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Pafko at the Wall

4.16  ·  Rating Details  ·  780 Ratings  ·  149 Reviews

"There's a long drive.

It's gonna be.

I believe.

The Giants win the pennant.

The Giants win the pennant.

The Giants win the pennant.

The Giants win the pennant."

-- Russ Hodges, October 3, 1951

On the fiftieth anniversary of "The Shot Heard Round the World," Don DeLillo reassembles in fiction the larger-than-life characters who on October 3, 1951, witnessed Bobby

Hardcover, 96 pages
Published June 30th 2008 by Scribner (first published October 9th 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,404)
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Andrew Smith
Jul 09, 2015 Andrew Smith rated it liked it
I’ve read a couple of DeLillo novels and found them barely penetrable. There’s something about the way he strings sentences together that confuses me. Each sentence seems perfectly formed, but when he links them together he just seems to lose me. It took me three attempts to read Falling Man and when I finally did finish it I’m not sure I got it at all.

i may not be a huge fan of DeLillo's work but I am a sports fan. A big sports fan. I love accounts of epic sporting events and this novella promi
Jan 06, 2010 Jim rated it it was amazing
In what is essentially the prologue to Underworld that ran in Harper's in slightly different form, Pafko at the Wall describes the events of October 3, 1951, when the Giants came from behind to beat the Dodgers on Bobby Thomson's walk-off home run. This happened way before my time, but I remember hearing Russ Hodges's famous "The Giants win the pennant!" on reruns of MASH and various sports broadcasts and I had a friend named Bobby Thompson when I was kid. So it's an event that kinda sorta feels ...more
Jul 19, 2014 Jeremy rated it did not like it
Shelves: american-fiction
I found this insufferable for the same reason I find most Delillo insufferable, his language is just too incantatory and too bloatedly self-important to really take seriously. He wants to attach profundity and portentousness to everything in sight. Baseball, Nuclear War, J Edgar Hoover, Peter Brughel, Frank Sinatra... everything becomes a part of this giant, humorously ritualized mythos, which would be fine, but unfortunately fiction needs to have more to it than the atmosphere of a catholic mas ...more
Apr 29, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing
Yesterday, Jonathan Schwarz was talking about how New York hasn't been the same since the Dodgers and Giants left. I didn't live here back then, but he claims it was perfect, so I'll have to to take his word for it. Anyway, I think that's something DeLillo is trying to get at with this story, a fictionalized account of the 1951 playoff between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. Seven years after this game, both the Giants and the Dodgers would leave for California; the Polo Grounds an ...more
Angus McKeogh
Aug 01, 2015 Angus McKeogh rated it liked it
An interesting piece on historical events tied together in a small space of time.
Jan 12, 2011 Edie rated it really liked it
DeLillo begins his novella with the line, "He speaks in your voice, American." Throughout the course of this sleek, condensed narrative, the author challenges his readers to examine the American voice. The mythology of baseball explodes in a crescendo of refuse, all the while underscored by the destructive power of atomic energy. DeLillo examines the reality of historical events, making us wonder if our emotions are the result of nothing more than good narration. It may be hard to find this book ...more
Jun 27, 2011 Amy rated it it was amazing
Yes, yes, I know this is the prologue to Underworld, but since I've heard so much about the prologue itself, I've decided this will be my first foray into DeLillo.

ETA: I come to find that this is not the *original* version of Pafko at the Wall (published in Harper's in 1971); rather, it's the version that appeared as the prologue of Underworld.

It costs $16.00 and some change to subscribe to Harper's for a year; I may do it, just so I can read the archived pages at their website - because that's
Sep 04, 2007 Matt rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: baseball fans/cold war nuts
This story -- the opening chapter of "Underworld"-- is a dizzying collage of Cold War Americana that plays out against the backdrop of the famous Giants-Dodgers playoff of 1951. (Think "The Shot Heard 'Round The World.") As the game is played, Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason and J. Edgar Hoover share a field box, a young black kid from Harlem named Cotter Martin jumps the turnstiles and eventually gets his hand on the famous ball, and the Soviets get ready to test a nuclear weapon. Intense is an u ...more
Aneel Kang
Apr 30, 2015 Aneel Kang rated it liked it
Why do we care about the Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather fight on May 2?

I think that we care so much about the fight not so much because we love boxing, but because of the sense of community that it brings. Anticipation is something that love and getting ready to screen the event with friends brings us joy. Also, there is a sense of peer pressure that comes along with sports. We will watch some sporting events that we would not watch on our own, but we do because someone we know is. The medi
Apr 29, 2015 Dmintz16 rated it really liked it
Pafko at the Wall is not about baseball. Instead, it is about the wonders and hysteria of humanity. It puts a human pattern on display: people gather to watch something. Within that something, someone wins and someone loses. Mystery fills the air, and there is no certainty of anything. People show passion toward something that is unclear, and their passion grows stronger near the end of the event. Humans tend to have associations with larger groups, but they don't know why. This trait causes fig ...more
Michael Scheinert
Apr 29, 2015 Michael Scheinert rated it liked it
While many may contest that Pafko at the Wall is a novella centered around the phenomenon about America's Pastime, baseball, it's focal point lies way beneath a phenomenal play or a pennant-clinching home run. The reader is exposed to the American aspect of participation and competition through the eyes of a young boy, Cotter. Although there are two other scenes that complement this one, I feel this scene truly paints the picture that DeLillo has in mind, while the other two clean up the scraps. ...more
Apr 28, 2014 Cmarks15 rated it did not like it
It has been stated that Pafko at the Wall is not a story about baseball. In many ways, this is true. Although the story uses the baseball game to guide the reader through the story, the book is actually about the creation of unity among mankind by a single, significant event. The story focuses largely on the congregation of different social and ethnic backgrounds that, during the 1960s, would have otherwise preferred to remain separate. In the book, we see iconic figures such as J Edgar Hoover a ...more
Apr 25, 2014 Christopher rated it really liked it
A short story originally published in a magazine in 1992, and eventually made the first chapter of the sprawling novel Underworld, Don DeLillo's “Pafko at the Wall” is here published on its own. The setting is the legendary baseball game on October3, 1951 between the New York Giants and New York Dodgers at NY's now demolished Polo Grounds stadium. This ended with the "shot heard around the world", Giants outfielder Bobby Thompson's home run that led to a late victory when it seemed the team had ...more
Chase Manson
Apr 29, 2015 Chase Manson rated it liked it
This book is a very well written and provides vivid imagery on the state of America in the 1950s under the backdrop of a major league baseball game. The author is smart and assertive in his approach, he gives details of the game for the veneer purpose in the aspect of sports. But really the book presents the American physic of the 1950s especially in the mind of J. Edger Hoover, who really steals the show or pages from everyone else. The really meat of the story is with him as Hoover teeters ove ...more
Oct 04, 2011 Paul rated it it was amazing
I actually read Underworld, which uses this work as its prologue, but I wanted to leave a distinct review. While I enjoyed Underworld, this short work is the very best part. DeLillo fictionalizes the tale of Bobby Thomson's famous home run, and the recovery of the ball itself. Even if you know just what's going to happen, the excitement builds, and the descriptions are incredible. If you like baseball, or America, this will be a fantastic read.
Da Gus
Apr 28, 2014 Da Gus rated it did not like it
This book was extremely disappointing. My teacher talked it up to be a very interesting book that directly related to the US in that time period, but I just found it to be a jumbled mess of incoherent thoughts that was supposed to encapsulate the idea of a lively baseball game. The action in the book was incredibly difficult to follow at times especially since the author used multiple names to describe the same person. I wouldn't mind the continuous jumping about if the author had included some ...more
Apr 29, 2015 Jacob rated it really liked it
Shelves: brophy
This book gets me wondering on the effect of sports on people of different groups and on cities itself. This weekend is the fight of the century that everyone is dying to see. But why? It is human nature to always be part of history. If you are to miss something historic you will never live it down. Personally I have never bought an HBO fight in my life. I like boxing but I have never bought a fight but for some reason I am buying this fight and inviting people over to watch it. The reason for t ...more
Apr 30, 2015 Danny rated it liked it
I play baseball and love the games so when I heard we were going to read a book about baseball and in turn find out this book is about the events at a park, I was a little dissapointed. Even though the book did not focus on the actual game, I still appreciated the type of writing Delillo used when writing this. He constantly changes viewpoints of different fans at the game and goes over what is occurring in their life which helps you realize that people come to games and entertainment to get awa ...more
Apr 28, 2014 Astineman15 rated it really liked it
If Pafko at the Wall isn't a novella on a historic baseball moment, it is a stirring and at-times esoteric account of the backdrop that defined post-World War II America. Told from various points-of-view throughout the stadium (fans, announcers, celebrities), the story not only tracks the happenings of the final game in the 1951 pennant race, but also provides a deep inward look into how Americans thought, felt, acted, and shared in experiences during the era. Bordering at times from nostalgia t ...more
Connor Zautke
Apr 28, 2014 Connor Zautke rated it liked it
While reading "Pafko at the Wall," I found that DeLillo did a great job portraying history and societal norms alongside the renowned baseball game between the Dodgers and the Giants. At first, I felt like the action of the baseball game was more intriguing and I enjoyed reading the second half more because of the outburst in the stadium. But after finishing the book and discussing it in my English class, I came to appreciate all of the intricacies a little more. Things such as Hoover's obsession ...more
Patrick Mcgovern
Apr 30, 2015 Patrick Mcgovern rated it really liked it
Above all, Pafko was one of those stories that kept me reading. I enjoy the concept of a very short span of time, elongated throughout a story that changes perspective and focuses on so many details. The references to people like Frank Sinatra and art like "The Triumph of Death" maintain a fun and informative mood.

I think the story as a whole tells us a lot about how attached we can get to things if said things are popular. What I mean is that baseball turned this game into something more for p
Brad Keenen
Apr 28, 2014 Brad Keenen rated it it was ok
In this novella, DeLillo did a good job of encapsulating the mood and feelings of 1950's America. There were countless parallels in the plot of a playoff baseball game to America's status in the world, and our relations with Russia. However, the fact that the entire book was devoted to describing a baseball game made the intensity and emotions of the day run dry. It felt like he tried to place so much gravity on the outcome of the game that the entire country would be changed forever. It was the ...more
Jose Escalante
Apr 30, 2015 Jose Escalante rated it liked it
Pafko at the Wall is more about being a part of the crowd rather than just watching a baseball game. What people remember most about a game is not only an amazing play that happened on field, but what you were doing at what everybody in the stadium did. For this reason, Don DeLillo chose to focus the plot on characters while rarely writing about what was actually going on in the game itself. DeLillo also chose his characters carefully, adding in characters from different backgrounds to show how ...more
Grant Gillem
Apr 29, 2015 Grant Gillem rated it it was ok
Personally, I was not a fan of this book whatsoever. The writing style, although seemingly genius, did not work for me in this context. If this story was not about people watching a baseball game, the writing choice of multiple points of view could very well be utilized and interesting. However, since it is about baseball, I just found myself very bored with the content. Although the storyline didn't necessarily interest me, I did think that the author did a good job of capturing America's fasci ...more
English Education
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AK Alilonu
Apr 29, 2015 AK Alilonu rated it really liked it
Pafko at the Wall is a story that anyone, judging it by its cover, would expect to be about baseball. But DeLillo isn't a historical sports commentator. He's a historian who writes. His dedicating a novella to four hours at a famous baseball game isn't to glorify but to interpret where it falls in the United States' 200-year history. Weaving the stories of the American people who did American things during a New York afternoon in 1951 makes a snapshot of what the people of the United States of A ...more
Anand Swaminathan
Apr 28, 2014 Anand Swaminathan rated it liked it
Although it is masked under the pretense of a baseball game, Pafko at the Wall is truly a meditation on the spirit of the American people. Combining the stories of vastly different walks of life, Delillo paints a portrait of the American people by examining a baseball game, a form of democratic, egalitarian showmanship, from they eyes of a poor African American teenager to those of J. Edgar Hoover, founder of the FBI. Through these diverse perspectives, Pafko studies the onset of advanced commun ...more
Apr 28, 2014 Jason rated it really liked it
Don DeLillo does a great job creating a scene and capturing a great moment in sports history. His descriptions can ramble on at parts, but he does a great job of building characters up. There is a character for everyone to relate with, be it Cotter, Russ Hodges, or Bill Waterson. The excitement of the winning run is felt in the pages and the impact that the moment left can be felt just through the character of Russ Hodges alone. This book is about a baseball game; baseball games tend to be socia ...more
Bailey Hopkins
Apr 29, 2015 Bailey Hopkins rated it it was ok
Pafko at the Wall is a book based around one moment in history where Bobby Thompson hits a home run or a so-called "shoot heard round the world," yet there is much more going on in the novel then just this and baseball gets overshadowed. The book ends up being about perspectives and how everyone at this game whether the announcer, Frank Sinatra, or a young boy who snuck into the game and how everyone sees/views the game differently. We learn about how much of a hypochondriac J. Edgar Hoover was ...more
Benjamin Liu
Apr 28, 2014 Benjamin Liu rated it liked it
I feel pretty neutral about this novella. I think that because I came in expecting and kind of wanting to read about baseball. But despite the title, this book is not really about baseball. It's more of a book about the audience and the fans. The greatest focus of the writer, Don DeLillo, is placed on the announcer, a group of VIP's at the game, and a young black boy named Cotter. DeLillo really manages to capture the atmosphere in the ballpark and the amount of detail he goes into really helps ...more
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Don DeLillo is an American author best known for his novels, which paint detailed portraits of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He currently lives outside of New York City.

Among the most influential American writers of the past decades, DeLillo has received, among author awards, a National Book Award (White Noise, 1985), a PEN/Faulkner Award (Mao II, 1991), and an American
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“When you see a thing like that, a thing that becomes a newsreel, you begin to feel you are a carrier of some solemn scrap of history.” 1 likes
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