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ROBERT DUNCAN MILNE

A BASEBALL MYSTERY

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First published in
The Argonaut, San Francisco, California, 10 September 1887

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Illustration

Robert Duncan Milne (1844-1899)


THE Scottish-born author Robert Duncan Milne, who lived and worked in San Fransisco, may be considered as one of the founding-fathers of modern science-fiction. He wrote 60-odd stories in this genre before his untimely death in a street accident in 1899, publishing them, for the most part, in The Argonaut and San Francisco Examiner.

In its report on Milne's demise (he was struck by a cable-car while in a state of inebriation) The San Fransico Call of 17 December 1899 summarised his life as follows:


"Mr. Milne was the son of the late Rev. George Gordon Milne, M.A., F.R.S.A., for forty years incumbent of St. James Episcopal Church, Cupar-Fife. and nephew of Duncan James Kay, Esq., of Drumpark, J.P. and D.L. of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, through which side of the house, and by maternal ancestry (through the Breadalbane family), he was lineally descended from King Robert the Bruce.

"He received his primary education at Trinity College, Glenalmond, where he distinguished himself by gaining first the Skinner scholarship, which he held for a period of three years; second, the Knox prize for Latin verse, the competition for which is open to a number of public echools in England and Ireland, and thirdly, the Buccleuch gold medal as senior and captain of the school, of the eleven of which he was also captain.

"From Glenalmond Mr. Milne proceeded to Oxford, where he further distinguished himself by taking honors, also rowing in his college eight and playing in its eleven.

"After leaving the university he decided to visit California, a country then beginning to be more talked about than ever, and he afterward made the Pacific Coast his residence. In 1874 Mr. Milne invented and exhibited in the Mechanics' Fair at San Francisco a working model of a new type of rotary steam engine, which was pronounced to be the wonder of the fair.

"While in California Mr. Milne for a long time gained distinction as a writer of short stories and verse which appeared in current periodicals. The character of his work was well defined by Mrs. Gertrude Atherton, who said:

"'He has an extravagant imagination, but under it is a reassuring and scientific mind. He takes such a premise as a comet falling into the sun, and works out a terribly realistic series of results: or he will invent a drama for Saturn which might well have grown out of that planet's conditions. His style is so good and so convincing that one is apt to lay down such a story as the former, with an anticipation of nightmare, if comets are hanging about. His sense of humor and literary taste will always stop him the right side of the grotesque.'"


Illustration

A caricature showing Robert Duncan Milne and a San Francisco cable-car.


A BASEBALL MYSTERY

"VERY true," said our friend, the umpire. "You've got the right idea when you say that success at baseball, in the present day, mainly depends on the pitcher. Things have changed wonderfully in that respect within the last year or two. It's mighty hard now for a batsman to get a lick at a crack 'twirler' if he's in good shape, and hard as it is"—here his face took on a more thoughtful expression—"to get on to some of the curves that are being sent in now-a-days, there's another factor that nobody dreams of as yet, which may make it impossible to hit the ball at all, and if the clubs don't take extreme precautions, may end in bursting up the game altogether."

It was the famous baseball umpire, Paulson, who spoke, and the reason of that distinguished gentleman's presence in my friend Major Durham's rooms at the Palace Hotel, in what might be called the height of the baseball season, when his valuable services could, presumably, be hardly dispensed with elsewhere, was, I believe, of a business nature, connected in some manner with the recent wheat deal. At any rate, there he was, and a few friends of the major's, myself among the number, had been invited to meet, welcome, and do honor to this distinguished light of the diamond field upon the occasion of his visit to San Francisco. And though we were none of us, I believe, either enthusiasts or experts as to the game, myself probably the least so, it was fitting that we should listen with due respect to the words of wisdom that fell from the lips of so acknowledged an authority upon a subject which is now having its "boom" in the East, only comparable to our own land "boom" here, even if courtesy did not prompt us to give precedence, in the matter of speech, to a stranger and a guest.

"Ah!" said the major, with a little mechanical shove to the decanters, "you don't say! Not hit the ball at all, eh? Seems to me the pitchers couldn't get the thing down so fine as that, surely. Might hit it by mistake, you know;" and the major laughed softly at his little pleasantry.

"Looks like it," returned the umpire curtly. "But suppose I was to say couldn't. Suppose I was to say that it was a natural, physical impossibility to hit the ball under certain conditions. What would you say then?"

"Give it up," shrugged the major. "I don't pretend to be a dab at baseball, but it sounds a little... a little... what shall I say?"

"A little too much for the ordinary mind to grasp, eh? But I'm only stating a bit of my own experience. If you like, I'll tell you all about it, and then you'll see whether I'm drawing the long bow or not about the couldn't."

"Go ahead," said the major. "Gentlemen, help yourself to cigars."

"It was in Indianapolis some seven or eight weeks ago," said the umpire, setting himself comfortably in his easy chair, "somewhere about the middle of June—the nineteenth of June I think it was—and we were playing one of our regular National League match games with the Pittsburg nine—Pittsburg and Indianapolis, you know, both belong to the National League. Well, the home team hadn't been playing in good luck lately, and some of the boys were very much out of sorts. At that time Hurlbut, as you may remember, was pitching for the Hoosiers, but I don't know how it was, for the last three or four matches, the Bean-eaters, and the Senators, and the Giants had been banging him all over the field, and the poor fellow was discouraged, there being sundry hints also about taking him off. The talk was that the lad was in love, and that consequently he couldn't bring strict attention to bear upon his curves. I happen to know that such was the case, that is to say, the love part of it, but whether it had anything to do with his weak pitching I don't know. There's something very funny about pitching. One day a crack pitcher can't be touched, and the next he may be thumped unmercifully by the same nine. I've come to the conclusion that it depends upon the state of the nerves and the system generally, just like everything else.

"Well, the day before our game with the Coal- heavers—that's the pet name for the Pittsburgs, you know—I happened to be passing along the hotel corridor—Hurlbut and myself stopped at the same house—when, looking casually in at his door, which was a little ajar, I caught a glimpse of my man sitting at the table, with his chin upon his hands and looking the picture of misery.

"'What's up, old fellow?' I asked, going in and sitting down to see if I couldn't cheer him up a bit. 'This will never do. You must brace up for a crack at those fellows to-morrow. Girl gone back on you, or what?'

"'You're not so far off,' he replied gloomily. 'You know what she is, and you know my cursed luck lately. To-morrow will decide things for me in more ways than one, if you knew it.'

"'Tell us about it,' said I.

"Now, I knew that Hurlbut was engaged to be married to a young lady of the name of Bellmer, a daughter of one of our wealthiest pork-packers, and an immense catch for young Hurlbut, though I knew he was deeply attached to the girl as well. I knew, too, that this young lady was a very enthusiast upon baseball—a baseball 'crank,' I suppose you outer barbarians of California would call it—and I divined that Hurlbut's bad luck lately had caused him to fall in the estimation of his lady-love.

"'This is just how it stands,' said the young fellow abruptly. 'You know Bullard that pitches for the Pittsburgs. Well, Bullard's sister and Clara Bellmer are cousins; and the Bullard girl is here staying with the Bellmers now. Bullard has been pitching in tip-top luck lately, and I've been doing the reverse. The Bullard girl knows that Clara is engaged to me, and she's been crowing over her on that account, and Clara has got so mad that she vows she'll have nothing to do with me, unless I come out at the top of the heap to-morrow. To make matters worse, Bullard is staying at the house with his sister, and Clara and he seem to be very sweet upon each other. If all that isn't enough to put a fellow out of sorts, I should like to know what is.'

"'Take my advice,' said I, 'and don't think about it. Go to bed early, and you will feel all right to-morrow.'

"So saying, I left him to his meditations, passing out and closing the door behind me. As I did so, I found myself facing a little, keen-looking, middle-aged man, clean-shaven and dressed in black, and carrying a longish parcel. Before I could pass him, he bowed and said:

"'Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Hurlbut? The pitcher of the Indianapolis baseball nine, I believe. Number one hundred and sixty-nine they told me at the office. This is the room if I mistake not.'

"'This is Mr. Hurlbut's room,' I replied, 'and you will find the gentleman inside.'

"I then went on about my business, thinking no more about the circumstance.


"NEXT morning I was on the ground bright and early, attending to my duties. That day there was played on the baseball grounds at Indianapolis one of the most remarkable games in the annals of the diamond field. It was the talk of the city for a week or more, to the exclusion of all other topics. It sent a thrill of surprise from one side of the continent to the other. No one knew what to make of it, and for that matter no one knows yet, though some of us have a pretty shrewd guess. What! You haven't heard of it?" exclaimed our guest in tones of surprise, failing to notice anything responsive in our faces; then added with something like pity, "ah! I forgot; you are not interested in the noble game. Well, then, here is the score. That will enlighten you. You can not fail to see something remarkable in that, at all events."

Here Mr. Paulson took from his pocket-book a fragment of newspaper and handed it to our host. It passed from hand to hand till finally it reached mine, when I found it to be a clipping from the Chicago Tribune—one of those ordinary baseball dispatches it was—the text of which I took down verbatim then and there, and now reproduce for the benefit of those who are interested in the doings of the diamond field.


AT INDIANAPOLIS.
BOTH HOOSIERS AND COAL-HEAVERS
GO CHICKEN RANCHING

Indianapolis, June 19.—Of all the rotten exhibitions ever seen on the baseball ground, to-day's is universally conceded to take the mortgage of the farm where the wheat grew, out of which the game was made. There were six thousand people present and as each gave vent to at least one thousand cuss-words, the total number of imprecations is something appalling to contemplate. It is the general opinion that nine cigar-signs would have played better ball than the men from the Smoky City did to-day. As to the home team, had it not been for Hurlbut's phenomenal pitching and batting, it is doubtful whether the balance of the Hoosiers could have beat a carpet. Not one of the Coal-heavers could find him for a hit. As for the Hoosiers, they one and all fanned the air like animated wind-mills at Bullard's curves, with the exception of Hurlbut, who was simply a terror at the bat, banging the ball east, west, endways, and crooked, and over the garden wall, to the tune of a home-run every lick. The uproar was tremendous, and the hero of the day was nearly dismembered by the crowd in its efforts to pack at least a piece of him on all its multitudinous shoulders at once. Following is the score.

Earned Runs—Pittsburg 0, Indianapolis 2.
Home runs—Hurlbut 2.
Struck out—Pittsburgs 15, Indianapolis 12.
Time—Fifty-five minutes.
Umpire—Paulson


"Now," reasoned Mr. Paulson, as I handed him back the slip, "I hope you will not say that there is not something phenomenal about that record. If you do, I give up all hopes of impressing you with any idea of anything queer and out of the way in the baseball line, when I come down to particulars and start in to tell what I know about it. You will allow, I presume"—with a little touch of pique—"that if onlookers, as a rule, see most of the game, an umpire in a baseball match should be no exception to that rule, when it comes down to a matter of evidence.

"Well, the home team won the toss and sent the Pittsburgs first to the bat, with Hurlbut for pitcher. I took my position as umpire, and was a little anxious as I watched Hurlbut take his stand in the box—the pitcher's ground, perhaps I ought to say for the benefit of the uninitiated"—with a comprehensive bow to the company in general—"is technically termed the 'box.' I had seen and spoken to him that morning, and noticed that he looked jaded, as though he hadn't slept much, though his eye had a do-or-die look that showed he was fully awake to the responsibilities of the occasion. I confess I sympathized with the lad, though I had many misgivings as to the result Right opposite where I stood was the grand stand, and there I could see Miss Bellmer, sitting with another lady, and one of the Pittsburg team leaning over them. I mentally put these down as Bullard, the Pittsburg pitcher, and his sister, and I may as well say that my surmise was correct.

"I gave the word to begin, and waited for the delivery. Fields, I think was the first batsman of the Pittsburgs, and stood there with his bat uplifted in the usual attitude of Orion clubbing the bull, and looking as though he meant to drive the ball out of the lot. Hurlbut made his motion—he is what is called a 'south-paw twirler,' that is, he pitches with his left hand—and sent the sphere straight for the plate. The batsman struck and missed. Haskell caught the ball, though it struck me that he nearly missed it, and returned it to Hurlbut. Again it was sent in, a medium ball without any sign of curve in it, so far as I could judge, and I expected it would get knocked away over the out-field. Swish went the bat, meeting nothing but space, and again the sphere landed in the catcher's hands, though again Haskell had to drop mighty lively to get it. Fields again raised his bat to face the music, and again the ball came spinning easily toward the plate. A child of ten, to all appearance, couldn't have missed it. Again the bat fanned the air, to my own astonishment as well as everybody else's. Once again Hurlbut sent the sphere in, a straight ball directly over the plate; I expected Fields would raise it away over centre. But again he fanned out, and Haskell dropped the ball this time. The batsman, of course, had no choice but to run at a fourth miss, but the ball was at first-base before he was half-way there. First man out for the Pittsburgs.

"I thought I detected a peculiar smile flit over Hurlbut's face, as he waited for the next man to take the bat. The second man went down like the first. I couldn't make it out. Not that there is anything extraordinary in a pitcher not getting hit. The funny part of it was the seeming simplicity of the delivery. I flatter myself that I can take stock of in- and out-curves, drops, rises, and combinations, as well as the next one. If I can't it's not for want of practice, but this style of delivery beat my time. There wasn't anything in it. The ball seemed to go straight for the bat, and did go straight for the bat. Nevertheless, the player seemed always to get the fraction of an inch or so just as the bat came to meet it. I watched it narrowly as the game went on, and became convinced that this was the case. It seemed as though the wind from the swinging bat caught the ball at what should have been the precise moment of impact, and caused it to swerve or deflect from its original course; or, as if an invisible cushion of some kind interposed itself between the wood and the leather. It was useless for me to reason with myself as the game went on, that under no laws of physics or dynamics could such things be. I could not disbelieve my senses. The ball did actually make this sudden jump, just as it reached the bat; and the jump was just sufficient to clear the bat and puzzled the catcher a little at first, as I have stated, though Haskell very soon 'caught on' in a double sense, so to speak, and after the first few minutes had no difficulty in holding the sphere.

"Well, the inning of the Pittsburgs was over in less time than I have taken to tell it, not one of the Coal-heavers reaching first-base, and a fair share of applause greeted Hurlbut from every quarter of the ground, not excepting the grand-stand, where I could see Miss Bellmer, with an excited flush upon her face, waving her handkerchief enthusiastically, and paying very little attention to Bullard, who seemed to have settled himself to stay, and looked considerably astonished at being called upon so soon to take his place in the field as pitcher for the Pittsburgs.

"But if I was puzzled by the pitching I had just seen, I was still more so when the home team went to the bat. The ball in Bullard's hands behaved exactly as it had done in Hurlbut's. The Indianapolis boys fanned the air just as the Pittsburgs had done. I had now to come down from a theory I had framed that Hurlbut had got hold of some new wrinkle in pitching, for here was Bullard doing just the same thing; and it was difficult to conceive that two pitchers of rival clubs should both have mastered the same style of delivery, a style too that was thoroughly novel and beyond the range of previous experience. The thing nettled me. One by one the Indianapolis men were struck out like the Pittsburgs, without even making first base. The second inning was like the first. Neither of the teams could find the ball, and none of them got as far as first base. The third inning was called and the last three of the Pittsburg nine fanned the air like their predecessors. The home team followed suit with the same result, till it came to Hurlbut's turn with the bat. He looked a trifle anxious as he stood with uplifted arms over the plate. Bullard sent in the ball—an in-curve—and I expected to see it hop over the bat when it got there, just as it had been doing all the morning; for it seemed to make no difference whether the ball was pitched with bias or pitched straight, it was bound to rise when it got to the bat. But another surprise was in store for me. Hurlbut's arms swung down viciously, and—thwack!—the ball went spinning over the heads of the out-field a good hundred yards or more, and Hurlbut was flying round the bases and back at the home plate before the sphere was heard from at the diamond. This was the first hit of the day and a stinger into the bargain, and it was greeted, as you can imagine, with a perfect tempest of yells. The spell seemed to be broken at last, and the crowd, which had been getting very impatient latterly, began to brighten up. But it wasn't to be. The next man of the home team was struck out like the others, and for the fourth time the Pittsburgs went to the bat.

"Well, gentlemen, the next three innings passed precisely like the first three, Hoosiers and Coal-heavers going down alternately in regular rotation to Hurlbut's and Bullard's pitching, till it came to Hurlbut's turn again at the bat. I could see he looked smiling and confident as he raised the willow and waited. In spun the ball, down came the bat, and away went the sphere singing through the air like it did before, and again Hurlbut took in the rectangle for a home run. The roar was deafening. Just at the plate, however, he slipped and fell, and presently limped off the ground with a sprained ankle. It was discovered, too, that the bat he had been using—his own and a new one, by the way—had got sprung at the last whack, as shown by a longitudinal crack running from the thick end about a third of its length. Hurlbut used it as a walking stick as he limped off the ground, and I saw him presently sitting on the grand-stand alongside of his Dulcinea, who seemed to be offering her condolences in very impressive fashion, and where, covered with glory as he already was, he doubtless had a much easier and pleasanter time of it than if he had remained on the field. The inning closed without another run being made by the home team, which then took the field for the seventh inning, with Healey as pitcher vice Hurlbut lamed. But before the inning began I went to my box and got a new ball. Not that the ball that had been used in the previous innings was in any way damaged, for it had only been twice hit, but there was a shadowy, half-developed idea in my mind connecting somehow the mysterious pitching with the ball. So if there was anything funny about the ball I would very soon know; so I went, as I say, to my box—I always bring a box of balls upon the ground with me and keep it handy by me—and took out a new one and sent it to Healy. Well, gentlemen, the ball behaved in the same way with Healey, as it had done with Hurlbut and Bullard: curve or no curve, drop or rise, it just hopped over the bat every time when it got there, the same as it had done with the others. But it seemed that some more of the boys besides myself had dropped on to this peculiarity, and I could see that more than one took aim at a point a little above where the ball seemed to be coming. And what do you think happened then? D——n, me, gentlemen, if the ball didn't duck below the bat, fazing the catching by striking the ground before he grabbed it. It was, as I have said before, just as if there was an invisible cushion surrounding the ball and protecting it from being hit by the bat, and as if this cushion was so elastic as merely to act as a momentary deflector, without seriously interfering with the original direction or momentum of the ball. Well, to make a long story short, both teams fanned the air during the remaining innings, not one of them making a hit or even getting to first base. Hurlbut was the hero of the hour, as he was the only one who could find the ball, and his two home-runs had won the game for the home team. He was looking all right in spite of his sprained ankle, when I saw him assisting Miss Bellmer into her carriage and getting in after her as I was leaving the ground.

"I separated as soon as I could from the players, who were, of course, discussing the queer pitching that no one could hit, and returned to the hotel where I had an appointment to keep, taking my ball box with me. When I got to my room, I put the box on the table, and as I had a few minutes to spare, I fell to thinking. What was the meaning of this mysterious pitching? How was it the ball acted in the same way, no matter who pitched it? The secret must lie in the ball. But if that was the case, how was it that Hurlbut could hit it? I opened my box and looked at the balls—there were three of them left. I turned them over; everything was regular: they were, of course, of the regular official league pattern, stamped. I had got them where I always get them. I put them one by one upon a balance; the weights were right to the fraction of an ounce. I was as much in the dark as ever.

"I was out during the rest of the day, and it was evening before I returned to my room. My ball box was there upon the table, but not where I had left it. I did not give the circumstance a thought at the moment, as what more likely than that one of the servants doing up the room had moved it? The three balls were there all right, too, but still I couldn't keep my thoughts from running on the queer game of morning. Presently I thought I would look in on Hurlbut and see how his ankle was, and have a talk over the match. His room, as I have said, was on the same corridor as mine, and just before I got there, his door opened and somebody came out. It was the same little, keen- looking man, dressed in black, whom I had met on the same spot the day before, and who had asked me if I was Hurlbut, the Indianapolis pitcher. I recollect also seeing him on the ground in the forenoon, conversing earnestly with Hurlbut after the latter had sprained his ankle. He saluted me as he passed. I then went into the room and found my friend stretched upon the lounge, but beaming. "'All right, old man?'" said I.

"'Everything O.K.'" he replied. "'It's all on again with Clara. Day fixed and everything lovely.'"

"'Glad to hear it,'" I returned. "'By the way that was a queer game this morning. Did you notice anything peculiar about the pitching? You were the only fellow that could find the ball. Did you remark anything odd about the ball when you were pitching yourself? I can't help thinking the ball had something to do with it, though for the life of me I don't see how. I brought the balls myself upon the ground—regulation league pattern. I've got three of the box left yet. Hello! what have you been doing?'"

"This last query was excited by seeing upon Hurlbut's table some fragments of white leather, evidently the shells of baseballs ripped open at the seams. He colored as I put the question.

"'Oh, nothing!'" he said. "'Just whittling a little with my knife to kill time.'"

"'That must have been a terrible lick, that last one of yours, when you cracked your bat,'" I went on, as my eye fell upon the ill-fated stick leaning up against the wall in a near corner. 'Let's have a look at it;'" and so saying I got up and brought it over to where we were.

"'Whew! What's this?' was my next exclamation, as I saw one side of the bat had come clean off about a third of its length from the thick end, showing that the wood had been hollowed out for about that distance. 'What kind of a bat do you call that? Where did you get it?'

"Hurlbut colored up more violently than before as he said: "'A new wrinkle I was talked into buying. Not much account, eh?'

"'Some kind of a stuffing in it, I suppose,'" I said, as I turned it over. 'Well, it's permissible as long as it keeps to the standard in size and weight. I don't see where the advantage comes in, though. Seems to me this hollowing business must weaken the wood. It did in your case anyhow. No; there's nothing like the solid old timber, my boy.'

"After a little more talk I went back to my room. I confess I was perplexed. Could there be any connection, I thought, between Hurlbut's hollow bat and the fact that his was the only bat, apparently, that could hit the ball? Could there be any connection between the leather shells upon his table and the mysterious pitching? People don't rip up baseballs for the mere pleasure of whittling. The more I studied over the matter the more I became convinced that there must be some connection of the sort. But it is only within the last day or two that this conviction has approached a certainty.

"Yes, gentlemen," continued the umpire, with emphasis, "I have just come into possession of certain facts which lead me to believe that the mysterious features of the pitching and Hurlbut's exclusive hitting, at the Indianapolis match, can be explained in a reasonable manner and in accordance with natural and scientific law. Two days ago I received a letter from Hurlbut, which followed me out here, and which I will read to you, as it explains much that is obscure. After that eventful match, when he sprained his ankle, he was, of course, incapacitated from going East with us, and since then I heard nothing more of him till I got this letter. This is what he says:


"'Paris, August 19th, 1887.

"Friend Paulson:

'We, that is Mrs. Hurlbut and myself, are here upon our wedding tour. I have said good-bye to baseball forever. That sprained ankle—just two months ago to-day, by-the- bye—was the best thing that ever happened to me. Great match, wasn't it? How that pitching worried you! Never saw anything like it before or since, did you? Do you recollect coming to my room the same night and seeing those ripped-up balls upon the table, and my broken bat in the corner? I'm certain you suspected something then, but I couldn't muster up courage to tell you. Now, however, as I have given up the game forever, I am going to make a clean breast of it, the more so as what I tell you may be of use to you hereafter. Here's how it was. The day before the match, as you may remember, I had a fit of the blues about what Clara had said. Just after you left I had a visitor—a smart, little fellow, who seemed to know my affairs pretty well, though I didn't know him. He told me he was an inventor and was getting up some new electrical fal-de- rals—I forget what he called them—something to do with attraction and repulsion, I think he said—and he wanted to give the matter a good public test. He said he knew that I had been playing out of luck lately; that I seemed a nice young fellow, and all that; and if he thought he could rely on me to keep the thing secret, he might put me in the way of distinguishing myself and regaining my lost laurels on the diamond field. All that I would have to do would be to see that only the balls which he gave me were used in the match with the Pittsburgs. Then he produced a box of balls and a bat from a parcel he brought, gave me one of the balls and asked me to drop it on one side of the bat which he held out in front of him. I did so from a good height, holding the ball so it would fall, as he desired, to one side. To my surprise it fell at an angle, as if attracted by the bat, hitting it square before falling to the ground. This we did two or three times. Then he took a bat of mine and asked me to drop the ball on it. Even at the height of an inch or two it wouldn't fall upon the bat, but always swerved to one side or the other. He then told me he wanted to try how the thing would work in a regular game of baseball, and asked me if I would help him out, by seeing that only his balls were used, and that I was the only player to use his bat. Well, the balls looked all right, so did the bat, and though I knew it wasn't on the square, I thought that no great harm would be done anyway, and that it might help me out of my trouble, and so I determined to risk it. I changed the balls in your box, and changed them again after the match—open confession's good for the soul. The professor, or whoever he was, called on me after the match and took the works out of the bat, likewise the stuffing of the balls, which I had cut open to see what was in them, and which was lying loose upon the table, and packed the whole kit off with him. Now you know all about it—at any rate all that I can tell you. Yours,

'T.J. Hurlbut.'


"There! What do you think of that?" queried Mr. Paulson,, when he had finished reading. "The boy tells a truthful, downright story, and opens up a considerable field for speculation. I don't know much about science myself, least of all about electrical science, but I remember once, when a boy, seeing an experiment which seemingly bears some relation to this baseball mystery. A pith ball was suspended by a thread, and a glass rod which had previously been electrically excited by friction, was held close to the ball. The ball was repelled and forced to keep dodging about in the air to avoid coming in contact with the rod. No amount of finesse could make the rod touch the ball so long as the excitement lasted. Now what stands in the way of applying the principle of the rod and the pith-ball on a somewhat larger scale? Hurlbut speaks about the 'professor,' as he calls him, taking away with him the 'works' of the bat and the 'stuffing' of the balls. Suppose that both bat and ball contained some contrivance or apparatus for generating the two kinds of electricity, positive and negative, on a scale sufficiently powerful to secure the necessary attraction and repulsion I saw exemplified on the baseball ground at Indianapolis. At all events, I think there are reasonable scientific grounds for thinking this explanation correct As for the purity of the motives of the 'professor' who induced young Hurlbut to use his appliances 'just to see whether the thing would work in a regular game,' I have my doubts. I happen to know that large sums of money, running away up into the thousands, changed hands upon that particular match. It looks too much like method in the 'professor' selecting Hurlbut for his ally, the young fellow being at the moment in such a condition of mind as would render him readily accessible to such approaches. All I have got to say is, if any scheming rascals are really trying to run baseball matches to suit their own nefarious ends, by having recourse to methods like these, they had better not try it in any match where I umpire. I shall take good care to examine everything that comes to the ground, to see that neither bats or balls are tampered with in this manner. I should like, in any case, to give publicity to this affair, and if there is any gentleman connected with the press here, I hope he will do so, as it may tend to thwart the designs of the scoundrels who are trying to jockey the noble game, and who would, if they were permitted to do so, very soon reduce baseball to the level of a sure-thing horse-race. There is one thing sure, if it be as I imagine. We can depend that young Hurlbut is not the only player, by a long shot, who has been approached, and we may look out for more of this mysterious pitching and batting in the near future. And that reminds me that in a match the other day—August 27th it was—at Washington, between the Indianapolis and Washingtons, with Healy pitching for the Hoosiers, the Senators couldn't find the ball for a single hit. I wonder if the 'professor' has got to Healy." And with an ominous shake of the head, Mr. Paulson relapsed into meditative silence.


THE END


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