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The Rube’s Waterloo
by [?]

It was about the sixth inning that I suspected the Rube of weakening. For that matter he had not pitched anything resembling his usual brand of baseball. But the Rube had developed into such a wonder in the box that it took time for his let-down to dawn upon me. Also it took a tip from Raddy, who sat with me on the bench.

”Con, the Rube isn’t himself today,” said Radbourne. ”His mind’s not on the game. He seems hurried and flustered, too. If he doesn’t explode presently, I’m a dub at callin’ the turn.”

Raddy was the best judge of a pitcher’s condition, physical or mental, in the Eastern League. It was a Saturday and we were on the road and finishing up a series with the Rochesters. Each team had won and lost a game, and, as I was climbing close to the leaders in the pennant race, I wanted the third and deciding game of that Rochester series. The usual big Saturday crowd was in attendance, noisy, demonstrative and exacting.

In this sixth inning the first man up for Rochester had flied to McCall. Then had come the two plays significant of Rube’s weakening. He had hit one batter and walked another. This was sufficient, considering the score was three to one in our favor, to bring the audience to its feet with a howling, stamping demand for runs.

”Spears is wise all right,” said Raddy.

I watched the foxy old captain walk over to the Rube and talk to him while he rested, a reassuring hand on the pitcher’s shoulder. The crowd yelled its disapproval and Umpire Bates called out sharply:

”Spears, get back to the bag!”

”Now, Mister Umpire, ain’t I hurrin’ all I can?” queried Spears as he leisurely ambled back to first.

The Rube tossed a long, damp welt of hair back from his big brow and nervously toed the rubber. I noted that he seemed to forget the runners on bases and delivered the ball without glancing at either bag. Of course this resulted in a double steal. The ball went wild–almost a wild pitch.

”Steady up, old man,” called Gregg between the yells of the bleachers. He held his mitt square over the plate for the Rube to pitch to. Again the long twirler took his swing, and again the ball went wild. Clancy had the Rube in the hole now and the situation began to grow serious. The Rube did not take half his usual deliberation, and of the next two pitches one of them was a ball and the other a strike by grace of the umpire’s generosity. Clancy rapped the next one, an absurdly slow pitch for the Rube to use, and both runners scored to the shrill tune of the happy bleachers.

I saw Spears shake his head and look toward the bench. It was plain what that meant.

”Raddy, I ought to take the Rube out,” I said, ”but whom can I put in? You worked yesterday– Cairns’ arm is sore. It’s got to be nursed. And Henderson, that ladies’ man I just signed, is not in uniform.”

”I’ll go in,” replied Raddy, instantly.

”Not on your life.” I had as hard a time keeping Radbourne from overworking as I had in getting enough work out of some other players. ”I guess I’ll let the Rube take his medicine. I hate to lose this game, but if we have to, we can stand it. I’m curious, anyway, to see what’s the matter with the Rube. Maybe he’ll settle down presently.”

I made no sign that I had noticed Spears’ appeal to the bench. And my aggressive players, no doubt seeing the situation as I saw it, sang out their various calls of cheer to the Rube and of defiance to their antagonists. Clancy stole off first base so far that the Rube, catching somebody’s warning too late, made a balk and the umpire sent the runner on to second. The Rube now plainly showed painful evidences of being rattled.