Guide to Baseball Novels: H
- Harbach, Chad. The Art of Fielding. New York: Little, Brown, 2011. Miraculously good shortstop plays college ball at a campus marked by odd characters.
Simply not to my taste (it's slow and plotless), but almost instantly the best-selling and best-regarded baseball novel ever.
- Harris, Mark. Bang the Drum Slowly, by Henry W. Wiggen, Certain of His Enthusiasms Restrained by Mark Harris. New York: Knopf, 1956. Henry Wiggen, ace pitcher of the Mammoths, narrates the story of a championship season that ends in the death of his roommate and catcher Bruce Pearson.
- Harris, Mark. It Looked Like For Ever. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979. The fourth Henry Wiggen novel, in which the aging Henry narrates his premature retirement and his ill-advised comeback.
An intermittently funny comic afterthought to the Wiggen series, this novel depends too much on the melodrama of Henry's sexual irresistibility.
- Harris, Mark. The Southpaw by Henry W. Wiggen. Punctuation Freely Inserted and Spelling Greatly Improved by Mark Harris. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1953. The rookie season of a great young left-handed pitcher for the New York Mammoths, as narrated by himself.
Overlong and full of details that come to seem, in retrospect, only the scaffolding for Bang the Drum Slowly, its greater sequel that constantly refers back to it. The Southpaw establishes the narrating voice of Henry Wiggen and is a considerable novel in its own right, a self-conscious and deliberately literary variation on sport story archetypes. Compare The Team, Frank O'Rourke's 1949 novel, for much of the method and structure of The Southpaw without Harris's verbal gift.
- Harris, Mark. A Ticket for a Seamstitch. Henry W. Wiggen but Polished for the Printer by Mark Harris. New York: Knopf, 1957. A seamstress ("seamstitch") from the West sends Henry Wiggen a fan letter, and works her way cross-country to see the Mammoths play in person.
A rueful and inexpressive story, the most deliberately aestheticist of the Wiggen novels. Though it is a vignette, almost an afterthought to Bang the Drum Slowly, it has considerable power.
- Hays, Donald. The Dixie Association. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984. Repr. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1997. A bank robber is sprung from prison to play one glorious season for a socialist co-op baseball team in Little Rock.
This is a rarity in baseball literature: a team-of-misfits novel that actually develops dozens of deeply observed, keenly written characters. One of the most politically engaged of baseball novels, The Dixie Association develops a broad panorama of race, class, and economics in the South--and includes several Hispanic and Native American characters in key roles without falling back on stereotype. Deserves mention for perhaps the cleverest range of character names in the genre.
- Hemphill, Paul. Long Gone. New York: Viking Press, 1979. On a down-and-out Gulf Coast ballclub in the 1950s, a rookie gains experience and a veteran manager regains some of his lost innocence.
Aggressively raunchy novel features a laugh here and there but ultimately becomes too serious for its own good. Filmed in 1987 for cable TV.
- Herrin, Lamar. The Rio Loja Ringmaster. New York: Viking, 1977. The career of a relief pitcher, told in counterpoint to the story of his sexual tribulations, over a background liberally splashed with Mexican local color.
One has to be very eager to read about the sexual angst of middle-aged men to enjoy this novel. One should note, however, that it is highly regarded in the criticism on baseball fiction.
- Hester, M.L. Another Jackie Robinson. Greensboro, NC: Tudor, 1996. In 1953, a teenage scout for a North Carolina town team douses a white pitching prospect with miracle suntan oil to turn him into the title attraction.
As inoffensive as a novel can hope to be with such a premise, this book is a low-key exercise in Southern dialect humor.
- Hetzel, Dennis, with Rick Robinson. Killing the Curse. Terra Alta, WV: Headline, 2014. As the Cubs drive to the brink of their first championship since 1908, their biggest fan – the President of the United States – finds himself the center of baseball-related intrigue.
- Hetzel, Dennis. Season of Lies. Terra Alta, WV: Headline, 2017. The Cubs try to repeat as World Champions and the President of the United States tries for re-election, in this sequel to Killing the Curse.
- Hiley, Matthew. Baseball Dads. Austin: Greenleaf, 2015. Dad frustrated by youth-baseball politics goes on a raunchy rampage.
- Hill, Russell. The Dog Sox. New York: Caravel [Pleasure Boat], 2011. Man buys his girlfriend a ballclub of misfits.
A familiar idea (though not perhaps the "buys his girlfriend" part): several stock characters are here, including the gnomic old manager, the rough-diamond pitching prospect, the philosophical (and amorous) veteran, the kid ballplayers with more exuberance than brains. But the whole is concisely told, with humor, raunch, self-consciousness, and optimism: a superior use of baseball in fiction.
- Honig, Donald. Last Man Out. New York: Dutton, 1993. A sportswriter investigates the murder of a socialite – because the prime suspect is a rookie with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Whodunit spiced with lots of 1940s New York detail. A "prequel" to The Plot to Kill Jackie Robinson.
See also Honig's juvenile fiction.
- Honig, Donald. The Plot to Kill Jackie Robinson. New York: Dutton, 1992. A crazed young man, brother of a murdered policeman, decides to kill Jackie Robinson; a sportswriter is drawn into preventing the assassination.
Well-observed suspense novel, drawing from Honig's sure sense of the historical period. For more mayhem directed at Robinson, see Parker.
- Hough, John, Jr. The Conduct of the Game. San Diego: Harcourt, 1986. The rise of a young umpire in the 1960s, and the story of his only season in the major leagues.
A good coming-of-age novel, with sharply observed baseball detail; only the novel's ending, with a pile-up of melodramatic incidents, is a flaw here.
- Hudgens, Dallas. Season of Gene. New York: Scribner, 2007. Rec ballplayer becomes embroiled in search for priceless memorabilia.
Hard-boiler of the "wrong-man" school, featuring baseball mostly in the central MacGuffin, a Babe Ruth bat.
- Huston, Charlie. Caught Stealing. New York: Ballantine, 2004. Giants fan follows pennant race while on the run from gangsters.
Good of its type, a stylized and stylish crime novel. See my review at lection. The 2005 sequel Six Bad Things deliberately suppresses possible baseball elements.
- Hutton, Jeff. Perfect Silence. Halcottsville, NY: Breakaway Books, 2000. Confederate veteran flees from a Union prison camp toward a baseball career and the woman of his dreams.