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Bang The Drum Slowly [Secure eReader]
eBook by Mark Harris

eBook Category: Mainstream
eBook Description: The second of four novels that chronicle the career of baseball player Henry W. Wiggen--a set of books many consider the finest novels ever written about baseball--Mark Harris' Bang the Drum Slowly, published in 1956, is a simple and moving testament to the immutable power of friendship. The title page announces that it is "by Henry W. Wiggen / Certain of His Enthusiasms Restrained by Mark Harris," a charming touch that lets the reader know that a genial, conversational first-person voice will tell the story. Wiggen is a gifted pitcher in the major leagues, playing for a team that also includes a mediocre catcher named Bruce Pearson, a slow-talking Georgia boy who tries the patience of most of the team. Pearson has a terrible secret--he has been diagnosed with Hodgkins' disease, which threatens not only his life but a career in baseball he desperately wants to have. When Wiggen finds out about Pearson's illness, the casual acquaintance deepens into a profound friendship. Not only does Wiggen fight heroically to keep Pearson on the team, saving him from being sent down to the minors, the pitcher rallies their teammates to the cause. The miracle is that Pearson is transformed into a better ballplayer, but it is only a brief miracle--too late for man whose time has simply run out. In what could in lesser hands be cloying and sentimental, Harris' Bang the Drum Slowly has a gentle, unassuming dignity in its freewheeling colloquial style, verging at times on stream of conscious. Wiggen is an engaging and decent character, and his observations are lucid and refreshing. The characters are wonderfully realized through, from the drawling Pearson to manager Dutch Schnell and all the members of the team. Perhaps Bang the Drum Slowly is a great sports novel because it is not a sports novel, per se, but a warm and moving human comedy (despite the tragic turn of events) set in the magical world of baseball.

eBook Publisher: RosettaBooks, Published: 2002
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2002




Chapter 1

Me and Holly were laying around in bed around 10 A.M. on a Wednesday morning when the call come. I was slow answering it, thinking first of a comical thing to say, though I suppose it long since stopped handing anybody a laugh except me. I don't know. I laugh at a lot of things nobody ever laughs at except her. "Do not be funny," she said. "Just answer it." But I seen her kind of listening out of the corner of her eye.

"Triborough Bridge," I said.

"I have a collect call for Mr. Henry Wiggen from Rochester, Minnesota," said the operator.

"I do not know a soul there," said I, "and I do not accept collect calls under any circumstances." I used to accept a lot of collect calls until I got wise to myself.

Then behind the operator I heard this voice saying, "Come on, Arthur."

Well, there is only one person in this world that calls me "Arthur," and the first thing I thought when I heard it was I got this picture of him in jail in Rochester, Minnesota. Do not ask me why jail, but that was the picture I got, and I said to Holly, "Bruce is in jail in Minnesota," and she sat up in bed, and I said to the operator, "Tell him this better be important."

"Arthur, Arthur," said he, "you must speak to me," and I said I would.

And then it was like speaking to him always is, where all he can say is this one thing his mind might be on, like he might get up in the morning saying, "I must write a postcard home," and says it while dressing, and says it at breakfast, and says it maybe 3 or 4 times all morning, or he says, "Arthur, I must have $20," and says it again all the way to the park and all the time dressing and drilling, and then might say it in the middle of the ball game when you are trying to keep your mind on what you are doing until you finally give him his 20 and he stops saying it and becomes silent, and he said, "You have got to come and see me."

"What did you do?" I said. I still thought he was in jail.

"You have got to come and see me," he said. "I am in the hospital."

"With what?" I said.

"You have got to come and see me," he said.

"I cannot afford it," I said. "I am up to my ass in tax arrears." This was the statement of a true rat, and you can imagine how it must of sounded to him. But I knew nothing of the circumstances at the time. If he had of hung up on me then and there he would of had a right to do so. Yet who could he of called besides me? There was a silence, and I personally cannot stand silence on long distance, especially if I am not sure how deductible it will be, and I said, "Say something! Do not just stand there!"

"You have got to come and see me," he said.

"All he says is I have got to go and see him," I said.

"What did he do?" she said.

"He is in the hospital," I said.

"Then you have got to go," she said.

"I will come," I said.

* * *

All we threw was one change of clothes in a bag because we naturally had no idea, plus my Arcturus kit, figuring if I done some business along the way we could call the whole trip deductible. "He would not be in Rochester, Minnesota, if it was not serious," she said. "I do not like the look of it."

"He has got North Pole coverage," I said. When I am trying to sell a total policy I say, "This policy covers everything except sunstroke at the North Pole." It is good for a laugh. However, I never wrote such a total policy except the one I sold to Bruce, $50,000, the first I ever sold, and the fastest, selling it to him in 5 minutes flat in the hotel in Boston one night, not even trying to sell it to him but only just tuning my line you might say, the seal not yet even broke on my kit and my license scarcely dry because only that afternoon I polished off this course I took. I took the course bit by bit all that summer, every time we hit Boston. I said, "Leave me point out just a few advantages of protection of this type," and he said, "Arthur, show me where I sign." I did not write another policy for a month. I have sold about 70, all to ballplayers except one to Mr. Jacob Epstein, my former English teacher at Perkinsville High. The reason they call it "Arcturus" is because Arcturus is the nearest star, or else the brightest. I forget which. Maybe both. They told me in the course but I forget.

"Surely his coverage is not all you can think of," she said.

"No," said I, "naturally not," though it was. First you think about money. I used to pee away money like wine until I got wise to myself.

We made a fast stop at the bank, and then she drove me to the depot. "Take care of 600 Dollars," I said, which was what we kept calling him before she was born. She was 3 months pregnant at the time. She said she would, and I kissed her and said I would be back in a couple days. I was not back for 6 months.

Copyright © 1956 by Mark Harris


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