Harris, Mark. The Southpaw. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1953
From the very beginning of The Southpaw you know you are in for a treat. Just read the dedication to know why. Then, for further evidence, move on to the “Special Warning To All Readers!!!”
Henry Wiggen is a left handed pitcher reflecting on his career in baseball. Although Henry is obsessed with the game from the very beginning there is a real defining moment when, at sixteen, he replaces his father on the mound during a game against the Clowns. After that, he tries out and is subsequently signed to play for the New York Mammoths. During spring training in Florida Henry learns what its like to be a ballplayer in the big time – competition, women, egos. The only “criticism” I have of the book is that one must love baseball in order to really love The Southpaw. There is a lot of play by play action that can get a little tedious at times.
I’ve read a few reviews where people were bothered by Henry Wiggen’s uneducated manner of speech. It didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I thought it added realism to the character.
As an aside, I was a little bothered that Mark Harris used a C. Marlowe poem (“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”) but doesn’t give credit where credit is due.
Quotes to mention, “I was a terrible kid for flinging things at people” (p 25), and “But throwing a baseball and throwing a hand grenade is 2 different things, and I am at my best with 1 and scared to my toes of the other” (p 37), “That first night I had the regular blues, lonesome as the moon and not a soul to talk to” (p 137),
Reason read: The world series is in October.
Book trivia: The version I read boasted of “punctuation freely inserted and spelling greatly improved.” Whatever that means.
Author fact: According to the back of The Southpaw Harris wanted to be a ballplayer but his stature of only 5’7″ deterred him.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (p 229).