Email this review


Aw-shucks pitcher Henry Wiggen (The Southpaw) returns--after 22 years and one movie appearance (Bang the Drum Slowly). But readers attracted hither by that touching film should be warned that farce predominates in this latest Wiggen, which is again narrated by Henry himself in Harris' cute, not-quite-convincing approximation of how-a-semi-illiterate-writes. (For instance, Henry can spell ""Encyclopedia Britannica"" but he can't spell ""until."") Anyway, Henry's problem here is that, at age 39, he's been dumped by his long-loved team--a special crisis because his youngest daughter Hilary (a foul tot in the care of a blowzy ""phsychiatrist"" Dr. Schiff) won't stop screaming till she sees her daddy play baseball for the first time. So, while avoiding the advances of Dr. Schiff and other females, Henry actively seeks some place to play for--without luck: the Japanese outfit that wants him requires that he live in a wasteland called Oyasumi; a Washington team wants him to coach but not play; and a California team would love to have him, except that the owner is obsessed with ""motivation"" and feels that ""Author"" Henry is too rich to be sufficiently motivated. Fed up with all these dead ends, Henry (who also tells us about his ""prostrate"" troubles in please-don't detail) soon gets employment elsewhere. He makes a slick, idiotic TV ad for ""The President's Committee Focusing on Aging."" And he reluctantly agrees to be one of an unlikely threesome announcing ""Friday Night Baseball""--a festival of inarticulate clumsiness (Henry's bad grammar is a boon here) that inspires hilarious parodies of sports broadcasters and TV mentalities everywhere. Eventually, of course, Henry does get to play, first in an Old Timer's Game (a ruthless no-hitter), and then as a short relief star for that California team. . . till Fate ends his career decisively. Fans of The Southpaw will certainly welcome their hero back, and the (all too sparse) dugout atmosphere is persuasive as ever; but away from the field Henry is a far-from-ideal narrator, and--except for those grotesque broadcasts--this odd blend of arch nonsense, satire, and sentiment hardly manages to get past first base.

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 1979
Publisher: McGraw-Hill