Summary: "Bang the Drum Slowly" by Mark Harris

by Stacy Zogheib

"Bang the Drum Slowly" follows the fictional New York Mammoths.

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The book "Bang the Drum Slowly" was written by Mark Harris and published in 1956. It is the second in a series of four books featuring the main character, Henry Wiggen, a left-handed pitcher for the fictional New York Mammoths baseball team. "Bang the Drum Slowly" is about the relationship between Wiggen and Bruce Pearson, a young catcher for the team.


"Bang the Drum Slowly" follows the relationship between Wiggen and Pearson over the course of a baseball season. Pearson is a Georgia country boy who doesn't fit in with the rest of the Mammoths, while Wiggen is the team's star pitcher. At the beginning of the book, Pearson is diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease, and he takes Wiggen into his confidence while trying to keep his illness a secret from the rest of the team. The secret gets out, and "Bang the Drum Slowly" details how the Mammoths rally around their ill teammate.


The main characters in "Bang the Drum Slowly" are Wiggen and Pearson. Wiggen is the team's star, while Pearson is a third-string catcher. Their lives become intertwined when Pearson asks Wiggen to help him keep his condition a secret. Other smaller characters who play a role in the story include Bruce's young wife, Holly, and Red Traphagen, the team's former catcher.

Enduring Lessons

"Bang the Drum Slowly" is about both baseball and life's larger issues. It shows the day-to-day realities of baseball players in the 1950s, including contract negotiations and what life was like before baseball players signed multimillion-dollar contracts. This book ranked 14th on Sport Illustrated's 2002 list of the top 100 sports books of all time. The book displays both humor and insight, and it has a clear message about valuing and respecting people regardless of their position in life.

Film Adaptation

"Bang the Drum Slowly" was made into a movie in 1973 with the support of Harris, the book's author. The movie stars Michael Moriarty as Henry and Robert De Niro as Bruce. Rather than film a traditional sports movie about a winning season, John Hancock, the director, chooses to focus on the day-to-day life of a baseball team on the road. He explores the personalities of the men who make up the New York Mammoths.

About the Author

Stacy Zogheib's writing has been published in various online publications. She is a teacher and educator with experience teaching first grade, special education and working with children ages 0 to 3. She has a Bachelor of Arts in elementary and special education from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio and a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education from Northern Arizona University.

Photo Credits

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