for the last inning maybe. What good's that? Nothing ever happens to a chap in center field. And when a fellow's folks come to visit him he naturally wants to--to show off a bit."
Tom nodded sympathetically.
"Hard lines," he said. "But why don't you ask your brother to give you a fair show; put you in the sixth or something like that?"
"Because I won't. He doesn't think I can play baseball. I don't care. Only I hope--I hope we get beaten!"
"No, you don't."
"How do you know?" asked the other morosely.
"Because you couldn't," Tom replied. "Is 'Curly' going to pitch?"
"No, Durham's agreed not to play any of her faculty. Willings is going to pitch. I'll bet"--his face lost some of its gloom--"I'll bet it will be a dandy game!"
"Who's going to win?" asked Tom anxiously.
"You can search me!" answered Satterlee, 2d, cheerfully. "Durham's lost only two games this season, one to St. Eustace and one to us. And we've lost only the first game with Durham. There you are, Tommy; you can figure it out for yourself. But we won last year and it's safe to say Durham's going to work like thunder to win this. What time is it?"
"Twenty minutes to twelve," answered Tom.
"Gee! I've got to find Don and go over to the station to meet the folks. Want to come along? Dad and the mater would like to meet you; you see I've said a good deal about you in my letters."
"Won't I be in the way?"
"Not a bit. In fact--" Satterlee, 2d, hesitated and grinned--"in fact, it would make it more comfortable if you would come along. You see, Tom, Don and I aren't very chummy just now; I--I gave him a piece of my mind last night; and he threw the hairbrush at me." He rubbed the side of his head reflectively. Tom laughed and sprang to his feet.
"All right," he said. "I'll go, if just to keep you two from fighting. We'll have to hurry, though; you don't want to forget that dinner's half an hour earlier to-day."
"Guess you never knew me to forget dinner time, did you?" asked Satterlee, 2d, with a laugh.
Three hours later the two boys sat nursing their knees on the terrace above the playground. Behind them in camp chairs sat Mr. and Mrs. Satterlee. To right and left stretched a line of spectators, the boys of Willard's and of Durham surrounded by their friends and relatives. Tomorrow was graduation day at the school and mothers and fathers and sisters and elder brothers--many of the latter "old boys"--were present in numbers. At the foot of the terrace, near first base, a red and white striped awning had been erected and from beneath its shade the principal, Doctor Willard, together with the members of the faculty and their guests, sat and watched the deciding game of the series. The red of Willard's was predominant, but here and there a dash of blue, the color of the rival academy, was to be seen. On a bench over near third base a line of blue-stockinged players awaited their turns at bat, for it was the last half of the third inning and Willard's was in the field. Behind the spectators arose the ivy-draped front of the school hall and above them a row of elms cast grateful shade. Before them, a quarter of a mile distant, the broad bosom of the river flashed and sparkled in the afternoon sunlight. But few had eyes for that, for Durham had two men on bases with two out and one of her heavy hitters was at bat. Thus far there had been no scoring and now there was a breathless silence as Willings put the first ball over the plate.
"Strike!" droned the umpire, and a little knot of boys on the bank waved red banners and cheered delightedly. Then ball and bat came together and the runner was speeding toward first. But the hit had been weak and long before he reached the bag the ball was snuggling in Donald Satterlee's mitten, and up on the terrace the Willardians breathed their relief. The nines changed sides.
"That's Fearing, our catcher, going to bat, sir," said Satterlee, 2d, looking around at his father. Mr. Satterlee nodded and transferred his wandering attention to the youth in question. Mr. Satterlee knew very little about the game and was finding it difficult to display the proper amount of interest. Mrs. Satterlee, however, smiled enthusiastically at everything and everybody and succeeded in conveying the impression that she was breathlessly interested in events.
"Er--is he going to hit the ball?" asked Mr. Satterlee in a heroic endeavor to rise to the requirements of the occasion.
"He's going to try," answered his youngest son with a smile. "But he isn't going to succeed, I guess," he muttered a minute later. For the catcher had two strikes called on him and was still at the plate. Then all doubt was removed. He tossed aside his bat and turned back to the bench.
"And who is that boy?" asked Mrs. Satterlee.
"That's Cook," answered Tom. "He plays over there, you know; he's shortstop."
"Of course," murmured the lady. "I knew I had seen him."
Cook reached first, more by good luck than good playing, and the Willard supporters found their voices again. Then came Brown, third base-man, and was thrown out at first after having advanced Cook to second.
"Here comes Don," announced his younger brother with a trace of envy in his tones.
"I do hope he'll hit the ball!" cried his mother.
"Oh, he'll hit it all right," answered Satterlee, 2d, "only maybe he won't hit it hard enough."
Nor did he. Durham's third baseman gathered in the short fly that the batsman sent up and so ended the inning.
"Something's going to happen now, I'll bet," said Tom. "Carpenter's up."
"He didn't do much last time," objected Satterlee, 2d, "even if he is such a wonder. Willings struck him out dead easy."
Carpenter, who played third base for the visitors, was a tall, light-haired youth with a reputation for batting prowess. In the first game of the series between the two schools Carpenter's hitting had been the deciding feature. Three one-baggers, a two-bagger, and a home-run had been credited to him when the game was over, and it was the home-run, smashed out with a man on third in the eighth inning, which had defeated Willard's. In the second game, played a fortnight ago, Carpenter had been noticeably out of form, which fact had not a little to do with Willard's victory. To-day the long-limbed gentleman, despite his retirement on the occasion of his first meeting with Willings, was in fine fettle, and scarcely had Satterlee, 2d, concluded his remark when there was a sharp crack and the white sphere was skimming second baseman's head. It was a clean, well-placed hit, and even the wearers of the blue had to applaud a little. Carpenter's long legs twinkled around the bases and he was safe at third before the ball had returned to the infield. Then things began to happen. As though the spell had been broken by the third baseman's three-bagger, the following Durhamites found the ball, man after man, and ere the inning was at an end, the score book told a different tale. On Durham's page stood four tallies; Willard's was still empty. And Willard's supporters began to look uneasy. Then there was no more scoring until the sixth inning, when a single by Donald Satterlee brought in Cook who had been taking big risks on second and who reached the plate a fraction of a second ahead of the ball. Willard's got the bases full that inning and for a time it seemed that they would tie the score, but Beeton popped a fly into shortstop's hands and their hopes were dashed.
Durham started their half of the sixth with Carpenter up and that dependable youth slammed out a two-base hit at once. The flaunters of the red groaned dismally. Then the Durham pitcher fouled out and the next man advanced Carpenter but was put out at first. Willard's breathed easier and took hope. Over on third base Carpenter was poised, ready to speed home as fast as his long legs would carry him. Willings, who had so far pitched a remarkable game, suddenly went "into the air." Perhaps it was the coaching back of third, perhaps it was Carpenter's disconcerting rushes and hand-clapping. At all events, the Durham first baseman, who was a cool-headed youth, waited politely and patiently and so won the privilege of trotting to first on four balls. Fearing, Willard's catcher, walked down to Willings, and the two held a whispered conversation. They didn't lay any plots, for all Fearing wanted to do was to steady the pitcher.
Then came a strike on the next batsman, and the Willardians cheered hopefully. Two balls followed, and Carpenter danced about delightedly at third and the two coaches hurled taunting words at the pitcher. The man on first was taking a long lead, pretty certain that Willings would not dare to throw lest Carpenter score. But Willings believed in doing the unexpected. Unfortunately, although he turned like a flash and shot the ball to Satterlee, the throw was wide. The captain touched it with his outstretched fingers but it went by. The runner sped toward second and Carpenter raced home. But Beeton, right-fielder, had been wide-awake. As Willings turned he ran in to back up Satterlee, found the ball on a low bounce and, on the run, sent it to the plate so swiftly that Fearing was able to catch Carpenter a yard away from it. The Durham third baseman picked himself up, muttering his opinion of the proceedings and looking very cross. But what he said wasn't distinguishable, for up on the terrace the red flags were waving wildly and the boys of Willard's were shouting themselves hoarse.
When, in the beginning of the seventh inning, Durham took the field and Willings went to bat, Captain Don Satterlee came up the bank and threw himself on the grass by his father's side. He looked rather worried and very warm.
"Well, my boy," said Mr. Satterlee, "I guess you're in for a licking this time, eh?"
"I'm afraid so," was the morose reply. "We can't seem to find their pitcher for a cent." He turned to his brother. "I'll put you in for the ninth, if you like," he said.
"Oh, don't trouble yourself," answered the other. "You've got along without me so far and I guess you can finish."
"Well, you needn't be so huffy," answered the elder. "You can play or not, just as you like. But you don't have to be ugly about it."
"I'm not," muttered Satterlee, 2d.
"Sounds mighty like it. Want to play?"
The other hesitated, swallowed once or twice and kicked the turf with his heel.
"Of course he wants to play, Don," said Tom Pierson. "Give him a chance, like a good chap."
"Well, I've offered him a chance, haven't I?" asked Don ungraciously. "I guess it doesn't make much difference who plays this game." He scowled at Willings who had been thrown out easily at first and was now discouragedly walking back to the bench. "You can take Williams's place when the ninth begins," he added, turning to his brother. The latter nodded silently. A slightly built, sandy-haired man, with bright blue eyes and a look of authority, approached the group and Don, with a muttered apology, joined him.
"That's our coach," explained Tom to Mrs. Satterlee. "He's instructor in Greek and German, and he's a peach! The fellows call him 'Curly' on account of his hair. He pitched for us last year and he won the game, too! I guess he and Don are trying to find some way out of the hole they're in. If anyone can do it he can, can't he?"
Thus appealed to, Satterlee, 2d, came out of his reverie.
"Yes, I guess so. I wish he was pitching, that's all I wish! I'll bet Carpenter wouldn't make any more of those hits of his!"
Willard's third out came and once more the teams changed places. The sun was getting low and the shadows on the terrace were lengthening. Durham started out with a batting streak and almost before anyone knew it the bases were full with but one out. Then, just when things were at their gloomiest, a short hit to second baseman resulted in a double play, and once more Willard's found cause for delight and acclaim.
The eighth inning opened with Don Satterlee at bat. Luck seemed for a moment to have made up its mind to favor the home team. An in-shoot caught the batsman on the thigh and he limped to first. Meyer--"Chick" Meyer, as Tom triumphantly explained--sent him to second and gained first for himself, owing to an error. Then came an out. Beeton followed with a scratch hit just back of shortstop and the bases were full. Up on the terrace the cheering was continuous. Williams was struck out. Then came Willings with a short hit past third and Don scored. And the bases were still full. But the next man flied out to left fielder and the cheering died away. But 2 to 4 was better than 1 to 4, and the supporters of the home team derived what comfort they could from the fact.
In the last of the eighth, the doughty Carpenter started things going by taking first on balls. It was apparent that "Willings had given it to him" rather than risk a long hit. The next man was less fortunate and was thrown out after a neat sacrifice which put Carpenter on second. Then a pop-fly was muffed by Willings and there were men on first and second. But after that Willings, as though to atone for an inexcusable error, settled down to work and struck out the next two Durhamites, and the red flags were suddenly crazy.
Satterlee, 2d, peeled off his sweater and trotted down to the bench. The ninth inning opened inauspiciously for the home nine. Willard's shortstop fell victim to the rival pitcher's curves and third baseman took his place. With two strikes called on him he found something he liked and let go at it. When the tumult was over he was sitting on second base. Don Satterlee stepped up to the plate and the cheerers demanded a home-run. But the best the red's captain could do was a clean drive into right field that was good for one base for himself and a tally for the man on second. That made the score 3 to 4. It seemed that at last fortune was to favor the red. The cheering went on and on. Meyer sent the captain to second but was thrown out at first. Another tally would tie the score, but the players who were coming to bat were the weakest hitters, and Willard's hopes began to dwindle. But one can never tell what will happen in baseball, and when Fearing lined out a swift ball over second baseman's head and Don Satterlee romped home, the wearers of the red shrieked in mingled delight and surprise. The score was tied. But there was more to come. Beeton waited, refusing all sorts of tempting bait, and during that waiting Fearing stole second. With three balls and two strikes called on him, Beeton let the next one go by, and----
"Four balls!" decided the umpire.
Satterlee, 2d, felt rather limp when he faced the pitcher. His heart was pounding somewhere up near his mouth and it made him feel uncomfortable. Down on second Fearing was watching him anxiously. On first Beeton was dancing back and forth, while behind him Brother Don coaching hoarsely and throwing doubtful glances in the direction of the plate.
"He thinks I can't hit," thought Satterlee, 2d, bitterly. "He's telling himself that if he'd left Williams in we might have tallied again."
Satterlee, 2d, smarting under his brother's contempt, felt his nerves steady and when the second delivery came he was able to judge it and let it go by. That made a ball and a strike. Then came another ball. They had told him to wait for a good one, and he was going to do it. And presently the good one came. The pitcher had put himself in a hole; there were three balls against him and only one strike. So now he sent a swift straight one for a corner of the plate and Satterlee, 2d, watched it come and then swung to meet it. And in another moment he was streaking for his base, while out back of shortstop the left fielder was running in as fast as he might. And while he ran Fearing and Beeton were flying around the bases. The ball came to earth, was gathered up on its first bound and sped toward the plate. But it reached the catcher too late, for Fearing and Beeton had tallied. And down at second a small youth was picking himself out of the dust. But Satterlee never got any farther, for the next man struck out. No one seemed to care, however, except Satterlee, for the score had changed to 6-4, and the 6 was Willard's!
But there was still a half inning to play and Durham had not lost hope. Her center fielder opened up with a hit and a moment later stole second. Then came a mishap. Willings struck the batsman and, although Fearing claimed that the batsman had not tried to avoid the ball, he was given his base.
Things looked bad. There on second and first were Durham runners and here, stepping up to the plate with his bat grasped firmly in his hands, was Carpenter, and there was none out. A two-base hit would surely tie the score, while one of the home-runs of which Carpenter was believed to be capable--such a one as he made in the first game of the series--would send Willard's into mourning.
The terrace was almost deserted, for the spectators were lined along the path to first base and beyond. Don was crying encouragement to his players, but from the way in which he moved restively about it could be seen that he was far from easy in his mind. As for Satterlee, 2d--well, he was out in center field, hoping for a chance to aid in warding off the defeat that seemed inevitable, but fearing that his usefulness was over. Willings turned and motioned the fielders back, and in obedience Satterlee, 2d, crept farther out toward the edge of the field. But presently, when a ball had been delivered to the batsman, Satterlee, 2d, quite unconsciously, moved eagerly, anxiously in again, step by step. Then came a strike and Carpenter tapped the plate with the end of his bat and waited calmly. Another ball. Then a second strike. And for a brief moment Willard's shouted hoarsely. And then----
Then there was a sharp sound of bat meeting ball and Carpenter was on his way to first. The ball was a low fly to short center field and it was evident that it would land just a little way back of second base. Neither Carpenter nor the runners on first and second dreamed for a moment that it could be caught. The latter players raced for home as fast as their legs would take them.
Meanwhile in from center sped Satterlee, 2d. He could run hard when he tried and that's what he did now. He was almost too late--but not quite. His hands found the ball a bare six inches above the turf. Coming fast as he was he had crossed second base before he could pull himself up.
From all sides came wild shouts, instructions, commands, entreaties, a confused medley of sounds. But Satterlee, 2d, needed no coaching. The runner from second had crossed the plate and the one from first was rounding third at a desperate pace, head down and arms and legs twinkling through the dust of his flight. Now each turned and raced frantically back, dismay written on their perspiring faces. But Satterlee, 2d, like an immovable Fate, stood in the path. The runner from first slowed down indecisively, feinted to the left and tried to slip by on the other side. But the small youth with the ball was ready for him and had tagged him before he had passed. Then Satterlee, 2d, stepped nimbly to second base, tapped it with his foot a moment before the other runner hurled himself upon it, tossed the ball nonchalantly toward the pitcher's box and walked toward the bench. The game was over.
But he never reached the bench that day. On the way around the field he caught once a fleeting vision of Brother Don's red, grinning countenance beaming commendation, and once a glimpse of the smiling faces of his father and mother. He strove to wave a hand toward the latter, but as it almost cost him his position on the shoulders of the shrieking fellows beneath, he gave it up. Social amenities might wait; at present he was tasting the joys of a victorious Caesar.