Analysis

This section recycles some of the events from "Pre-Game" in which Roy struggles against the Whammer. The Whammer, Bump Baily, and Roy are all cut from the same cloth—they are variations on the same basic hero, and each of them is eventually replaced. In the case of the Whammer, the younger man, Roy, defeats the older one. This pattern is altered, however, when young Roy is shot, preventing him from entering big-league baseball and taking his place as the next superstar. When Roy finally makes the Knights, he is already as old as the Whammer was when Roy displaced him. Furthermore, there is already a new Whammer on the team: Bump Baily. As both men are the same age, Roy does not replace or usurp Bump, but merely fills the space Bump leaves behind after he is incapacitated, and later dies. This replacement is emphasized by the physical similarities between the two men, though Roy has a bit more natural skill. Malamud does, however, use Bump's character to provide Memo with a convenient excuse for rebuffing Roy's advances. Were Roy to become the team's big star without Bump ever having played for the Knights, then Memo would cling to Roy as much as she did to Bump. As Memo has an attachment to the departed Bump, her callous behavior toward Roy is more plausible.

In terms of the novel's mythological structure, the most important event in this chapter is Roy's first at-bat. This event is the first time Roy exercises his abilities in the service of Pop Fisher, and the first time we see Roy's power of rejuvenation and life. These powers are part of Roy's role as a fertility hero- god in the mythological context of the novel. This at-bat brings the idea of the vegetative myth to the fore: Roy's hit coincides with an immediate downpour, and the rain continues unabated for three days. The drought ends, and soon the once- parched field is green and grassy once more. The hit ball "plummets like a dead bird" into center field, representing a metaphorical victory over the forces arrayed against Roy. But even as Roy's star begins to rise, particularly after he replaces Bump, his own tragic flaws begin to show: Roy goes after "bad balls," which Pop presciently realizes is a sign of someone who makes bad choices. Just as Roy goes after the wrong pitches, we see later that he also goes after the wrong women—Harriet Bird and Memo, rather than Iris Lemon. But in the case of bad pitches, Roy has a secret weapon—Wonderboy, which allows him to hit those bad pitches anyway. Wonderboy allows Roy, when hitting, to become a creature of pure talent, ignoring the many small decisions that most batters have to make. However, the fact that Roy never trains without Wonderboy is almost certainly naïve; it is not only possible, but likely, that Wonderboy will be gone someday. We sense that Roy needs to know how to hit well without his special bat; Roy, however, never seems to learn this lesson himself). But while Wonderboy can cover bad pitches, Roy has no secret weapon when it comes to women. As Pop suspects, Roy will make a "harmful mistake" by lusting after Memo, which ultimately saps him of his strength.

Aside from the story, it is also important to look at Malamud's language. When Roy hits the cover off the ball, Malamud writes that "a noise like a twenty-one gun salute cracked the sky there was a straining, ripping sound and a few drops of rain spattered to the ground." The immense noise could be simply the crack of the bat or, more likely, the crack of both the bat and a roll of thunder. Much more suggestive is the "straining, ripping sound" and the drops of rain. Wonderboy is a phallic symbol, and language such as "straining" and "ripping" could be as simple as the sound of the cover coming off the ball, but also carries a sexual connotation. Roy's first hit with his weapon of manhood and fertility, Wonderboy, is a kind of ejaculation, an instance of life-giving force that rejuvenates the team and brings down three days of rain.