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When the last batter had gone down to defeat in the first half of the ninth Joe drew off his glove, and, oblivious to the plaudits of the crowd and his own mates, hurried to the dressing rooms.

"Where are you going?" cried Charlie Hall. "They're howling for you.

They want to see you--hear you talk."

Joe could hear the voices screaming:

"Speech! Speech! Speech, Matson! Baseball Joe!"

"I just can't! I'm all in, Charlie. Tell them," pleaded Joe. "I want to send a telegram home, telling the folks that I'll be with them when dad's operated on. I can't make a speech!"

Charlie told the crowd, and Joe was cheered louder than before.

And so ended the race for the pennant of the Central League, with Pittston the winner.

As Joe walked off the field, on his way to the telegraph office, being cheered again and again, while he made his way through the crowd, a keen-faced man looked critically at him.

"I guess you're going to be mine," he said. "I think we'll have to draft you."

"What's that?" asked Pop Dutton, who recognized the man as a well-known scout, on the lookout for promising players.

"Oh, nothing," answered the keen-faced one, with a laugh. Pop laughed also, but it was a laugh of understanding.

And what it meant--and what the man's remark meant to Joe, may be learned by reading the next volume of this series, to be called: "Baseball Joe in the Big League; Or, a Young Pitcher's Hardest Struggles."

Joe hurried home that night, stopping only to say good-bye to Mabel, and promising to come and see her as soon as he could. The operation on Mr. Matson was highly successful. It cost a large sum, and as his father had no money to pay for it, Joe used much of the extra cash that came to him as his share in the pennant series. Had his team not won he would hardly have had enough.

But there was enough to spare for the simple operation on Pop Dutton's arm.

"Joe, I hate to have you spend your money this way--on me," objected the grizzled veteran of many diamonds. "It doesn't seem right."

"Oh, play ball!" cried Joe, gaily. "You can pay me back, if you want to, you old duffer, when you get into a bigger league than the Central, and are earning a good salary."

"I will!" cried Pop, enthusiastically. "For I know I'm good for some years yet. I have 'come back,' thanks to you, Joe."

They clasped hands silently--the young pitcher at the start of his brilliant career, and the old one, whose day was almost done.

Pop's operation was successful, and he went South for the Winter, there, in company with an old friend, to gradually work up into his old form.

Hogan seemed to have vanished, but Reggie got all the pawned jewelry back. The Pittston players, in common with the others in the league teams, went their several ways to their Winter occupations, there to remain until Spring should again make green the grass of the diamond.

"Oh, Joe!" exclaimed Mrs. Matson, with trembling voice, when it was certain her husband would see again, "how much we owe to you, my son."

"You owe more to baseball," laughed Joe.

Clara came in with a letter.

"This is for you, Joe," she said, adding mischievously:

"It seems to be from a girl, and it's postmarked Goldsboro, North Carolina. Who do you know down there?"

"Give me that letter, Sis!" cried Joe, blushing.

And while he is perusing the missive, the writer of which you can possibly name, we will, for a time, take leave of Baseball Joe.


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