The Southpaw

by Mark Harris

Lincoln: Bison Books / U. of Nebraska Press, 1984 (orig. pub. 1953)

[Reviewed with The Celebrant]

The Southpaw by Mark Harris also concerns a star pitcher on a New York team: Henry Wiggen of the NY Mammoths, circa 1952. You might know Henry from Bang the Drum Slowly, the second book in this series, which led to the excellent movie starring Robert DeNiro. Anyway, there was no movie made from The Southpaw, so I didn't know how it would end. The book was good enough that it made me delay finishing it as long as I could. My only criticism is that it's about Henry's rookie season, and he sometimes appears too wise for a 21-year-old.

Without getting too literary on you, these books have a common theme: the conflict between Sportsmanship and the cold hard world. Mathewson remains true to his principles; Henry Wiggen discovers his real loyalties are not to his team or a pennant, but to what he feels inside. For Henry, the "real" baseball is the simple semi-pro game his father played. For Mathewson, it's something mystical and otherworldly, a Holy Grail.

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