A portion of "Bang the Drum Slowly" is a percussive dirge for Bruce Pearson who didn't get very much of the little he wanted out of life. He died with the '55 season, from Hodgkin's disease. But mainly it's a book about the ball players who will be back next season, not the legends of the sports magazines, but the inarticulate young men who lie about their salaries, idolize cowboys, sing hillbilly music, and guard every cent that comes their way. This is a complete and unusually accurate picture of a baseball team. It is very funny, yet serious. It is sometimes rude, sometimes sad and occasionally wise. It is often poetic….
When it sticks to its characters and the baseball background, "Bang the Drum Slowly" makes wonderful reading—whether one hates baseball or loves it. But the actual pennant race is a persistent intrusion and instead of a first-rate novel, author Mark Harris must be content with a fine baseball novel. If "Bang the Drum Slowly" is not all Mr. Harris hoped, it is awfully funny in parts, and laughter is rare enough on anybody's bookshelf.
Robert Daley, "Henry Was a Southpaw," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1956 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), March 18, 1956, p. 5.