Chapter XVI The Opening of the Ball Game - The Rover boys on a Tour by Edward Stratemeyer

The day for the great baseball game between Brill and Roxley dawned clear and bright. Sam had received word that both of his brothers with their wives would be on, reaching Ashton early in the morning. He drove down to the depot in his automobile to meet the newcomers.

When the train rolled into the station Dick Rover, as tall and handsome as ever, was the first to alight, quickly followed by his wife, Dora.

Then came Tom and Nellie.

"Hello, Sam, my boy!" exclaimed Dick, as he strode up and shook hands, quickly followed by his wife. "How are you these days? But it is needless to ask, for you look the picture of health."

"Oh, I'm feeling fine," answered Sam, smiling broadly.

"Ready to play winning baseball, I presume," came from Dora, as she gave him a warm smile.

"Surest thing you know, Dora," he answered. "Oh, we've got to win from Roxley to-day!"

"Yes, but you haven't got me to pitch for you to-day, Sam," broke in Tom, as he came up and shook hands. "Who is going to do the twirling for Brill?"

"They are going to try Dare Phelps first, and if he can't make it, they will try Jack Dudley, one of the sophs."

"Oh, yes, I remember Dudley when he was a freshman," answered Tom.

"Pretty clever fellow, too."

"How is it you didn't bring Grace with you, Sam?" questioned Nellie, as she took his hand.

"I'm to take you two girls up to Hope after I leave Tom and Dick at Brill," explained the youngest Rover. "Then we are to get all of you girls directly after lunch. Grace wanted it that way."

"My! but this is a touch of old times," remarked Dick, as he climbed into the automobile. "Let me take the wheel, Sam."

"Certainly, if you want to," was the quick reply, and a few minutes later, with the oldest Rover running the machine, the whole party set off for Brill.

"How are matters going in New York, Dick?" questioned Sam, while they rode along.

"We are doing quite well, Sam. Of course, we are having a little difficulty in certain directions, but that is to be expected. You must remember in Wall Street the rivalries are very keen. I suppose some of our competitors would like to put us out of business."

"What about that tour Tom mentioned?"

"I think we can make it, Sam. I'll know more about it a little later.

There is no hurry, you know, because you've got to graduate first," and Dick smiled knowingly at his brother.

Songbird and some of the other collegians were waiting to welcome Dick and Tom, and as soon as they had left the automobile Sam continued on the way to Hope.

"Oh! I'm so glad to see you!" cried Grace, as she rushed out and kissed her sister and her cousin. "Come right in. We are going to have a special lunch in your honor. Sam, I'm sorry I can't invite you, but you know what the rules are."

"Never mind. Tom will be on hand at one-thirty promptly," answered the youth. "I hope you'll all be ready, for we can't delay, you know."

"We'll be ready, don't fear," answered Grace.

When Sam returned to Brill he found a crowd of the seniors surrounding his brothers, telling them of the many things that had happened in and around the college since they had left.

"It's a jolly shame we can't have you in the box to-day, Tom," said Bob Grimes. "I'm afraid we'll need you sorely," he added rather anxiously.

"Why don't you put William Philander Tubbs in?" suggested Tom, with a grin. "Don't you remember what a famous ball player he was?" And then there was a general laugh, at the recollection of a joke that had once been played on the dudish college student.

The air was filled with talk of the coming game, and but scant attention was paid to the lunch provided for the collegians and their guests. As soon as the meal was over, Tom took the Rover's automobile and started for Hope to bring Grace and the others. When he arrived there he found his wife, Dora and Grace talking to Ada Waltham and her brother Chester, to whom he was introduced.

"We are going over to the game," announced Chester Waltham. "Ada and I are going to take half a dozen of the young ladies."

"Fine!" returned Tom. "The more the merrier! Don't forget to tell the girls to whoop her up for Brill."

"I think the most of them will do that," said Ada Waltham; "although one or two of them are Roxley sympathizers."

"Well, Brill can't have everything its own way," answered Tom. A few minutes later he was on the return with Grace, Nellie and Dora.

When he arrived he found Sam awaiting them, and all walked down to the grandstand, where seats had been provided for the party. Grace and the others had just been made comfortable when Chester Waltham arrived with his sister and a number of others. The young millionaire came forward with a broad smile and was quickly introduced, and he lost no time in seating his sister next to Grace, while he sat directly behind the pair, with all the other girls he had brought close by. This arrangement did not altogether suit Sam, and he hurried off to the dressing-room to get into his baseball uniform in rather a doubtful frame of mind.

A little later there was a grand shouting at the entrance to the field, and into sight came a large automobile truck containing a drum and fife corps and carrying a large Roxley banner. The truck was followed by a dozen or more automobiles containing the Roxley team and their fellow-students. The students had tin horns and wooden rattles.

"Zip! Hurrah! Roxley!" was the cry, and then followed a great noise from the horns and rattles.

"Brill! Brill! Brill!" was the counter cry, and then the furious din was taken up by the other side.

After that the grandstand filled up rapidly and so did the bleachers, until there was not an available seat remaining. In the meanwhile, a parking place for automobiles and carriages at the far end of the field was also well patronized.

"Some crowd, and no mistake!" was Stanley's comment, as he looked at the masses of humanity waving flags and banners and tooting their horns and using various other devices for making noise. "This is by far the biggest crowd we have ever had."

"Roxley has sent word all around that they are going to bury us this year," returned another student standing by. "They claim they have a team that can't be beaten."

Down in the dressing-room Bob was giving some final instructions to his men.

"I want you to play from the word 'go,'" he said. "Sometimes a game is lost or won in the first inning. Don't let them get any kind of a lead if you can possibly help it."

It had been decided almost at the last minute that instead of covering left field Sam should cover third base. There was a big cheer for the Roxley team when it made its appearance on the field, and another cheer when the Brill nine showed itself. Then came the toss-up, and it was decided that Brill should go to the bat first.

The first man to the bat was a tall fellow who played center field, and as he came forward many of the Brill sympathizers cheered him lustily.

"Now show 'em what you can do!"

"Knock it over the back fence!"

The ball came in and the batter swung for it and missed it.

"Strike one!"

"That's the way to do it, Muggs!"

Again the ball came in, and this time there was a foul tip.

"Foul! Strike two!"

Following this second strike came two balls, over which the Brill contingent cheered. Then came a swift inshoot, which the batter missed by the fraction of an inch.

"Strike three! Batter out!" sang out the umpire.

"That's the way to do it, Muggs!" came the yell from the Roxley cohorts, and there followed a din of horns and rattles.

The second man up for Brill managed to get to first, but the next one went out on a pop fly, and then the man on first was caught trying to steal to second.

"That's the way to do it, Roxley! Keep it up!" And as a goose egg was put up for Brill on the score board the opponents cheered as wildly as ever.

But if Roxley had hoped to score in that first inning, her expectations were doomed to disappointment. The first man up went out on a pop fly, the second on a foul, and although the third managed to reach second base on what should have really been a one-base hit, the fourth man up knocked an easy one to first which ended their hopes.

It was not until the second inning that Sam came to the bat. There were two men out when he grasped the ashen stick and took his stand beside the home plate. He had a strike and two balls called on him, and then sent a clean hit between first and second bases.

"Run, Sam, run!" yelled Dick.

"Leg it, old man, leg it!" added Tom, and the youngest Rover certainly did speed for first, arriving there just a second before the ball.

"Oh, if only he can get in!" cried Grace, clapping her hands.

"It's a long way around to home plate," put in Chester Waltham. "He's got to have help to do it."

A moment later the next man to the bat knocked an easy fly to second and that ended the chances for Sam's scoring, and another goose egg went up for Brill on the score board.

In the end of the second inning Roxley was fortunate enough to open the play with a neat drive which brought the batter to second. Then came another one-base hit, and amid a wild yelling the runner from second slid in over the home plate.

"Hurrah! Hurrah! A run for Roxley!"

"That's the way to do it! Keep it up! Snow Brill under!"

Bob Grimes walked up to Dare Phelps, who was occupying the pitcher's box.

"Take it easy, Dare," he pleaded. "Don't let 'em rattle you."

"They are not going to rattle me," responded Dare Phelps, and pitched the next batter out in one-two-three order. In the meantime, however, the man on first managed to steal second. A moment later he tried to reach third. The pitcher threw the ball to Sam, who leaped up into the air and caught it, coming down on the runner while he was still a foot from the bag.

"Runner out!" cried the umpire, and Roxley's player arose rather crestfallen and limped off to the benches.

"That's the way to do it, Sam. Nab 'em every time!" cried Tom.

When the inning was ended Roxley had only the one run to its credit.

Brill came to the bat for the third time with a sort of do-or-die look on the faces of the players. It was plucky little Spud who started a batting streak, getting safely to first and followed by another player who managed to reach second, landing Spud on third. Then came two outs.

Before the inning was ended, however, two runs were placed on the board to the credit of Brill.

"Two to one in favor of Brill!" cried one of the students.

"Just wait, this inning isn't over yet!" cried one of the Roxley sympathizers. Then Roxley went to the bat, and because of a bad fumble on the part of the Brill second baseman, they managed to secure another run.

"Two to two!" was the cry, as the figures went up on the big score board.

"Anybody's game, so far," said Dick Rover, soberly, "but I do hope Brill wins."

"And so do I," answered his brother Tom.