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Old 07-17-2019, 09:48 AM   #46
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Why did the pitching phenom (1) have a special bat and (2) become a hitting phenom for his second chance?
Very Ruthian, isn't it? Ruth still even holds a few pitching records.

While no reason is given, I feel free to speculate that he might have decided to focus on hitting because it would mean playing every day and thus make it easier to pile up those records he was so determined to set.

As for the bat, maybe because he could and because he found the wood? In any case, he'd still have had to hit.
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Old 07-17-2019, 10:23 AM   #47
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What I'm wondering with my cryptic question is why Malamud made the choice to have Roy turn from pitching to hitting during his time in limbo. What does it mean in terms of the story? Why not have him be a hitter from the get-go; the Whammer could have been a hotshot pitcher in their confrontation.
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Old 07-17-2019, 10:31 AM   #48
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What I'm wondering with my cryptic question is why Malamud made the choice to have Roy turn from pitching to hitting during his time in limbo. What does it mean in terms of the story? Why not have him be a hitter from the get-go; the Whammer could have been a hotshot pitcher in their confrontation.
For symmetry? The way it's set up, Roy's final at-bat is a replay of the initial incident with the Whammer, when the aging hitter is struck out by the young pitching phenom.
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Old 07-17-2019, 11:01 AM   #49
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For symmetry? The way it's set up, Roy's final at-bat is a replay of the initial incident with the Whammer, when the aging hitter is struck out by the young pitching phenom.
OK, that makes sense, but it still seems like a drastic change to make just to create symmetry. Even without the pitching/hitting flip, both confrontations are youth vs. age, with youth winning.
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Old 07-17-2019, 12:29 PM   #50
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OK, that makes sense, but it still seems like a drastic change to make just to create symmetry. Even without the pitching/hitting flip, both confrontations are youth vs. age, with youth winning.
I've been thinking about this since you posed your question and I think it works better this way. I'm not familiar with all the jargon that underlies the theory, but I think if this is to be a classic hero's journey, with the hero coming full circle, then the conditions at the end should replicate those at the beginning. Since Roy now must take the place of the aging player in his last test, I think it was necessary for him to have the same final task. And the Babe Ruth reference makes it entirely credible.

Or, as the final line in The Great Gatsby put it:

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So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
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Old 07-17-2019, 12:53 PM   #51
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I've been thinking about this since you posed your question and I think it works better this way. I'm not familiar with all the jargon that underlies the theory, but I think if this is to be a classic hero's journey, with the hero coming full circle, then the conditions at the end should replicate those at the beginning. Since Roy now must take the place of the aging player in his last test, I think it was necessary for him to have the same final task. And the Babe Ruth reference makes it entirely credible.
If so, I wish Malamud had offered some reason for the change from pitching to hitting somewhere along the way. I've always felt a bit disgruntled by it; Roy ought to have some real motivation for the change beyond the author's wanting to make the arc of his story fit into a certain predetermined structure.
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Old 07-17-2019, 12:59 PM   #52
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I am curious how much of this is drawn from the real-life baseball player(s) it was allegedly based on.

I can't find much to confirm or deny whether Malamud used Billy Jurges as a model, but he would have been 18 years old when Jurges, a short stop for the Cubs, was shot by a show-girl. Most people assume the book was based largely on Eddie Waitkus, who was shot by an obsessed fan early on in his career.

Jurges was shot in '32 and Waitkus in '49. Obviously, Waitkus was famous enough to have stalking fans already and Jurges had won the pennant before he was shot by the showgirl. Maybe it was just a incident that fascinated Malamud enough to work them into his story. Of course, Jurges is more interesting to me as an attorney as he refused to testify against his shooter. She was acquitted and he went on to win more pennants.

I find the initial shooting one of the loosest plot points in the book - there seems to be no good reason for it. Roy isn't famous. Granted, it seems he has leered at her quite a bit. But I find the notion that Harriet was obsessed with just shooting the best player to be a bit... thin.
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Old 07-17-2019, 02:46 PM   #53
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I am curious how much of this is drawn from the real-life baseball player(s) it was allegedly based on.

I can't find much to confirm or deny whether Malamud used Billy Jurges as a model, but he would have been 18 years old when Jurges, a short stop for the Cubs, was shot by a show-girl. Most people assume the book was based largely on Eddie Waitkus, who was shot by an obsessed fan early on in his career.

Jurges was shot in '32 and Waitkus in '49. Obviously, Waitkus was famous enough to have stalking fans already and Jurges had won the pennant before he was shot by the showgirl. Maybe it was just a incident that fascinated Malamud enough to work them into his story. Of course, Jurges is more interesting to me as an attorney as he refused to testify against his shooter. She was acquitted and he went on to win more pennants.

I find the initial shooting one of the loosest plot points in the book - there seems to be no good reason for it. Roy isn't famous. Granted, it seems he has leered at her quite a bit. But I find the notion that Harriet was obsessed with just shooting the best player to be a bit... thin.
I had never heard of Billy Jurges till the other day when I was Googling Eddie Waitkus and came across this article.
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Old 07-17-2019, 04:21 PM   #54
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Why did the pitching phenom (1) have a special bat and (2) become a hitting phenom for his second chance?
Ruth started his career as a pitching star before he became a power hitter.
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Old 07-17-2019, 05:30 PM   #55
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Roy must already have been a serious batter at the beginning of the story, as he had Wonderboy with him in the bassoon case. Harriet asked him if he played an instrument.
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Old 07-17-2019, 05:40 PM   #56
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Just for Bookpossum, who couldn't be expected to know:

Ignoring recent travesties, baseball doesn't work on the platoon system. Players play both offense and defense, i.e., a pitcher's got to hit. The Babe Ruth references are because Ruth started out as a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox. But he was also a phenomenal hitter and the crux is that pitchers don't pitch every day, but the other players all play every day. When Ruth was sold to the Yankees, he was changed into a hitter for that reason.
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Old 07-17-2019, 06:04 PM   #57
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Ruth started his career as a pitching star before he became a power hitter.
I know that, but the team deciding Ruth would be more valuable as an everyday player is vastly different from our fictional Roy being a good enough pitcher to get a tryout, then somehow deciding during his fifteen-year hiatus to come back as a hitter. Malamud doesn't offer even a hint of why this happened.
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Old 07-18-2019, 04:05 AM   #58
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Thanks for the explanation issybird, and for the article link Catlady.

On Ash's point about why Harriet shot Roy, I wondered if it was because she had talked to him to see if he had anything other than being good at baseball to recommend him. Then of course you can't expect too much in the way of logic with a homicidal maniac.

While looking again at that early section, I picked up a couple of points I had forgotten, that fit in with earlier things we have discussed.

1. Another bird reference - the first ball that Roy pitches (right term?) from the Whammer's viewpoint:

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He saw the ball spin off Roy's fingertips and it reminded him of a white pigeon he had kept as a boy, that he would send into flight by flipping it into the air. The ball flew at him and he was conscious of its bird-form and the white flapping wings, until it suddenly disappeared from view.
2. Harriet's talk with Roy after he defeated the Whammer is full of classical allusions, and she asks Roy if he had ever read Homer. (Maybe that's issybird's link to Paris and Helen and the Trojan War.) After their talk,

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Roy worried out some other things he might have said but had no confidence to put them into words. He felt curiously deflated and a little lost, as if he had just flunked a test. The worst of it was he still didn't know what she'd been driving at.
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Old 07-18-2019, 06:50 AM   #59
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... he fought his overwhelming self-hatred. In each stinking wave of it he remembered some disgusting happening of his life.

He thought, I never did learn anything out of my past life, now I have to suffer again.
I see just a glimmer of redemption for him in that moment of self-realisation. Sadly it was probably too late for him to be forgiven by Iris for his betrayal of her and of the game.
Poor Roy; he's a slow learner. He did take away something from Iris after all. She said to him during their evening at the lake:

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"We have two lives, Roy, the life we learn with and the lfe we live with after that. Suffering is what brings us toward happiness."
Frankly, I thought that a little ham-handed and overly explicit, but to the extent there's a message in the book, there it is.

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Harriet's talk with Roy after he defeated the Whammer is full of classical allusions, and she asks Roy if he had ever read Homer. (Maybe that's issybird's link to Paris and Helen and the Trojan War.) After their talk,

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Roy worried out some other things he might have said but had no confidence to put them into words. He felt curiously deflated and a little lost, as if he had just flunked a test. The worst of it was he still didn't know what she'd been driving at.
Thanks for picking up the Trojan War reference! And again, this shows that he does learn; he rejected what Iris had to say, but, unlike with Harriet, he understood her.

Quote:
"I had it up to here." He ran a finger across his windpipe.

"Had what?"

"What I suffered--and I don't want any more."

"It teaches us to want the right things."

"All it taught me is to stay away from it. I am sick of all I have suffered."

Last edited by issybird; 07-18-2019 at 06:52 AM.
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Old 07-18-2019, 08:04 AM   #60
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Poor Roy; he's a slow learner. He did take away something from Iris after all. She said to him during their evening at the lake:

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"We have two lives, Roy, the life we learn with and the life we live with after that. Suffering is what brings us toward happiness."
The first sentence is one of my favorite of the book. The second is textbook Greek tragedy, which has been discussed by those more learned than me above. But, again, I see the the fact that Thomas Hardy was the focus of Malamud's study. Take this from The Mayor of Castorbridge:

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“Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.”
A quick JSTOR search on Hardy turns up hundreds of articles on suffering in his work, and if Malamud was mired in that for at least two years to do the thesis it had to work its way into his writing DNA. I guess combining that with the news of the time of baseball players being shot by dames made for one hell of an alchemy.
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