Authors: Matt Christopher
Don shrugged. “We reached the lake, and the car stopped. It wouldn’t start again. I wanted to call home, but I couldn’t find
a telephone. I’m awful sorry, Aunt Josie. I guess I should’ve had Paul tell you.”
Mrs. Karoski said happily, “That’s all right. As long as I have my boy back. Next time I
think he’d better tell his mother.” She kissed Paul’s forehead, then held his face between her hands.
“Hungry?” she asked.
“You should be.” Mrs. Karoski motioned to Don. “Come inside and bring your friend. There is food for all of you.” She paused.
“Where is your car now?”
“At the lake. Thanks for asking us to eat, Aunt Josie. But I’m going to see Mom a minute, then get a mechanic to look at my
“All right. I hope it’s not too expensive to fix.”
Don climbed back into the gray car. The young man behind the wheel shifted into gear and they drove off.
Jimmie looked toward the house. Mrs. Karoski was walking in with Paul.
“Hey, Paul!” Jimmie cried. “Just a minute!”
Paul and his mother turned around at the same time. An apologetic look came over Mrs. Karoski’s face. “I’m so sorry!” she
said. “I forgot you, Jimmie! Come on in!”
“No, thanks, Mrs. Karoski. I just want to ask Paul something.” He looked at Paul. “If you want to pitch for the Planets, you
For a second Paul looked him straight in the eye. “I’m pitching for the Red Rockets,” he said sharply, and walked into the
immie went home. He felt as if he had lost something.
Ervie was playing with his toys in the backyard. “Did somebody find Paul?” he asked.
“Yes,” Jimmie said quietly. “He just got home.”
“Did you see him?”
“Yes. He doesn’t want to play with us. He’s going to stay with the Rockets.”
He could hardly say those last words.
“Play with me, will you, Jimmie?” Ervie pleaded.
“Okay. I’ll play with you.” Anything, Jimmie thought, to forget about Paul.
Ervie had his trucks and steam shovel out. Jimmie operated the steam shovel. He loaded the bucket with sand from a little
sand pile, then dumped it into a truck. Ervie pushed the truck across the lawn and dumped it where he had made a road.
Pretty soon Jimmie heard footsteps in the alley. He looked over his shoulder.
“Hi, Mose!” He smiled. “Bring your glove?”
“No.” Mose paused in the driveway. “Somebody wants to see you out here, Jimmie.”
Jimmie stepped to the edge of the grass. “Who?” he said.
Mose didn’t tell him. “Come on,” he said. “He’s out front.”
Jimmie ran to find out who wanted to see him. He heard Ervie running behind him.
At the end of the alley stood Johnny Lukon, Wishy Walters, Billy Hutt, and a couple of other members of the Planets.
In front of them stood—Paul Karoski!
“Hi, Jimmie.” Paul smiled.
“Hi, Paul!” Jimmie stared. He could hardly believe his eyes. It seemed a year since Paul had spoken a word to him. A year
since Paul had been to see him about anything. “Did—did you want to see me, Paul?”
Paul nodded. “I’ve changed my mind. I would like to pitch for the Planets,” he said.
Jimmie took his hand. “Oh, Paul, I’m so glad! Did you tell all the boys? Is it all right with them?”
“Sure, it’s all right,” said Wishy. “When I went to see Paul, he told me you were there and asked him. I tried to tell him
to come back, too, but he wouldn’t listen. So then I
brought these guys to his house and we all talked to him.”
Jimmie noticed that Ervie was standing beside him, listening to every word, too.
“Paul said the team didn’t need two pitchers,” Wishy went on. “You wanted to pitch and he wanted to pitch, so when the Red
Rockets asked him, he said yes. He felt bad not pitching with us, especially when we lost those games. But he didn’t want
to tell you—you said you could pitch, and it would look as if he thought you couldn’t.”
Jimmie choked back an ache in his throat. A chubby hand slipped into his. He gripped it tightly. He was glad Ervie was here.
Ervie always made him feel funny when he’d tell a fib to somebody, but at a time like this, Ervie was like a strong pillar
he could lean on.
“I know,” Jimmie said. “I thought I could pitch. I didn’t care what anybody else
thought. Johnny tried to tell me. Alan tried to. Even my brother Ervie here tried to. But I wouldn’t listen.” He took a deep
breath. “I had to find out for myself. I’ll never make a pitcher, Paul. Never. I’m glad you came back.”
“I knew he’d come back,” Ervie said, his blue eyes sparkling. “I knew it all the time!”
The boys laughed.
“I’d better call up Mr. Nichols,” said Jimmie. “Our first game is Thursday, and the names have to be in before then.”
“Better call up Steve Beeler, too. He’s the Red Rockets’ manager,” said Johnny Lukon. “Paul’s name can’t be on two rosters,
or he won’t be able to play on either team!”
“That’s right!” said Jimmie.
He ran into the house. He telephoned Mr. Nichols and asked him to put Paul Karoski’s
name on the roster. Mr. Nichols sounded very happy to hear that Paul had changed his mind.
Then Jimmie hesitated. Maybe it would be better if Mr. Nichols telephoned Steve Beeler, he thought.
Jimmie asked him.
“Yes,” said Mr. Nichols. “I will do that, Jimmie!”
“Do you think he will mind, Mr. Nichols?”
“You mean about releasing Paul if he has his name on the list?”
“I don’t think so. I’ll call him. Stay by your phone. I’ll let you know as soon as I talk with him.”
“Okay, Mr. Nichols.”
Jimmie hung up. He sat by the phone, his heart hammering in his chest. If Mr. Beeler would not release Paul, then his hopes
would disappear like smoke. The Planets would finish the season in last place.
The phone rang. He picked it up.
“Jimmie? Mr. Nichols again. It’s all settled. Paul is now officially a member of the Planets.”
aul stretched, looked over his shoulder at the man on first, then threw. The ball sped toward the plate. The batter swung.
A hot grounder sizzled across the grass toward short.
Jimmie charged it. He caught the ball on a hop, threw it to second. Kippy caught it, touched the bag, then whipped it to first.
A double play!
“Thataway to play that ball, Jimmie! Way to go, Jimmie!”
Jimmie grinned as the ball sailed around
the horn. He hadn’t had so much fun since last year. This was the position for him. He didn’t have to throw the ball over
the heart of the bag all the time, either. Johnny Lukon’s long arms and legs helped him stretch out far enough to catch almost
any ball Jimmie threw to him.
It was the first Grasshoppers League game. The Planets were playing the Mohawks. It was the fourth inning and the Planets
were leading, 6 to 3. Jimmie remembered the game that the Mohawks had won, 14 to 4. Boy! What a difference it made with Paul
on the mound!
Paul liked it with the Planets, too. You could see he was happy the way he stood on the mound, the way he pitched, the way
he praised the guys when they hit.
The Mohawks came to bat in the fifth inning. It was their last raps. Their last chance to beat the Planets.
Paul wound up, threw.
The ball bounded down short. Jimmie waited for the hop, came up with his glove. But the ball wasn’t in it!
His heart sank. He looked behind him. The ball had gone through his legs to the outfield!
A groan lifted from the crowd.
Billy Hutt threw the ball in. Jimmie caught it, glanced at the runner on first, then carried the ball halfway to Paul.
“I’m sorry, Paul,” he said, as he tossed it to the left-hander. “I should have had that.”
Paul grinned. “Get the next one,” he said.
The next batter bunted. The Planets were caught by surprise. Nobody had expected a bunt. The whole infield was playing deep.
Everybody was safe.
“Come on, Paul! Come on, kid! Get ’em out of there!” The chatter began.
Men were on first and second. There were
no outs. Paul toed the rubber, looked at the runners, then pitched.
The crowd grew tense. Why did I have to miss that ball? thought Jimmie. This would never have happened.
Paul pitched. A line drive to short! Jimmie caught it. He tagged the first runner before the player could get back to second.
“Out!” shrilled the umpire.
Then Jimmie whipped the ball to first to get the second runner before he could tag up. It was close!
The umpire’s hands flattened out. “Safe!” he shouted.
Paul struck the next man out.
A loud, air-splitting roar burst from the grandstand. Jimmie ran in toward the mound where Paul was waiting for him, a big
happy smile on his face.
“Thataboy, Jimmie! You saved me on that play! That was neat!”
Jimmie was so happy he could shout. Nothing better could have happened to him than making that double play.
The other players came and patted them on the back.
“Nice pitching, Paul!”
“I guess we have the team now, don’t we!”
A slow smile spread over Jimmie’s face.
Winning the game was all right, he thought. But even more important was having Paul back on the team. And as his friend.
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