In the locker room after a game, Roy sits and wishes he had a home to return to. He longs to be on a train speeding through the night, in which he would throw Wonderboy out the window at the first station. Roy returns to his hotel and faces himself in the mirror, seeing Bump Baily's face before realizing it is his own. Roy's youth is long gone.

A few days later, the Knights go to Chicago for several games. Pop reveals to Roy that he had hired a private detective to watch Roy and keep him out of a trouble, though such measures are "a waste of good money now." As they head to the hotel, a man appears before Roy, telling Roy that his son was hit by a car and is slowly dying. The man promised the boy that Roy would hit a home run for him; the man hopes this will reinvigorate his son's fighting spirit. Roy tells the man he will do what he can.

However, at the game, Roy refuses to use any bat other than Wonderboy, and Pop benches him. Roy notices a dark-haired woman in the stands, wearing a red dress with a white flower pinned to it. At a point late in the game, when the Knights desperately need a hit, Pop tells Roy to take a bat (other than Wonderboy) and go hit. Roy still refuses, but the dark-haired lady stands up in the stands and looks at him. But Pop sends in another hitter.

Finally, when another pinch hitter is needed, Roy decides he will do it without Wonderboy. Pop tells Roy to go ahead and use Wonderboy anyway. Roy gives up two strikes while Wonderboy resembles a "sagging baloney." In the stands, the dark- haired lady stands up again. Roy realizes she is doing so to show her confidence in him. On the last pitch, Roy connects, hitting a home run that wins the game for the Knights and fulfills the boy's wish.

Analysis

Roy here suffers his first and only slump, which seems to be more or less a direct result of his problems with Memo. He is briefly elated after their first date, as disastrous as it is, and he has a good game. But when Memo rebuffs Roy's advances, telling him she is going to see Gus Sands, Roy becomes troubled and his slump begins. Feverishly daydreaming in the locker room, Roy sees himself on a dark train once again, symbolizing his childish desire to return to the womb, to flee back to innocence before Harriet Bird first thwarted his ambition. Roy has no confidence in his abilities, and soon he is overanalyzing everything about his hitting—his stance, his timing, the power of Wonderboy. The super-bat itself becomes a "sagging baloney," is a fairly obvious reference to the bat's phallic symbolism. Roy has been weakened, so his bat does not carry the life-giving powers it did when he knocked the cover off the ball and brought on days of rain.

The episode of the sick boy is taken directly from the life of Babe Ruth. In the well-known story, a sick boy in the stands asked Ruth to hit a home run for him. Ruth pointed out into the stands, calling his hit, and proceeded to smash it in that very direction. Malamud incorporates this story, as well as several others from the life of Ruth and other real-life ballplayers, in the novel. In Roy's case, the home run not only rejuvenates the sick boy, but it also ends Roy's slump. The cause of Roy's own rejuvenation, however, comes from the strange dark-haired lady, later revealed to be a woman named Iris Lemon. In mythological terms, Iris is the vegetative goddess who is the proper mate of Roy's heroic god. She, like Roy, is a force of life and rejuvenation. When she stands up, the stranger next to her feels a "strong sexual urge" for no apparent reason. Roy, when he realizes she is standing to give him confidence, recognizes an "unbelievable fragrance" in the air. Iris Lemon, the flower and fruit, could not be more clearly a symbol of life and fertility; her presence turns Wonderboy from a "sagging baloney" back into a strong, firm weapon.