Mark Harris, 1922-2007

Author Mark Harris, who passed away this week, is best known for "Bang the Drum Slowly," a moving novel about baseball and dying young. (The equally moving film starred Michael Moriarty and Robert De Niro.) But it was the prequel to "Bang" - "The Southpaw," which introduced readers to pitcher Henry Wiggen (the character played by Moriarty) - that was Harris' baseball masterpiece. Coming on the heels of Bernard Malamud's "The Natural" (1952), "The Southpaw" (1953) helped introduce the national pastime into serious literature.

Here's Daniel Okrent, author of (among many others) "The Ultimate Baseball Book," on Harris's stylings: "Harris's ballplayers are real people, with real concerns and fears, and they are memorable because Harris's ear for the sound of the clubhouse is simply better than anyone else's -- anyone since [Ring] Lardner, that is. ''The Southpaw,'' in which Henry Wiggen dreams of major-league glory and, by George, earns it in his rookie year, is the best of these books; ''Bang the Drum Slowly,'' about the slow death of a third-string catcher, is nearly as good."

June 1, 2007 11:47 AM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor

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