Pafko at the Wall
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Pafko at the Wall

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  569 ratings  ·  85 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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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
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
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
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
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...more
Sep 04, 2007 Matt rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Brad Keenen
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
Anand Swaminathan
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
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
Benjamin Liu
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
I did not really enjoy this novel as much as the others we have read. I enjoyed the others for several different reasons, the setting, the characters, and the descriptions throughout the book. I love reading about settings mostly and I think that’s what kind of steered me away from enjoying this novel. I do not enjoy baseball that much so it was difficult to get into the book I also wasn’t a proponent of the crassness. But, besides that, I thought that the novel was more of an interpretation of...more
Adam Davis
If one were to make the remark that Pafko at the Wall was not about baseball there are a few options of what this story could be focusing on. Like we talked about in class it may serve to portray a sense of unity or oneness as regardless of race or team affiliation it is constantly noted that everyone is focusing on this one game. We see a concrete example of this when Cotter and Bill Waterson connect during the game even though Cotter is an African American boy. Also when I was looking up Pafko...more
Aug 16, 2010 Don rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
This is just a small part of DeLillo's massive Underworld (which I couldn't get through; my bad)... and it is absolutely pitch perfect (unlike Ralph Branca's pitch). If you don't know who Ralph Branca is, this book is not for you.
I think that this book is not supposed to be about baseball, but about what's happening in the stands. The emotions that are being experienced. What's going on in the lives of the spectators. In the book, there is far less mention of baseball and what happens on the field than what's going on in the stands and what the spectators are doing. We experience their joy, their sorrow, their anger. It further pulls us, the reader, into the story because we are much like those spectators. We are observi...more
This novella is obviously not about the Giants vs. Dodgers game at all. Rather, it is about the social and political atmosphere of that era. The setting of a baseball is iconic because baseball is America's past-time-all of America from every background. For the social aspect, the mention of Cotter and the Black vendor gives the reader a different perspective of the camaraderie between people, even though this facade was divulged at the end. In addition, the unique setting change, Harlem, affect...more
Mateusz Bendisz
While I understand that this novella is not entirely about baseball, and I believe that what it is actually about is the American voice, I still do not believe this was that good of a read. After getting over the shifts of the plot, I was finally able to understand what "Pafko at the Wall" was really about. However, it was slightly dull, it did not keep my attention, and while it has been praised by some to be very insightful, I do not think it is anymore insightful than what a 16-year-old can s...more
John Damaso
In general, my students hated Pafko. They called it pointless, disjointed, devoid of the action they expected of a "baseball story." I love the novella for the reasons they don't. It's not a baseball story, I tell them. It marks the nervousness of a nation, beginning to understand its obsession with distraction, while all the while teetering on the Cold War.

Puke on the shoes of Frank Sinatra from Gleason's greasy mouth was supposed to prepare my students for reading "The Kentucky Derby is Decade...more
Matthew Montes
Pafko at the Wall is an interesting read because DeLillo writes about baseball and those who are passionate about it, but is less about the game and more about it's impression that it leaves on the characters. The symbolism and the language is compelling and draws attention to the details of the experience of the game. There is symbolism in the characters themselves, despite the characters being real people. The one issue I had with the novella is that I am not a fan of baseball and at times, I...more
Alexander Chang
I felt as though this book had its moments where the excitement of the baseball game coincides with each character's personal moments during the novel that made this a good book. Unfortunately, this did not happen often as a lot of the book was rambling details. The book, ultimately, was not really about baseball; instead, it highlighted the American culture at the time through each of the characters. Through famous comedians, celebrities, politicians, and regular old people like Cotter and Bill...more
Irvin Robles
I thought that this book was pretty dull through most of it. The imagery that is present is amazing, but there is really no plot to the story. THIS IS NOT A BOOK ABOUT BASEBALL! If you are looking for a great book about baseball, this is not the book! This book has very little baseball in it. It is more about the time in between plays when Cotter notices the crowds. The book is basically a story about significant characters and what they are doing at the game. The exciting part was at the end wh...more
Dieter Mohty
DeLillo's Pafko at the Wall creates a rather interesting mood that relates a variety of different moods and tones and "pensive thoughts" to America's past time. The subject of baseball is rather boring to me but the commentary that was written on in great length created at topics of death, bandwagoning and other rather controversial subjects. For instance, when Hoover sees the picture of death ironically printed in a LIFE magazine and immediately sees that same exact image in the crowd, this rea...more
Matthew Uvas
DeLillo makes it clear throughout the novel that this book is about much more that baseball. As the famous documentary filmmaker Ken Burns asserts, baseball is a microcosm of America. In Pafko at the Wall, this historic game symbolizes the paradoxical relationship between unity and division, of community and competition, of stagnation and chaos. During the setting of this novel, the United States was in a time of tension with the Soviets, the Cold War clearly demonstrated that line between order...more
Although the entire novel is centered around a baseball game, it involved much, much more. The descriptive emotions and reactions help make you feel like you are actually at the game, and the length of the novel almost reflects the length of an actual baseball game. If you desire to read this novel in order to deepen your knowledge of baseball or feed the knowledge you already possess, you are missing the point. DeLillo's writing is masterful, using juxtaposed short and long sentences, jumping f...more
Pafko at the Wall, a baseball story not really about baseball. Capturing the emotions and activities of the audience in a larger spotlight than Thomson's game winning run. A fascinating read that occasionally gives the spotlight to celebrities of the era such as Frank Sinatra, J Edgar, and president Hoover. Although it gives a memorable personality to each of its characters, it at times feels a bit rushed, sometimes lacking obvious transitions, confusing readers as to what exactly has happened....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...more
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