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The Southpaw Paperback – April 1, 1984


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books (April 1, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803272200
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803272200
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,818,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"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

Review

"As the temperature warmed up in recent days, there was no better way to prepare for the season than to reread Mark Harris’s The Southpaw, one of the finest sports books I know. . . . Harris loves the game itself, and he never loses sight of its value to America." —George Vecsey, The New York Times
(George Vecsey The New York Times )

"Cheers to Mark Harris, who gives us by far the best 'serious’ baseball novel published."—San Francisco Chronicle
(San Francisco Chronicle )

"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 )

"It's greatly to Mr. Harris's credit that he makes his story credible, lends it a good deal of suspense and. . . gets the reader to thinking that Henry Wiggen deserves a fine future in baseball and out."—New York Herald Tribune
(New York Herald Tribune )

"Mr. Harris's novelistic achievement is a considerable one. He has taken a long, serious, and penetrating look at American mores and morals. And he has done this while telling a highly dramatic, colorful, and absorbingly exciting action story."—Saturday Review
(Saturday Review )

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 20 customer reviews
After reading "Bang the drum Slowly" I just had to read "The Southpaw".
Double
This is truly one of the best pieces of baseball fiction ever written, along with Philip Roth's "The Great American Novel", and I didn't want it to end.
Mark Baldi
The story is especially good in having two strong females who are not stereotypical characters.
Anthony Sanchez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By JD Cetola VINE VOICE on February 17, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mark Harris' first installment in the Henry Wiggen series (there are four books total) is one of the finest baseball novels written. "The Southpaw" is the story of left-handed pitching phenom Henry Wiggen and his early career as a professional baseball star.
The novel is told in the form of Henry Wiggen's diary and the writing does take some getting used to as Henry's prose isn't particularly high caliber. It is, however, very real and its simplicity adds to the novel's sense of realism. Henry begins by talking about his father's (also a pitcher) career and then proceeds to discuss (briefly) his own high school career, his brief minor league career, and finally (in much more detail) his first season as a major leaguer.
The novel takes place in the early 1950s and as you read Henry's account you will be transported back in time to when ball players' contracts were in the $1K range and pitchers pitched 16-inning ball games and pitched on two-days rest. It's a great baseball book in that it gives some insight into the art of pitching and being a ballplayer in general, but it's much more than that. And those without an extensive knowledge of the wonderful game of baseball won't be lost or confused in reading it (it's not overly technical). Henry's essentially a young adult (early twenties at the end of the novel) and his growth experiences are listed (by Henry) right alongside his baseball experiences. "The Southpaw" is a fascinating read and provides a nice glimpse into baseball life (and life in general) in early 1950s America.
A great book and highly recommended reading--particularly for fans of baseball.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Larry Carsman on December 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read this book at least once a year when I was growing up in the early 60's. The first few times were for the baseball, but that became less & less important. I insisted my fiance read it before we were married so she could understand "where I was coming from". I'm here(at Amazon.com) now to buy copies for some friends of mine. I wish it was still available in hardcover! I couldn't recommend it more highly.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
The story of Henry Wiggen and the New York Mammoths is one of the most enjoyable novels I have ever read. You will not want this story to end as Henry finds his way from small town to big city and to the big leagues. This simply and beautifully written novel is filled with timeless truths about life and baseball. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mark Baldi on April 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
"The Southpaw" begins the great four book series on the career of New York Mammoth pitcher Henry Wiggen. Full of comedy, memorable characters and all the trials of a rookie in the major leagues. This is truly one of the best pieces of baseball fiction ever written, along with Philip Roth's "The Great American Novel", and I didn't want it to end. If you're a baseball fan you can't go wrong with this hilarious and loving tribute to the game.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 26, 1998
Format: Paperback
The first Henry Wiggen novel is the best of them all. While not as well known as Bang the Drum Slowly, which is its sequel and which certainly deserves the praise it has received, The Southpaw is a wise, touching, and very funny book about a young man's coming of age in post-war America. All of the big themes of American life are here in a short, first person novel written in dialect (so hard to do well, here so effortless) about a young pitcher's journey to the major leagues -- race, class, ambition, envy, fame, friendship, love. All treated deftly, and with good humor. Finally, Henry Wiggen is as fresh and attractive as any character in recent American fiction. Read all of the Wiggen books, but start here.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By N. Defontnouvelle on October 11, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
I am 10 years of age, and I loved this book! The authors style is very unique. If you want a short summary of this book, here it is:

The main character in this book is named Henry Wiggen. He lives with his father and his girlfriend. His father is a Southpaw, and so is he. His father is a very good pitcher, and has taught him a lot about pitching. He signs a contract with the New York Mammoths. He makes 3 good friends in AA, and movesto the big leauges.

In addition to being a very good book, this gives you a lot of info on pitching, like hat pitches are better to use when the wind it blowing this way, or epending on if it is day or night.

I certainly reccomend this book!

Mac
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James Bailey on September 13, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Bang the Drum Slowly" may be better known, and in some places more highly rated, but I enjoyed "The Southpaw" at least as much. Henry Wiggen is one of the most likable characters, even when he gets a little too big for his britches. And he is definitely a character, not far out of Mark Twain's central casting. Maybe things roll a little too easy for him and the Mammoths at times, but you're rooting for them all the way. If you like baseball fiction and haven't read "The Southpaw" yet, you owe it to yourself to order it. I've read it twice and will read it many more times.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Lohrke VINE VOICE on June 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
being a big baseball fan, i'm always on the lookout for baseball literature. it wasn't until recently that i came across 'the southpaw,' but i'm sure glad i did.

in an era where so many authors feel duty-bound to dazzle their readers with their million-dollar vocabularies, clever turns-of-phrase, and over-wrought use of simile and metaphor, and continual one-upmanship, 'the southpaw' is a literal breath of fresh air. it's a lot like 'to kill a mockingbird' in that often the deepest and most meaningful of sentiments are usually expressed simply, thoughtfully, and don't require a lot $10 words to get it across. unfortunately, a lot of today's 'literature' is completely unreadable, a fate 'the southpaw' thankfully avoids.

mark harris is a very seductive writer, in the truest sense of the word. he so effortlessly pulls you into wiggens' world and its colorful (not 'quirky') cast of characters. you sometimes read four or five (or more) pages and not a thing happens to push the plot along, but so engaging is wiggens' voice, so likeable (using '1' instead of 'one' and 'a-tall' instead of 'at all') his guileless character, that you can't help but continue reading and enjoying every second of it.

at its core, 'the southpaw' is a simple story about a pitcher's journey from flame-throwing adolescent to star pitcher for the fictional new york mammoths, but what a journey it is. harris tackles a lot of topics (racism, segregation, economics, fidelity, power and class struggles, etc), and in doing so, elevates it from a simple, nostalgic yarn to a complex literary work simply told. literature need not be depressing and bleak (contrary to what some of my profs told me). 'the southpaw' is a prime example of great literature that doesn't wallow in its own gloom. i loved reading it. if you're a fan of baseball, and even if you're not, this book comes highly recommended.
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