Friday, February 26, 2010

Mark Harris and the Moriartys - George & Michael: Novels, Baseball, Chicago and God

"You will no more expect the novelist to tell you precisely how something is said than you will expect him to stand by your chair and hold your book". Mark Harris American Novelist 1922-2007

In my Arcturus Calendar for October 7 it says, "De Soto visited Georgia, 1540." This hands me a laugh. Bruce Pearson also visited Georgia. I was his pall-bear, me and 2 fellows from the crate and box plant and some town boys, and that was all. There were flowers from the club, but no person from the club. They could of sent somebody.

He was not a bad fellow, no worse than most and probably better than some, and not a bad ballplayer neither when they give him a chance, when they laid off him long enough. From here on in I rag nobody.
Mark Harris - Bang the Drum Slowly

Mark Harris wrote great novels. I read The Southpaw and Bang the Drum Slowly while I worked nights at Orchestra Hall, which paid for my tuition at Loyola University. I worked - didn't get fired anyway.

I read these books on the recommendation of Dr. William Heibel of the English Department at Loyola. Years later, Dr. Heibel would serve on my Master of Arts Oral Examination panel - he was brutal and a great guy.

Bang the Drum Slowly is a secular parable set in the 1950's - its narrator is a fireball pitcher for the fictitious New York Mammoths by name of Henry Wiggen.

Henry Wiggen is a talented athlete and sharp student of human nature - in the off season Wiggen sells insurance to the natures who inhabit the team clubhouse. One of the more ignorant, sad and lonely members of the Mammoths is the rube catcher Bruce Pearson who would make Shoeless Joe Jackson appear to be Baseball's Noel Coward.

Wiggen and Pearson room together and Wiggen learns that Pearson is dying of cancer.

Wiggen tries to make Pearson enjoy his own talents, gifts and humanity in his last days.

The novel was made into a beautiful film and teamed two wonderful actors Robert DeNiro and Michael Moriarty.

Recently I learned that Moriarty's grandfather, George, had been born and raised in Chicago's Stockyards and was great baseball player.

George Joseph Moriarty

Positions: Third Baseman, First Baseman and Outfielder
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6' 0", Weight: 185 lb.

Born: July 7, 1885 in Chicago, IL (All Transactions)
Debut: September 27, 1903
Teams (by GP): Tigers/Highlanders/WhiteSox/Cubs 1903-1916
Final Game: May 4, 1916
Died: April 8, 1964 in Miami, FL
Buried: St. Mary Cemetery,in Evergreen Park, IL
Relatives: Brother of Bill Moriarty

and more . . .

George Moriarty
Street-tough George Moriarty carved a career in baseball that spanned more than 50 years, as player, coach, manager, umpire, executive, and scout. As a player, Moriarty played with Ty Cobb on the Detroit Tigers, and used his aggresive baserunning to swipe home 11 times. He later succeeded Cobb as manager of the Tigers, after becoming an AL umpire. Moriarty spent two decades as an arbiter before joining the Al office as a public relations official. He later scouted for several teams, until his death in Miami in 1964.
Career Batting Stats
1076 3671 920 372 5 376 248 .251 .312 .303 .616 95.9
Teams George Moriarty Managed
Detroit Tigers (1927-1928)
George Joseph Moriarty was born on July 7, 1885, in Chicago, IL.

April 8, 1964, Miami, FL

Batted: Right
Threw: Right

Major League Debut
9 27,

Nine Other Players Who Debuted in 1903
John Titus
Hans Lobert
Solly Hofman
Lee Tannehill
George Moriarty
Jake Stahl
Three-Finger Brown
Chief Bender
Red Ames

Post-Season Appearances
1909 World Series
Actor Michael Moriarty, known for his roles in the television show Law and Order, and the baseball movie Bang the Drum Slowly, is the grandson of George Moriarty.

Michael Moriarty's grandfather played with Ty Cobb and could be as mean as that iconic sociopath, but retained more humanity and good humor. From Wikipedia:

It is reported that once while Moriarty was umpiring, Babe Ruth, who was at bat, stepped out of the batter's box and asked Moriarty to spell his last name. When he had spelled it out, Ruth reportedly replied, "Just as I thought; only one I." The baseball card shown to the right of this text spells Moriarty's name incorrectly - with "two I's."
Moriarty also was noted for his influence on the life of Tigers first baseman Hank Greenberg. During the 1935 World Series, Moriarty warned several Chicago Cubs players to stop yelling anti-semitic slurs at Greenberg [2]. When the Cubs players persisted with their remarks, Moriarty took the unusual step of clearing the entire Chicago bench - a maneuver that got him fined by then-commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis [3]. Later, when Greenberg was pursuing Babe Ruth's single-season home run record, Moriarty kept the final game of the 1938 season going until darkness made it impossible to continue. Greenberg finished the night two homers shy of Ruth's record [4].
In his biography, Hank Greenberg recalled:
Much later in my career George Moriarty and I became very good friends. Back in the early 1900s he played third base for Detroit, and he used to steal home. Somebody wrote a poem about him, and the title was “Never Die on Third Moriarty.” All through the rest of his life George felt he knew something about stealing home. When he was umpiring on third base . . .

Not only that George Moriarty was a musician and songwriter.

thus -
Despite his combative field persona, off the field Moriarty could be more congenial, maintaining close friendships with Jesuit priests at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. Moriarty also fancied himself a lyricist, and collaborated with Richard A. Whiting on the tune "Love Me Like the Ivy Loves the Old Oak Tree."

A great American Novelist created a character who plays America's past time. A great athlete competes and flourishes in that mileau. His grandson goes on to play the character created by Mark Harris and goes on to become a great American Actor

God seems to know what He's doing.

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