At thirty-three the Whammer still enjoyed exceptional eyesight. 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 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.
This quote is from the "Pre-Game" part of the novel, where the nineteen-year-old Roy strikes out the Whammer, an aging, Babe Ruth-like baseball star. This scene is significant for several reasons. First, it is the first example of Roy's raw talent. He is a "natural" who is able to strike out one of the game's best hitters. But in the novel's mythic scheme, this scene represents the vegetative cycle, a vague group of primeval myths that center around the seasons. Using this myth as a model, Roy symbolizes the new life that appears to replace the older god, last season's god, the Whammer, whose autumn has passed into winter and death. After he strikes out, the Whammer is an old man, rather than a star player at the height of his career.
The passage is also a good example of Malamud's unique writing style. The Whammer perceives Roy's pitch as if in dream: time slows down for the Whammer's last moments as a baseball hero. The moment itself is packed with symbolism, most significantly with birds, which in The Natural almost always represent negative things—loss or sadness, or anger and danger.