Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Novel notes: "Bang the Drum Slowly," Part 2

John asked a couple great questions earlier, and I thought I'd try to answer one of them in this post: Why is baseball such great fodder for novels?

I think Mark Harris, via Henry Wiggen, offered a pretty good answer for that question in "Bang the Drum Slowly." In this passage, Wiggen was explaining why Bruce Pearson couldn't make it as a baseball player as a slugger only:

He loves hitting. He wishes you could hit and not be bothered with catching, loving to do only the one thing he does best, which in many a sport you can get away with. You can be a block of cement and do only the one thing a block of cement can do and call it "Football," or you can be 7 feet tall and stand around dropping balls in a basket and call it "Basketball," or you can whack a little ball and walk after it and whack it again and walk some more and call it "Golf." But these are not baseball.

(You could argue that the American League's designated hitter rule may have rendered Wiggen's opinion less valid. But has it, really? Guys who can play DH only are not having much of a year. David Ortiz, the best-known and most-beloved DH in the league, is having an awful season. And anyone else who's got the muscle tone to be a professional slugger is under a steroid microscope. Maybe Wiggen was right after all.)

John also asked why many baseball novels focus on players breaking down. "Bang the Drum Slowly" certainly does that, but I'm really looking forward to the conclusion of Harris' baseball series, "It Looked Like For Ever," in which Henry Wiggen himself goes through a physical breakdown.

--Matt Kelsey

No comments:

Post a Comment