"First off I must tell you something about myself, Henry Wiggen, and where I was born and my folks." The opening sentence of the first installment of Harris's majestic quartet of baseball-centered novels may not be as imprinted on the literary consciousness as "Call me Ishmael," but the true aficionados of sporting belles-lettres deemed it, right from its 1953 publication, a quality start. They are the words that introduced both Wiggen, one of the true all-star characters of postwar American fiction, and the story-telling device that is his memoir.
Wiggen, a big, burly lefthander who grew up halfway between New York and Albany, pitches as much with his head as his arm, and he tends to be somewhat out of synch with everyone around him--parents, teammates, coaches, even his girlfriend; no one has a grip on him. The novel traces the arc of his life from the small town where he grew up to his thrashing around the bush leagues to the spotlight that's on him every time he takes the mound for the fabled, fictional New York Mammoths. Through Wiggen, Harris takes the pulse of postwar America; what he finds is sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, sometimes poignant, and always absorbing. Like a good pitch, Harris hurls a classic novel with considerable pace, plenty of movement, and a knack for artfully catching life's corners instead of powering its way obviously right down the pipe. --Jeff Silverman
“Even those whose knowledge of baseball is elemental will find the book worth reading. For let there be no doubt about it, this is a distinguished and unusual book.”—New York Times
(New York Times
“Cheers to Mark Harris, who gives us by far the best ‘serious’ baseball novel published.”—San Francisco Chronicle
(San Francisco Chronicle