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Bang the Drum Slowly (Henry Wiggen #2)

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,119 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews
Henry Wiggen, hero of The Southpaw and the best-known fictional baseball player in America, is back again, throwing a baseball “with his arm and his brain and his memory and his bluff for the sake of his pocket and his family.” More than a novel about baseball, Bang the Drum Slowly is about the friendship and the lives of a group of men as they each learn that a teammate i ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 243 pages
Published December 1st 2003 by Bison Books (first published 1956)
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Moneyball by Michael LewisBall Four by Jim BoutonThe Boys of Summer by Roger KahnShoeless Joe by W.P. KinsellaThe Natural by Bernard Malamud
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31st out of 461 books — 508 voters
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7th out of 92 books — 88 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,912)
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Nov 14, 2014 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I haven’t read a book quite like this in my life, and I’m not likely to again unless it’s another one by Mark Harris. No one else I’ve read writes in anything close to this voice. It’s fantastic.

“But you do miss the noise and the excitement,” he said. “You never pass a ball field without lumping up a little in your throat. Goddam it anyhow, by the time you are old enough to have more sense than power you realize you already pissed away the most exciting days of your life.”

“Do they leave you sw
Mar 10, 2011 J. rated it it was amazing
Bang the Drum Slowly is one of the top 100 baseball novels ever written, and deservedly so.

The narrator of Bang the Drum is Henry Wiggen, ace pitcher for the fictitious New York Mammoths, circa 1955. Wiggen's teammates affectionately refer to him as "Author" because he's written a baseball book. Author chronicles a full year on the circuit, describing games—the wins, the losses, the heroics and the setbacks. He keeps track of Sid's homerun count as Sid endeavors to break Ruth's record for homer
May 13, 2009 cheeseblab rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful novel about baseball and about death, aka TEGWAR, The Exciting Game Without Any Rules. The second and best of Mark Harris's Henry Wiggen books, which the Bison imprint of University of Nebraska Press has brought back into print (though you can still get the paperback containing the three titles from the '50s for < $5 used). The film version, starring a young Robert DeNiro as the "doomded" Bruce Pearson (and also starring a now-dead ballpark in Queens), may be my favorite baseball ...more
Douglas Lord
Mar 22, 2014 Douglas Lord rated it it was amazing
Originally published in 1956, this is frequently cited as the best baseball novel ever, but that’s like saying The Godfather has something to do with the Mafia. BtDS is a study in manhood as exemplified by Henry Wiggen, star left-handed pitcher for the major league New York Mammoths. Twenty-four-years-old and intent on winning the division pennant (there were no wildcard playoffs back then), Wiggen carries himself with the maturity of a professional. He enjoys a good time, is genuinely happy to ...more
Aug 06, 2013 Pam rated it it was ok
I just couldn't get with it. The grammar was something but I don't know what. This was a team in the 1950s so I'm not sure why the narrator spoke the way he did. I must have missed something. I just don't know what the point of the whole story was. The one teammate is dying but we don't even get emotionally involved in that because of the way it is told. I guess I could see that the men were friends as well as teammates but even that was not very interesting.
There were a couple of things that di
Jan 03, 2010 Rick rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, sports
Baseball novels don’t generally work, not even for this baseball fan. I thought The Natural was dreadful, for example. Nor have I read any of Harris’s other baseball novels, though I might now at least try Southpaw. Bang the Drum Slowly is a satisfying novel about friendship, written in the first person voice of Henry Wiggin, ace pitcher of the New York Mammoths. Wiggin is a smart baseball player and sharp-eyed observer of human nature. He gets along with most of his teammates and one, Bruce Pea ...more
Jul 07, 2012 Brayden rated it it was ok
I was disappointed by this book. It's on several lists of the best baseball books ever written, but that praise just makes me doubt the quality of the baseball book genre. My biggest issue with the book is that the characters, including the Henry Wiggen - the narrator and main character - seem hollow and cardboard-like. The parts of the book that were meant to have an emotional impact didn't resonate with me at all. I think part of the problem may be that Harris chose to narrate the book from th ...more
May 02, 2014 Perri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a terrific story that stands the test of time. I loved the voice of the narrator and the language from a common 1950s vernacular. " a-tall, stunk up the joint, this is a dilly, louse it up" And funny- "I love motorcycles," he said. "You are 19," I said, "You will get over it". In a crowded room with the narrator, I bet I could listen in and find him. A touching relationship slowly revealed between the two men and then the teammates . I lucked out to borrow a Library copy from 1989. The page ...more
Carolyn Wada
Jan 25, 2011 Carolyn Wada rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I borrowed it from the library to begin with but then bought it so I can reread it whenever I want. It is mainly about a young man with a terminal illness but it is mostly about living: about getting perspective, understanding and forgiving others, pulling together and being a friend.

The New York Mammoths are now "my favorite baseball team ever" :D. The first person narration was done so well that I know and like the Mammoths players and coaches better than any of the real-li
Elliott Turner
Nov 05, 2014 Elliott Turner rated it liked it
Not life-changing or flashy, but a fun read. A left-handed pitcher near the end of his career finds himself in a tough bind: his best friend on the team has a life threatening disease and only he knows about it. As the season marches on and the team gets closer to the pennant, his friend gets worse until the club eventually finds out.

I really like the colloquial language and first person to second person narrative. The chapters were also neither too long nor too short. The author or "Arthur" ba
Mar 06, 2016 Connie rated it really liked it
I found Harris' writing style a challenge at first, but not for long.

Henry Wiggen is a star professional pitcher for the Mammoths in 1956 and with "folksy charm" tells in first person of life with the team. Life is truly challenging - time on the road away from family; temptations to be unfaithful to his wife; frustrations with the coaching/managing staff; annoyance with individuals on the team; the pressure to perform; the challenge to make enough money. Wiggen's biggest challenge is keeping t
Mar 14, 2008 C.E. rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 19, 2014 Chris rated it it was amazing
The baseball season is just underway. What better time than now to pick up Bang the Drum Slowly? Harris' ball players are just the types you would expect to encounter in a clubhouse. They banter with each other, torment one another, womanizer, gamble and sometimes care about winning. Though because this story takes place in the mid-fifties there is a major difference between the characters and ball players we know today. I'm pretty sure Andy Pettitte never had to sell life insurance to Jorge Pos ...more
Scott  Breslove
Dec 24, 2014 Scott Breslove rated it really liked it
Started off very slow, and I really wasn't into it. Even contemplated not finishing it for a while, but boy, would that have been a mistake! I don't remember exactly where, but it got a lot better, quite quickly. It's a great story about life and death, and friendships with a baseball backdrop, but you need not be a baseball fan to enjoy it, although it probably would help.
Jun 29, 2015 Randal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: baseball
Henry Wiggen is the star pitcher for the New York Mammoths -- a fictional mashup of the Giants, the Yankees and the Dodgers -- in the 1950s. He is also as close to a friend as Bruce Pearson, the third-string catcher, has, on or off the team. Pearson is a man-child, a poor catcher but a good hitter, uneducated as well as dumb, deeply racist and calling from Rochester, Minnesota, where the Mayo Clinic has just diagnosed him with an advanced case of Hodgkin's disease, a fatal cancer.
Harris explores
Clyde Birkholz
Jan 19, 2015 Clyde Birkholz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know of no other book that addresses male relationships with this truth, the meanness men can display towards each other, even when it is to all their advantage to do otherwise. Friendship among women is a common literary theme. Among men or among men and women is seldom addressed.
Deb Oestreicher
Jan 21, 2016 Deb Oestreicher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this classic baseball novel purportedly by a "southpaw" ballplayer for a great New York team called the Mammoths. Emotionally engaging page-turner with a unique narrative voice. Some time I'll dig up the other books in this series.
Robert Palmer
Jan 22, 2014 Robert Palmer rated it it was amazing
This book is a sequel to " The Southpaw"which is mostly about Henry Wiggin.'s first full season with the New York Mammoths , this time around it is for the most part about Bruce Pearson who was a third string catcher in the Southpaw,he was also a third string character. This book is full of home runs,stolen bases,great pitching and locker room antics and a lot raging of teammates. Pearson is the guy that get most of it maybe because he is not the brightest light on the Christmas tree. But baseba ...more
Russell Lawson
Mar 25, 2015 Russell Lawson rated it really liked it
Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark Harris is a fun, realistic, offbeat book about baseball and life. Harris uses baseball as the means by which he deals with the topic of death. The baseball season is like a funeral march for the lead character, Bruce, who has Hodgkin's Disease. An existential portrait of life and death, Harris delves in the philosophy of death by means of course, earthy ball-players. Deep questions--the significance of life, the duration of life, the significance of death, how death ...more
Mar 21, 2013 Andrew rated it it was amazing
I read "Bang the Drum Slowly" about every 10 years for the sound of my parents' language -- though the malaprops will get you. I'm liable to misspell that word as "libel" for the next month. For that reason alone, no one under 18 should read this book. But it's a reminder of what baseball used to be like, with poorly paid players moonlighting during the winter as sales people or factory workers. "Author" Henry Wiggen, who was a rookie when Bob Feller was pitching in his prime for the Cleveland I ...more
Oct 22, 2012 lucas711 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 7th-grade-shelf
At first the way Henry told the story really annoyed me and I thought that I wouldn't be able to get over his way of storytelling and I'd have to abandon the book. However I soon began to enjoy his weird dialogue and the fact that he says "leave" instead of "let" (So like "Leave us go to the park" instead of "Lets go to the park") and by the end of the book it actually felt sort of natural to me. That's what I consider really good writing, when the writing feels natural.
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Sharon Storm
Jun 15, 2012 Sharon Storm rated it really liked it
This book tells a story about a baseball team, its triumphs and challenges during one season, and the friendship of two players, Henry (Author) Wiggen and Bruce Pearson. Bruce is diagnosed with a terminal disease before the season and Henry is the only one on the team who knows. The descriptions of many players on the team could have been taken from today's sports pages, even though this story is set in the 1950s. They drink, gamble, etc., and there is a reference toward the end of the book to " ...more
Pat Padden
I just finished reading this book for our next Classics Book Discussion. Loved it - loved the wonderful vernacular, out-the-side-of-his-mouth delivery of the narrator, southpaw pitcher Henry "Author" Wiggen, loved his relationship with dumb-as-dirt (or is he?) good ol' Georgia boy, catcher Bruce Pearson, loved Henry's wife Holly, and the Mammoth's savvy head coach Dutch, and the owners, Patricia and Old Man Moors (also the manufacturers of the world's worst lemon automobile) - loved the whole fr ...more
Aug 29, 2013 Gina rated it really liked it
PLAY BALL! I know baseball has become, since its invention a century or so ago, a popular topic for novels, poetry, essay, plays and movies. BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY should be read by aficionados of the sport; it is not THE KEYSTONE KID ETC. excellent books for children. I've read them.
BANG THE DRUM is a book of great variety and brilliance. Mark Harris creates a mythical N.Y. Mammoth team in the 50's. We live with two of the characters in particular, and the whole team eventually especially Dutch
Mar 09, 2014 Lynn rated it liked it
This is a short little book about a ball player Henry Wiggens, retired from baseball who hears from a fellow ball player that he has Hodgkins Lymphoma and has been told he will die. Henry reminisces about the baseball circuit and his time with his friend, Dutch. Dutch becomes sicker as time goes on. I am not the biggest baseball fan and wanted to like this book but it didn't touch me as I thought it might. Still their are some passages that are beautifully written. I just wished I like it as a w ...more
May 21, 2012 Chuck rated it liked it
When I finished this book I felt like, "did I miss something?". I took a look to see if there was another chapter. It is about a baseball season that starts just before spring training and goes through the end of the season. There was nearly a game by game discussion and there were many colorful characters, all of which have that 1950"s flavor. You know, drink too much, not in touch with their feelings, settle discussions with their fists, gamble, womanize, etc. The author did, however, succeed ...more
Jul 02, 2013 Sarah rated it liked it
This is a baseball book. I read it because I have a baby, a husband who watched Beavis and Butthead as a teenager, and access to Wikipedia. You are welcome to use your own string to tie those things together.

The book was not actually about baseball. That would have been insufferable. It is about human relationships and how sucky we all are to each other (until we find out one of is dying).

So that was all right. You can skim the baseball bits without losing anything and still have an enjoyable re
Aug 04, 2012 Gregory rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction


Mark Harris' Bang the Drum Slowly is a sad novel, the fictional story of a major league catcher in 1955 named Bruce Pearson who is diagnosed with Hodgkin's and whose life fades out over the course of the season.

The narrator is Henry Wiggen, who protects Pearson. He does what he can to make Pearson's life as pleasant as possible, hiding the illness as long as he can so that the club won't drop him. He details the long, slow baseball season, which seems
Mar 13, 2013 Christopher rated it it was ok
There's a fine story lurking in this novel somewhere, but it's muddied with excessive narrative dialect--a surprise for a late 1950s work. Ignoring that, and looking at the story purely, there is simply too much baseball, mechanical this-then-that telling of baseball feats and happenings, and all the while someone on the team is living with a terminal illness. The story is the terminal illness, but the narrative mostly follows another character with only sparse consideration for that story, infl ...more
Sep 09, 2012 Lance rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book for two reasons. One is that the dialogue and camaraderie between the ball players was realistic right down to their nicknames given to them by teammates such as "Author" and "Canada" The baseball season is realistic as well and of course New York comes out on top.

The friendship between Henry and Bruce is what really makes this story a classic. It doesn't really start off that way since Henry sold insurance to Bruce (back when ballplayers needed a job in the offseason for the e
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Harris was born Mark Harris Finkelstein in Mount Vernon, New York, to Carlyle and Ruth (Klausner) Finkelstein. At the age of 11, he began keeping a diary, which he would maintain for every day of his life thereafter.

After graduating in 1940 from Mount Vernon High School, he dropped his surname because "it was a difficult time for kids with Jewish names to get jobs." He subsequently went to work fo
More about Mark Harris...

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“The sky was just beginning to light up a little, the quiet time when all the air is clean and you can hear birds, even in the middle of New York City, the time of day you never see except by accident, and you always tell yourself, "I must get up and appreciate this time of day once in awhile," and then you never do. Don't ask me why.” 3 likes
“Probably everybody be nice to you if they knew you were dying," he said.
"Everybody knows everybody is dying," I said. "That is why people are nice. You all die soon enough, so why not be nice to each other?”
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