Malamud s Incorporation of Actual
Baseball Lore throughout
Baseball is one of the oldest sports in the US. It dates back to Civil War times. Throughout baseball history, many events happen that later become very famous and known. The Natural by Bernard Malamud tells a story about a young striving baseball player, Roy Hobbs, that is trying to become a baseball hero. Malamud revealed after writing the novel that he had no interest in or knowledge of baseball. In preparation for his novel, he read about what was, in 1952, still unquestionably the national pastime. Out of baseball ritual and lore, Malamud distilled the heroic component of the game as a measure of man, similar in nature to Homeric battles, chivalric tournaments, or the Arthurian quest for the Holy Grail. The shooting of Ed Waitkus in 1949 by an emotionally disturbed girl in her Chicago hotel room; Chuck Hostetler s fall between third and home base when he could have won the sixth game of the 1945 world series; and The 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal are some of the events incorporated into the novel be Malamud.
During baseball history, many unfortunate things have happened. For example, Eddie Waitkus, an outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1949, shot in the stomach by a mysterious female fan in her hotel room. This calamitous injury ends his career in 1949. In the novel, a mysterious woman shoots Roy Hobbs as he was trying to catch the bullet in his hand. The woman pulled the trigger the bullet cut a silver line across the water. He sought to catch it, but it eluded him and, to his horror, bounced into his gut. Malamud incorporates this historical event into the novel very well because he shows how Roy Hobbs is good enough to fight back into the majors even after a harmful gun wound.
Many entertaining things have happened during baseball history. For example, a major league baseball player by the name of Chuck Hostetler fell in between third and home base during the 1945 World Series. If he had not have fallen, then he would have won the World Series. This odd episode also happens to Pop Fisher in the novel. Pop Fisher is the aged manager of the New York knights. Fisher also is running home but his legs got tangled under him and he fell flat on his stomach by the time he was up the ball was in the catcher s glove and he ran up the baseline after Pop. Malamud s portrayal of Pop falling in the middle of the baseline is very similar to Chuck Hostetler humiliating ordeal. Malamud binds this piece of baseball history into the novel to give a sense of realness.
The last historical tie-in with real-life baseball and the novel is a very famous line used throughout the US today. After the 1919 Black Sox scandal, a young boy on the street confronts Shoeless Joe Jackson and says, Say it ain t so, Joe. Joe, being one of the greatest baseball players of all time, is caught taking bribes to throw the 1919 World Series. Roy Hobbs, one of baseball s greatest, also is depicted a sell-out by his fans and the newspapers, Suspicion of Hobbs s Sellout-Max Mercy. The major league commissioner says If this alleged report is true, that is the last of Roy Hobbs in organized baseball. He will be excluded from the game and all his records forever destroyed. Much like Shoeless Joe Jackson, the fans turn against Roy for striking out and a young unbelieving boy says, Say it ain t true, Roy. Malamud tries to make Roy look like a traitor to the game similarly how the fans think that Shoeless Joe Jackson is a traitor.
Bernard Malamud shapes the novel to be more realistic by adding the historical events from real baseball. He shows that Roy s baseball career becomes not only representative but also indicative of man s mental and ethical situation. By drawing his material from actual baseball and blending it together with Arthurian legend, Malamud sets the novel in a area that is both real and mythical.