The novel then cuts to a dining car where Hobbs and other Knights players are playing pranks on Red Blow, Pop, and their teammates. The Knights, led by Hobbs, are celebrating a string of victories, and Hobbs is hungry for more—quite literally, since he is eating an enormous amount of food each day. Hobbs wonders whether to open the letter from Iris he has been carrying around. He feels that he cannot be with her, since he is too young to be a grandfather himself, and his thoughts begin to return to Memo, who turns up in his hotel in Boston the next day; she seems to have changed since he last saw her. Though he feels uncertain about Memo’s trustworthiness, Hobbs still desires her, but she continues to insist that she is too unwell to have sex with him.
By choosing Memo, Hobbs rejects the stable path he might have known with Iris, who has the ability to redeem him (by helping him to overcome the traumas of his past): Hobbs’s own misogynistic feelings toward Iris, whom he views as less desirable than Memo—despite her preferable personality traits—lead him toward ruin, since Memo will continue to prove untrustworthy.
In the meantime, the Knights have worked their way back up the pennant after Hobbs’s slump, and when they return home for a game against the Reds, their fans crowd the stadium. The city is whipped up into a frenzy over their hometown heroes, though Hobbs feels unenthusiastic about the fans, remembering that they turned against him violently during his slump. Hobbs becomes a more aggressive hitter and outfielder, hunting each ball and hit, and the press extols his talents—except for Mercy, who continues to try to discover details about Hobbs’s past. Mercy finds an image of Hobbs dressed as a sideshow clown, but few readers believe that the clown is Hobbs. Hobbs is late for dinner plans with Pop, Red, and Max, but when Max gets into a fight with the waiter, he turns out to be Hobbs in disguise, playing yet another prank.
Hobbs begins to feel more uncertain about himself than ever, despite his talents on the field: Mercy, intent on uncovering his past, portrays him as a clown in the press. The brief episode in which Hobbs disguises himself as a waiter to fool Pop, Red, and Mercy suggests that Hobbs has become a master of disguise: he is adept at hiding his past identity, though the pressure of maintaining this façade will prove more and more challenging as the novel proceeds.
That same night, Hobbs goes to find Memo in her room; Gus is with her, making Hobbs feel uncomfortable about their relationship. Roy, Memo, and Gus shoot crap, and Roy ends up winning; Gus and Hobbs spar verbally, though Hobbs is pacified when Memo kisses him.
Determined to pursue Memo, Hobbs continues to fall deeper and deeper into a dissolute lifestyle, encouraged by the gambler Sands.
The Reds defeat the Knights, prompting Knights fans to speculate that they will lose the pennant altogether. Yet the Knights defeat the Pirates—a favored team—in an initial game and take two more wins thereafter. Hobbs is losing energy, but he continues to hit well; eventually, the Knights end up in a favorable position, poised to enter the final stage of the pennant for the World Series. At the same time, Hobbs is still yearning for Memo, imagining the life they might have together as husband and wife, though he knows that Memo is not domestic—and that Iris would be more suitable as a wife.
Hobbs is barely hanging on to his success, since he is distracted by his obsession with Memo. He realizes that Memo is a poor fit for his domestic desires, especially compared to Iris, but he cannot bring himself to stop pursuing her, even as he seems to realize that he is being led down the wrong path.
Memo comes over to Hobbs’s room to celebrate his recent wins, then invites him to a party for the Knights in her room (thrown without Pop’s permission). Hobbs eats the catered food greedily, and his desire for Memo (with whom he has still not had sex) increases. Memo asks Hobbs about his mother, and he admits that he didn’t love her, since she didn’t love anybody, not even her own son; he contemplates Iris’s letter again, but pushes her out of his mind by thinking that “fat girls write fat letters.” Red urges Hobbs, who continues to eat and drink heavily, to take care of himself. Hobbs goes to Memo’s room and finds her naked in bed, but as he approaches her, he experiences a sharp pain and collapses suddenly, feeling as if he has been sucked into a toilet.
Hobbs collapses just as he is about to consummate his relationship with Memo—mirroring his collapse earlier in the novel at the hands of Harriet Bird, with whom he seemed poised to have sex, too. Again, Malamud draws a parallel between Memo and Harriet, suggesting that Memo, like Harriet, will lead to Hobbs’s downfall, and reveals more details about Hobbs’s problematic relationship with women, including his mother and Iris.