February 4, 2009
The Whammer and three pitches
This is the winter of our discontent. Quite frankly I am sick of the cold, sick of the bleak landscape, sick of huddling in my house to escape the wind and the chill. I would be surprised if you didn't feel the same way.
So, I've decided to read a book about baseball. What better way to think about summer and warmer times than to read about baseball? And not just any book about baseball, thanks to a suggestion from Freealonzo, I am reading The Natural by Bernard Malamud.
Originally published in 1952, the The Natural is a relatively short book that would later be turned into a movie of the same name starring Robert Redford. Again, I'd be surprised if you haven't seen it.
Do you remember the scene in the beginning of the movie where the young Roy Hobbs strikes out the Ruthian character of the Whammer? Here is how the author describes the three pitches of that epic duel:
"Roy stretched loosely, rocked back on his left leg, twirling the right a little like a dancer, then strode forward and threw with such force his knuckles all but scraped the ground on the follow-through.
A thirty-three the Whammer still enjoyed exceptional eye-sight. 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 white flapping wings, until it suddenly disappeared from view. He heard a noise like the bang of a firecracker at his feet and Sam had the ball in his mitt. Unable to believe his ears he heard Mercy intone a reluctant strike."
Beautiful, no? Very descriptive and it allows the reader to imagine and visualize with great detail what this pitch looked like to the Whammer. Here is the second pitch:
"Roy pumped, reared and flung.
The ball appeared to the batter to be a slow spinning planet looming toward the earth. For a long light-year he waited for this globe to whirl into the orbit of his swing so he could bust it to smithereens that would settle with dust and dead leaves into some distant cosmos. At last the unseeing eye, maybe a fortuneteller's lit crystal ball -- anyway, a curious combination of circles -- drifted within range of his weapon, or so he thought, because he lunged at it ferociously, twisting round like a top. He landed on both knees as the world floated by over his head and hit with a whup into the cave of Sam's glove."
The Whammer's determination to really crush the ball comes out in this passage. I must admit I feel this way every time I go to hit a golf ball. Now the third pitch:
"The third ball slithered at the batter like a meteor, the flame swallowing itself. He lifted his club to crush it into a universe of sparks but the heavy wood dragged, and though he willed to destroy the sound, he heard a gong bong and realized with sadness that the ball he had expected to hit had long since been part of the past; and though Max could not cough the fatal word out of his throat, the Whammer understood he was, in the truest sense of it, out."
In this passage, the Whammer again wants to crush the ball but his confidence is gone, and he is almost resigned to his fate of whiffing again.
Planets and meteors and pigeons. Some interesting ways to describe three pitches. Reading this yesterday ... it almost felt like it was summer.