The Untold Story of Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca and the Shot Heard Round the World, by Joshua Prager. My youngest daughter gave this book to me for my last birthday since she thought, correctly, that I must have been around for this game on October 3, 1951. Not only was I around for it, I remember watching it in black and white on a TV set in Bobby Lawlerâ€™s living room with a collection of other guys my age. I also remember praying that the Giants would come back against the hated Dodgers to win this last game of the National League playoff.
While I was then and am to this day, a Braves fanâ€”they being in Boston at the timeâ€”growing up only 90 miles from NYC, I had to adopt one of the clubs there when my Braves werenâ€™t doing wellâ€”a common occurrence in the late â€˜40â€™s and early 50â€™s. Since I was also an ABY fan (Anybody But the Yankees) this meant opting for one of the metropolitan National League team. That team was the Giants. And, as any Giant fan worth his salt knows, if you rooted for the Giants, you hated the Dodgersâ€”unless, of course, they played the Yankees in the World Series, in which case you had to root for a NL team. So, it was that I found myself asking God to allow the Giants to, somehow, come back against those Dodgers. It is one of the few times that my faith has been immediately rewarded.
Therefore, I was excited to get a book that looks, in depth, at one of the events I remember so well from my pastâ€”right up there with my marriage, the birth of my kids, the death of my father, and JFKâ€™s assassination. While I am enjoying the storyâ€”at this point Iâ€™m about half way through itâ€”I am finding the authorâ€™s writing a bit hard to follow.
When one is reading for pleasure, it is nice to be ably to read along without having to stop and ponder what in hell that last sentence means. Try this one: â€œThe gods of baseball had what to work with.â€ Iâ€™m still trying to figure out that sentence, which appeared on p15â€”is there a question mark and/or a â€œthatâ€ missing? Mostly, however, Prager often writes as if heâ€™s doing dialogue for Yoda. Take this sentence: â€œâ€It was the maligned Thomson who won for Durocher his debut, a pinch-single with two out in the eight giving New York a 6- 5 win.â€ Then there is this: â€œOtt was out, thrown a sinecure beside farm director Carl Hubbell in the front office.â€ Now Iâ€™ve a pretty good vocabulary but I had to look up the meaning of â€œsinecureâ€ and, when I did, still am not sure how it was â€œthrownâ€ at Mel Ott.
These are only a couple of examples, there are many others. My overall impression is that either English is a second language for Prager (actually not the case as his parents were from NYC, but then again…) or he needed, and didnâ€™t get, a good editor. At any rate, this writing is a good example of what can be done when one has a word processing computer and, I guess, weâ€™re going to have to get used to it.
Which is too bad, because the story is a good one and Prager has done a lot of research on not only the game itself but the principals and the times surrounding them. Take the information that the Giants had a coach in the clubhouse with a spyglass stealing the catcherâ€™s signs and relaying them to the batterâ€”Thomson may well have known what pitch Branca was sending his way. Not only is this written up, but Prager gives personal background information about those who proposed the spying, supplied the glass, and wired the bell. It is all good stuff and interesting, too bad it isnâ€™t easier to read.
From an historical point, the book is interesting. Just donâ€™t expect to sit down a breeze through it. Frankly, Iâ€™ve found mathematics texts that were easier reading.