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Authors: Mark Harris

Bang The Drum Slowly

Bang the Drum Slowly

Mark Harris

Copyright

Bang the Drum Slowly
Copyright © 1956 by Mark Harris
Cover art and e-Foreword to the electronic edition copyright © 2000 by RosettaBooks, LLC

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Electronic editions published 2000, 2011 by RosettaBooks LLC,
New York.

ISBN e-Pub edition: 9780795311635

For Jo again as usual

WHILE WRITING THIS BOOK I ALSO KEPT THINKING ABOUT
RUSSELL REGAN BRACKETT,
BORN 1925, DEAD 1954. EVERYBODY CALLED HIM ONLY “REGAN.”

SPECIAL SOUVENIR SCORECARD

NUMBERS AND POSITIONS OF ALL THE PLAYERS
(AT BOSTON, OPENING DAY, APRIL 12, 1955
)

NUMBER
 
POSITION
2
           
GEORGE GONZALEZ
3RD BASE
42
           
PERRY SIMPSON
2ND BASE
5
           
PASQUALE CARUCCI
RIGHT FIELD
4
           
SID GOLDMAN
1ST BASE
3
           
“CANADA” SMITH
CENTER FIELD
6
           
VINCENT CARUCCI
LEFT FIELD
7
           
“COKER” ROGUSKI
SHORTSTOP
18
           
JONAH BROOKS
CATCHER
44
           
“AUTHOR” WIGGEN
PITCHER
1
           
“UGLY” JONES (CAPT.)
SHORTSTOP
12
           
WILLIS TYLER
INFIELD
14
           
“WASH” WASHBURN
INFIELD
15
           
HARRY GLEE
OUTFIELD
19
           
“LAWYER” LONGABUGCO
OUTFIELD
20
           
REED McGONIGLE
OUTFIELD
9
           
“GOOSE” WILLIAMS
CATCHER
10
           
BRUCE PEARSON
CATCHER
16
           
“BLONDIE” BIGGS
PITCHER
17
           
JAMES VAN GUNDY
PITCHER
21
           
HORSE” BYRD
PITCHER
22
           
JACK STERLING
PITCHER
23
           
GIL WILLOWBROOK
PITCHER
24
           
HERB MACY
PITCHER
45
           
LINDON BURKE
PITCHER
46
           
F. D. R. CASELLI
PITCHER
48
           
KEITH CRANE
PITCHER
36
           
CLINT STRAP
COACH
37
           
JOE JAROS
COACH
38
           
“EGG” BARNARD
COACH
39
           
“DUTCH” SCHNELL
MGR
.
eForeword

A simple story of friendship is at the heart of Mark Harris’
Bang the Drum Slowly
, perhaps the most affecting of the author’s four novels dealing with the (fictional) baseball career of a decent man and a gifted pitcher named Henry W. Wiggen. Wiggen’s golden-boy ride in the majors detours in his friendship with a stubborn Georgia boy named Bruce Pearson, a so-so catcher who does not have many friends. Wiggen befriends him, only to learn that Pearson is harboring the secret that he is dying of Hodgkins’ disease. In a magnificent display of affection and pride, Wiggen fights to keep Pearson in the game, rallying their teammates and even inspiring the catcher to playing better. Though Wiggen cannot stop the clock for Pearson, the profound friendship they have developed transforms both men.

Novelist Mark Harris (b.1922) is best known for his Henry Wiggen novels, all written in a disarming vernacular, as if Wiggen himself were dictating the text. In addition to
Bang the Drum Slowly
(1956) — Harris also wrote the screenplay for the novel’s 1973 film adaptation, starring Michael Moriarty as Wiggen, with Robert DeNiro as Pearson — they include
The Southpaw
(1952),
A Ticket for a Seamstitch
(1957) and
It Looked Like For Ever
(1 970). Harris is also the author of novels about military experience
(Trumpet to the World, Something About a Soldier)
and life in academia
(Wake Up Stupid, The Goy, Killing Everbody, Lying in Bed)
. In 1980, he wrote a unique biography of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Saul Bellow entitled
Saul Bellow, Drumlin Woodchuck
. Mark Harris has taught on the university level throughout his writing career and is presently a Professor of English at Arizona State University.

RosettaBooks is the leading publisher dedicated exclusively to electronic editions of great works of fiction and non-fiction that reflect our world. RosettaBooks is a committed e-publisher, maximizing the

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.

I flew through a snowstorm from Albany to Chicago, the stewardess going up and down the isle smiling with her big white teeth and singing, “Tra-la, this is nothing but a snowstorm.” She said we were over it, but it looked to me like we were
in
it. It got very dark inside the plane, and I started getting these flash pictures of the whole goddam machine coming to a dead stop 30,000 feet over Indiana or somewhere, and the stewardess said to me, “Are you
the
Henry Wiggen?”

I said I was. It made me feel pretty good, for it been some time since anybody asked me that in just that way, not selling me anything, only asking. In the summer of 52 I was the toast of New York, but 2 years later I couldn’t of got a traffic ticket squashed. She said, “I bought a copy of your book at the American airport in Cairo, Egypt.” She had very big white teeth and quite a lovely smile and all, and right away my X-ray eye started seeing through her uniform and down to the girl herself. You know how you do. One minute you are picturing yourself dead in Indiana and the next minute a girl glides in view and gives you a smile and a little thing like a snowstorm at 30,000 feet don’t seem to make much of an impression any more.

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