Nineteen-year-old Roy Hobbs , a country bumpkin with a great pitching arm, is on his way to Chicago to try out for the Chicago Cubs. He is on the train with the Cubs' scout, Sam Simpson. While on the train, Roy meets a woman named Harriet Bird, for whom he immediately develops a crush. He also meets a sports journalist, Max Mercy, who is on the train with a famous baseball hitter, the Whammer.
The train stops at a carnival, and Roy and the Whammer both show off their skills at games. Sam bets that Roy can strike out the Whammer, and Roy does. In the process, however, Roy accidentally hurts Sam, who dies later that day from the injury. When they reach Chicago, Harriet invites Roy to her room. After Roy tells her he will be "the greatest in the game," she shoots him.
Fifteen years later, Pop Fisher , the manager of the New York Knights, discovers he has a new "rookie" for his team?a thirty-four-year-old man named Roy Hobbs, whom the team's owner, the stingy Judge Banner, has signed for a paltry $3,000. The Knights are doing very poorly; even their playing field is dried up from a long drought.
Pop is skeptical of Roy. When Roy refuses to join the hypnotist sessions to which Pop subjects the team, Pop benches Roy for three weeks. In the meantime, Roy falls for Pop's niece, Memo Paris, but she is already the girlfriend of the team's star player, Bump Baily. Roy also meets Max Mercy, the sports journalist, again, but Mercy does not recognize him.
Finally, Pop sends Roy into a game one day to pinch-hit. Roy smashes the cover off the ball on his first at-bat, and at the same time a downpour begins that lasts for three days. Soon, the field is green again and Roy is hitting regularly, wowing everyone with his amazing talent. Bump Baily takes offense at Roy's rise, and he tries so hard to outdo Roy that he accidentally cracks his skull against the wall. Bump later dies from his injuries; ultimately, Roy tries to move in on Memo.