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Also of note, baseball had nearly reached its peak of African American players at a bit over 18 percent. Both novel and film weave together baseball lore and intertwine real baseball incidents with improbable magical realism.Of special interest is a comparison of the bittersweet dream-like ending of the novel, when the hero falters and strikes out, and the heroic ending of the film, as Roy’s pennant-winning home run sets off fireworks, underscored by Randy Newman’s triumphant music.
Rather, it was a game of the people, a sport meant to be played as much as watched.
The major leagues themselves were based on urban competition.
His character, Roy Hobbs, seems doomed to defeat, but for Malamud defeat is always a prelude to self-knowledge.
He undoubtedly saw in baseball a vivid interplay between American culture and the growth of an individual’s values.
The film and novel can be viewed as mirror images, sharing a similar moral vision.
At the time of the film’s release, major league baseball was enjoying growing attendance but it was no longer the national pastime; professional football had surpassed it.But with his first novel, l, he embraced a Midwestern hero, the American pastoral, and a pastime he loved: baseball.To create a truly American story, he used a sport that people loved.In the novel, Roy Hobbs fails his ambition to become “the greatest player ever;” he is accused of throwing the game. A second bolt of lightning destroys his bat “Wonderboy,” and with it Hobbs’s magical powers.In the movie, too, there is a crack of thunder as Hobbs’s bat breaks, but Hobbs asks the batboy to find him another bat and with it, he triumphs.Like other writers and filmmakers, he may have seen in baseball a perfect paradigm for exploring the theme of winning, the corruption of American business values, the “rules of the game,” and the elusive American dream of limitless possibility.Malamud wove together actual dark moments of baseball history with an overlay of the failed Arthurian quest for purity of focus and perfection of skill.Teams took mythic names: “Pirates,” “Braves,” and “Giants,” or names that combined the pastoral and urban like the “Baltimore Orioles,” “St.Louis Cardinals,” or “Chicago Cubs.” It is in this context, with its elaborate national lore of scores and batting averages and American heroes—Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, and Jackie Robinson—that Malamud found a fitting subject for his own meditation on heroism.Malamud himself was an avid baseball fan and a devotee of the Brooklyn Dodgers.He told me that on one of their first dates, he took his wife Ann to a double-header.