7:20 pm - Saturday May 26, 2018

The Manager of Maiden Hill-by Zane Grey-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:The Manager of Madden Hill

Written by: Zane Grey

Category:Fiction, Classics,Children

Page 1:

Willie Howarth loved baseball. He loved it all the more because he was a cripple. The game was more beautiful and wonderful to him because he would never be able to play it. For Willie had been born with one leg shorter than the other; he could not run and at 11 years of age it was all he could do to walk with a crutch.

Nevertheless Willie knew more about baseball than any other boy on Madden’s Hill. An uncle of his had once been a ballplayer and he had taught Willie the fine points of the game. And this uncle’s ballplayer friends, who occasionally visited him, had imparted to Willie the vernacular of the game. So that Willie’s knowledge of players and play, and particularly of the strange talk, the wild and whirling words on the lips of the real baseball men, made him the envy of every boy on Madden’s Hill, and a mine of information. Willie never missed attending the games played on the lots, and he could tell why they were won or lost.

Willie suffered considerable pain, mostly at night, and this had given him a habit of lying awake in the dark hours, grieving over that crooked leg that forever shut him out of the heritage of youth. He had kept his secret well; he was accounted shy because he was quiet and had never been able to mingle with the boys in their activity. No one except his mother dreamed of the fire and hunger and pain within his breast. His school- mates called him ”Daddy.” It was a name given for his bent shoulders, his labored gait and his thoughtful face, too old for his years. And no one, not even his mother, guessed how that name hurt Willie.

It was a source of growing unhappiness with Willie that the Madden’s Hill boys were always beaten by the other teams of the town. He really came to lose his sadness over his own misfortune in pondering on the wretched play of the Madden’s Hill baseball club. He had all a boy’s pride in the locality where he lived. And when the Bogg’s Farm team administered a crushing defeat to Madden’s Hill, Willie grew desperate.

Monday he met Lane Griffith, the captain of the Madden’s Hill nine.

”Hello, Daddy,” said Lane. He was a big, aggressive boy, and in a way had a fondness for Willie.

”Lane, you got an orful trimmin’ up on the Boggs. What ‘d you wanter let them country jakes beat you for?”

”Aw, Daddy, they was lucky. Umpire had hay- seed in his eyes! Robbed us! He couldn’t see straight. We’ll trim them down here Saturday.”

”No, you won’t–not without team work. Lane, you’ve got to have a manager.”

”Durn it! Where ‘re we goin’ to get one?” Lane blurted out.

”You can sign me. I can’t play, but I know the game. Let me coach the boys.”

The idea seemed to strike Capt. Griffith favorably. He prevailed upon all the boys living on Madden’s Hill to come out for practice after school. Then he presented them to the managing coach. The boys were inclined to poke fun at Daddy Howarth and ridicule him; but the idea was a novel one and they were in such a state of subjection from many beatings that they welcomed any change. Willie sat on a bench improvised from a soap box and put them through a drill of batting and fielding. The next day in his coaching he included bunting and sliding. He played his men in different positions and for three more days he drove them unmercifully.

When Saturday came, the day for the game with Bogg’s Farm, a wild protest went up from the boys. Willie experienced his first bitterness as a manager. Out of forty aspirants for the Madden’s Hill team he could choose but nine to play the game. And as a conscientious manager he could use no favorites. Willie picked the best players and assigned them to positions that, in his judgment, were the best suited to them. Bob Irvine wanted to play first base and he was down for right field. Sam Wickhart thought he was the fastest fielder, and Willie had him slated to catch. Tom Lindsay’s feelings were hurt because he was not to play in the infield. Eddie Curtis suffered a fall in pride when he discovered he was not down to play second base. Jake Thomas, Tay-Tay Mohler and Brick Grace all wanted to pitch. The manager had chosen Frank Price for that important position, and Frank’s one ambition was to be a shortstop.

So there was a deadlock. For a while there seemed no possibility of a game. Willie sat on the bench, the center of a crowd of discontented, quarreling boys. Some were jealous, some were outraged, some tried to pacify and persuade the others. All were noisy. Lane Griffith stood by his manager and stoutly declared the players should play the positions to which they had been assigned or not at all. And he was entering into a hot argument with Tom Lindsay when the Bogg’s Farm team arrogantly put in an appearance.

The way that team from the country walked out upon the field made a great difference. The spirit of Madden’s Hill roused to battle. The game began swiftly and went on wildly. It ended almost before the Hill boys realized it had commenced. They did not know how they had won but they gave Daddy Howarth credit for it. They had a bonfire that night to celebrate the victory and they talked baseball until their parents became alarmed and hunted them up.

Madden’s Hill practiced all that next week and on Saturday beat the Seventh Ward team. In four more weeks they had added half a dozen more victories to their record. Their reputation went abroad. They got uniforms, and baseball shoes with spikes, and bats and balls and gloves. They got a mask, but Sam Wickhart refused to catch with it.

”Sam, one of these days you’ll be stoppin’ a high inshoot with your eye,” sagely remarked Daddy Howarth. ”An’ then where’ll I get a catcher for the Natchez game?”

Natchez was the one name on the lips of every Madden’s Hill boy. For Natchez had the great team of the town and, roused by the growing repute of the Hill club, had condescended to arrange a game. When that game was scheduled for July Fourth Daddy Howarth set to driving his men. Early and late he had them out. This manager, in keeping with all other famous managers, believed that batting was the thing which won games. He developed a hard-hitting team. He kept everlastingly at them to hit and run, hit and run.

On the Saturday before the Fourth, Madden’s Hill had a game to play that did not worry Daddy and he left his team in charge of the captain.

”Fellers, I’m goin’ down to the Round House to see Natchez play. I’ll size up their game,” said Daddy.

When he returned he was glad to find that his team had won its ninth straight victory, but he was not communicative in regard to the playing of the Natchez club. He appeared more than usually thoughtful.

The Fourth fell on Tuesday. Daddy had the boys out Monday and he let them take only a short, sharp practice. Then he sent them home. In his own mind, Daddy did not have much hope of beating Natchez. He had been greatly impressed by their playing, and one inning toward the close of the Round House game they had astonished him with the way they suddenly seemed to break loose and deluge their opponents in a flood of hits and runs. He could not understand this streak of theirs–for they did the same thing every time they played–and he was too good a baseball student to call it luck.

He had never wanted anything in his life, not even to have two good legs, as much as he wanted to beat Natchez. For the Madden’s Hill boys had come to believe him infallible. He was their idol. They imagined they had only to hit and run, to fight and never give up, and Daddy would make them win. There was not a boy on the team who believed that Natchez had a chance. They had grown proud and tenacious of their dearly won reputation. First of all, Daddy thought of his team and their loyalty to him; then he thought of the glory lately come to Madden’s Hill, and lastly of what it meant to him to have risen from a lonely watcher of the game–a cripple who could not even carry a bat–to manager of the famous Hill team. It might go hard with the boys to lose this game, but it would break his heart.

From time out of mind there had always been rivalry between Madden’s Hill and Natchez. And there is no rivalry so bitter as that between boys. So Daddy, as he lay awake at night planning the system of play he wanted to use, left out of all account any possibility of a peaceful game. It was comforting to think that if it came to a fight Sam and Lane could hold their own with Bo Stranathan and Slugger Blandy.

In the managing of his players Daddy observed strict discipline. It was no unusual thing for him to fine them. On practice days and off the field they implicitly obeyed him. During actual play, however, they had evinced a tendency to jump over the traces. It had been his order for them not to report at the field Tuesday until 2 o’clock. He found it extremely difficult to curb his own inclination to start before the set time. And only the stern duty of a man to be an example to his players kept Daddy at home.

He lived near the ball grounds, yet on this day, as he hobbled along on his crutch, he thought the distance interminably long, and for the first time in weeks the old sickening resentment at his useless leg knocked at his heart. Manfully Daddy refused admittance to that old gloomy visitor. He found comfort and forgetfulness in the thought that no strong and swift-legged boy of his acquaintance could do what he could do.

Upon arriving at the field Daddy was amazed to see such a large crowd. It appeared that all the boys and girls in the whole town were in attendance, and, besides, there was a sprinkling of grown-up people interspersed here and there around the diamond. Applause greeted Daddy’s appearance and members of his team escorted him to the soap-box bench.

Daddy cast a sharp eye over the Natchez players practicing on the field. Bo Stranathan had out his strongest team. They were not a prepossessing nine. They wore soiled uniforms that did not match in cut or color. But they pranced and swaggered and strutted! They were boastful and boisterous. It was a trial for any Madden’s Hill boy just to watch them.

”Wot a swelled bunch!” exclaimed Tom Lindsay.

”Fellers, if Slugger Blandy tries to pull any stunt on me today he’ll get a swelleder nut,” growled Lane Griffith.

”T-t-t-t-t-te-te-tell him t-t-t-to keep out of m-m-m-my way an’ not b-b-b-b-bl-block me,” stuttered Tay-Tay Mohler.

”We’re a-goin’ to skin ’em,” said Eddie Curtis.

”Cheese it, you kids, till we git in the game,” ordered Daddy. ”Now, Madden’s Hill, hang round an’ listen. I had to sign articles with Natchez–had to let them have their umpire. So we’re up against it. But we’ll hit this pitcher Muckle Harris. He ain’t got any steam. An’ he ain’t got much nerve. Now every feller who goes up to bat wants to talk to Muck. Call him a big swelled stiff. Tell him he can’t break a pane of glass–tell him he can’t put one over the pan– tell him it he does you’ll slam it down in the sand bank. Bluff the whole team. Keep scrappy all the time. See! That’s my game today. This Natchez bunch needs to be gone after. Holler at the umpire. Act like you want to fight.”

Then Daddy sent his men out for practice.

”Boss, enny ground rules?” inquired Bo Stranathan. He was a big, bushy-haired boy with a grin and protruding teeth. ”How many bases on wild throws over first base an’ hits over the sand bank?”

”All you can get,” replied Daddy, with a magnanimous wave of hand.

”Huh! Lemmee see your ball?”

Daddy produced the ball that he had Lane had made for the game.

”Huh! Watcher think? We ain ‘t goin’ to play with no mush ball like thet,” protested Bo. ”We play with a hard ball. Looka here! We’ll trow up the ball.”

Daddy remembered what he had heard about the singular generosity of the Natchez team to supply the balls for the games they played.

”We don’t hev to pay nothin’ fer them balls. A man down at the Round House makes them for us. They ain’t no balls as good,” explained Bo, with pride.

However, as Bo did not appear eager to pass over the balls for examination Daddy simply reached out and took them. They were small, perfectly round and as hard as bullets. They had no covers. The yarn had been closely and tightly wrapped and then stitched over with fine bees- waxed thread. Daddy fancied he detected a difference in the weight of the ball, but Bo took them back before Daddy could be sure of that point.

”You don’t have to fan about it. I know a ball when I see one,” observed Daddy. ”But we’re on our own grounds an’ we’ll use our own ball. Thanks all the same to you, Stranathan.”

”Huh! All I gotta say is we’ll play with my ball er there won’t be no game,” said Bo suddenly.

Daddy shrewdly eyed the Natchez captain. Bo did not look like a fellow wearing himself thin from generosity. It struck Daddy that Bo’s habit of supplying the ball for the game might have some relation to the fact that he always carried along his own umpire. There was a strange feature about this umpire business and it was that Bo’s man had earned a reputation for being particularly fair. No boy ever had any real reason to object to Umpire Gale’s decisions. When Gale umpired away from the Natchez grounds his close decisions always favored the other team, rather than his own. It all made Daddy keen and thoughtful.

”Stranathan, up here on Madden’s Hill we know how to treat visitors. We’ll play with your ball. . . . Now keep your gang of rooters from crowdin’ on the diamond.”

”Boss, it’s your grounds. Fire ’em off if they don’t suit you. . . . Come on, let’s git in the game. Watcher want–field er bat?”

”Field,” replied Daddy briefly.

Billy Gale called ”Play,” and the game began with Slugger Blandy at bat. The formidable way in which he swung his club did not appear to have any effect on Frank Price or the player back of him. Frank’s most successful pitch was a slow, tantalizing curve, and he used it. Blandy lunged at the ball, missed it and grunted.

”Frank, you got his alley,” called Lane.

Slugger fouled the next one high in the air back of the plate. Sam Wickhart, the stocky bowlegged catcher, was a fiend for running after foul flies, and now he plunged into the crowd of boys, knocking them right and left, and he caught the ball. Whisner came up and hit safely over Griffith, whereupon the Natchez supporters began to howl. Kelly sent a grounder to Grace at short stop. Daddy’s weak player made a poor throw to first base, so the runner was safe. Then Bo Stranathan batted a stinging ball through the infield, scoring Whisner.

”Play the batter! Play the batter!” sharply called Daddy from the bench.

Then Frank struck out Molloy and retired Dundon on an easy fly.

”Fellers, git in the game now,” ordered Daddy, as his players eagerly trotted in. ”Say things to that Muckle Harris! We’ll walk through this game like sand through a sieve.”

Bob Irvin ran to the plate waving his bat at Harris.

”Put one over, you freckleface! I ‘ve been dyin’ fer this chanst. You’re on Madden’s Hill now.”

Muckle evidently was not the kind of pitcher to stand coolly under such bantering. Obviously he was not used to it. His face grew red and his hair waved up. Swinging hard, he threw the ball straight at Bob’s head. Quick as a cat, Bob dropped flat.

”Never touched me!” he chirped, jumping up and pounding the plate with his bat. ”You couldn’t hit a barn door. Come on. I’ll paste one a mile!”

Bob did not get an opportunity to hit, for Harris could not locate the plate and passed him to first on four balls.

”Dump the first one,” whispered Daddy in Grace’s ear. Then he gave Bob a signal to run on the first pitch.

Filed in: Children, Fantasy, Fiction

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