Ham Carr braked
his old red sedan to a smooth stop on the Model Garage's shop floor and
stepped out nimbly. "Hi, there, my friend," he hailed Gus Wilson. "Got
time to give this old bus the once-over?"
Gus said, shaking his head. "Not today. I've promised this job I'm on, and
I won't have it finished until quitting time. But Stan Hicks will be back
soon. He can check if that suits you."
"Sure, that will
be O.K.," Ham agreed readily. "The old gal's running all right, so I guess
there's nothing wrong except what you'd expect from old age and a hard
life. But I've got to drive her fast for a couple of hundred miles
tomorrow, and I want to be sure she can take it. Going to the ball game in
"I'll be there,"
Gus grinned. "Even if I weren't a fan myself, I'd have to on account of
Stan. Since he's been playing right field for the Stags he doesn't think or
talk anything but baseball. He's just killing time working for me until
some big-league scout comes along and signs him."
Ham is promoter
and manager for our town's crack semipro club. "Stan's no big-league
prospect," he admitted, "but he's always in there trying - and he sure loves
baseball. I wish some of my other players were that way - Buzz Bentz, for
matter with Buzz?" Gus demanded. "He's won every game he's pitched this
season. What more do you want?"
wrong with Buzz's pitching," Ham agreed. "It's his attitude that gets my
goat. The Reds were after him when he was pitching college ball, but he
wouldn't even talk to them - wanted to be a chemist! Now that he's in the
National plant he doesn't mind picking up 25 iron men from me once a week,
provided it doesn't interfere with his test tubes. But he doesn't have his
heart in the game."
"What do you
care," Gus retorted, "as long as he's good for a win every start?"
"He's driving me
nuts," Ham complained. "Right now, the day before the big Millville game,
what do you think he's doing?
Taking care of
his arm, practicing his drop?"
stomped in disgust. "Naw!" he answered himself. "He's winding up his
vacation from the plant - teaching a short summer course in chemistry at the
college in Madison. I'll bet he hasn't had a baseball in his hand the
entire two weeks. And he won't leave a minute before the noon whistle
closes his last class tomorrow. I've got to be there with my car to rush
him to Millville. That's why I want it checked."
Gus did a little
quick figuring. "You can't make it," he decided. "It's 140 miles from
Madison to Millville. You haven't a chance of doing it in two hours and a
"I don't expect
to," Ham winked wisely. "But that's all right. Lank Jimson can hold
Millville for three or four innings. He's good, but he's got no stamina.
Before he tires, I'll have Buzz there to relieve him. Get it?"
"So that's it,"
Gus laughed. "Well, here's Stan. Tell him about your car, Ham."
Gus had planned
to start for Millville by two o'clock. But when he got back to the shop
from lunch at half past one, a new customer came in with a car that wasn't
running right despite an expensive engine job down in the city. It was a
tough nut trouble-shooting job, and Gus got to interested in it that he
forgot all about the ball game. When at last he had found the cause of the
trouble and pointed it out to the customer, he glanced at the shop clock and
saw that it was past three.
"Holy cat!" he
whistled. "I've missed most of the game. Stan will never forgive me if I'm
not there for the last inning. Bring your car in Monday, mister, and I'll
finish the job then. I'm doing a fade-out for Millville."
He was quick at
washing up and changing from his coveralls, but it was going on four when he
left the shop and pushing the hour - with almost 20 miles to Millville -
when he drove through the intersection at which the Madison road joins the
A couple of
miles beyond, Gus saw a familiar red sedan standing on the shoulder, and
when he got closer he recognized the man who was pacing impatiently up and
down beside it with his eyes on his wrist watch - Ham Carr. Just as Gus was
pulling up behind the sedan, Ham jumped into the old bus and drove off in a
swirl of dust.
Ham was so late and what he had been waiting for, Gus kept close behind. In
10 minutes the car slackened sped, pulled to the side of the road, and
stopped. Gus stopped behind it and jumped out. So did Ham, his eyes again
on his watch.
matter?" Gus shouted.
"My bus has gone
nuts, and I'm going nuts, too - that's what's the matter." Ham sputtered.
"Those Millville murderers must have slogged Lank Jimson off the mound by
now. This is awful!"
with the car?" Gus asked.
Ham kept his
eyes on his watch. "It's gone nuts, I tell you," he repeated bitterly.
"For 10 minutes
it runs swell, then it won't run at all for five. Then it will run swell
again for 10 minutes.
It's been doing
that all the way from Madison. This is driving me crazy! And look at that
Buzz Bentz - he's asleep. What an attitude!"
Gus peered into
the sedan. Buzz, in his baseball uniform, was slumbering peacefully on the
rear seat. Gus shook him.
"Wake up - wake
up!" he said, "Get out and get into my car. Leave your bus here, Ham, until
after the game. Maybe we can still get there before it's over."
Gus is always
know as a careful driver, but when he has to make time in his old well-kept
coupe, there's nobody on the road who can beat him. As they drove up to the
players' gate under the old grandstand, a thunderous roar let them know that
the game was still on. They ran through the deserted dressing room and onto
glance at the scoreboard told them that the stags were ahead 4 to 2 and that
there were two men out in the last half of the ninth. But on the diamond,
there was a man on third and another on second. Lank Jimson, weary and
shaky, was set for the pitch. He didn't see Buzz arrive, and he didn't see
Ham signaling frantically for him to throw wide.
Ash met horsehide, and a hard-hit Texas leaguer went out over the infield
between first and second. It reached Stan Hicks in right field on its
stinging first bounce. The grease monkey threw almost as he caught the ball
- with one clean motion. It was a beautiful throw straight for home plate.
In that split second allowed him, Stan realized he would never catch the
batter at first, ad he threw home in a prayerful effort to keep the tying
run from scoring. It worked. The man on third slid home with yards to
spare, but the second runner was held on third though the batter stretched
his hit to a double.
Then Lank, his
shoulders slumped with fatigue, went slowly to the showers. Buzz walked
briskly to the mound amid the howls of the stands and with Ham's final plea
in his cars. "Get in there and pitch!" Ham had whispered hoarsely.
"There's an extra 20 bucks in it if you fan this guy."
This guy was
Hank Watson, Millville's heaviest slugger, and the Stags' lead had been
clipped to one small run. The tying run was on third, the winning on
Hank stood back
nonchalantly, exuding confidence, as Buzz wound up deliberately and put his
first warm-up pitch straight through the center of the plate into Bill
Greely's waiting mitt. The roar from the stands gave way to tense silence.
Only Buzz - and Hank - seemed unconcerned. There was a second pitch, a
third, fourth, and finally a fifth.
stepped into the batter's box, heaving aside two bats as he did so and
retaining his old reliable favorite. He dug the spike on the ball of his
left shoe into the earth and brought his bat slowly back on his right side.
Bill signaled, and Buzz nodded assent. He fingered the ball behind his
gloved hand, glanced swiftly at the runners on third and second, and threw.
"Strike one," called the umpire. The stands kept strangely still.
Hank let the
next three pass without moving a muscle - they were balls. The next he
fouled over the stand just inside the third base line. Three and two.
Even as Buzz's
arm flashed on the next pitch, the runners on second and third were in
motion. Hank stepped forward, intending to meet the ball before it could
break, and swung with all his weight.
That was all.
For Buzz broke his drop a little faster than usual, and Hank missed by
inches. Millville's section of the stand groaned, and ours went wild.
Buzz, calm and cool, walked off the field.
When a semblance
of quiet had been restored in the Stags' dressing room some 30 minutes
later, Gus hunted out Buzz and Ham.
he told Buzz as he clapped him on the back. "What did you put on that ball
But let's get
going back to Ham's car. The highway ought to be pretty well cleared, and
we can make a road test."
When they reached Ham's parked car, Gus wanted to know whether it gave any
warning before it pulled its crazy stops.
"It sputters a
little," Ham revealed.
Gus raised the
hood. "Drive with this up," he instructed Ham," and stop quick as soon as
you notice the sputter."
At the end of
nine minutes, Ham braked. Gus, coming up behind, went over to the sedan.
As it gave its last cough, he heard the whip-like snap of a high-tension
anticlimax after the excitement of that ball game," Gus laughed. He pointed
to the high-voltage lead that runs from the coil to the center of the
distributor cap, which on Ham's car was close to the manifold. "See where
the insulation has worn off?" he asked. "When that comes in contact with
the manifold it causes a short."
"But how.. " Ham
expands, lengthens in this case, with heat," Gus explained. "When the wire
is cool it's almost straight, but when it stretches out it curves and
touches the manifold. That causes your trouble. We'll tape up the bare
spot and put in a new lead Monday. Even if Stan didn't notice it when he
checked your car, he played good ball."
"So did you,"
Ham grinned. "If you hadn't come along when you did, Gus, Buzz would never
have got there in time. In my scorebook you get credit for an assist."