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Pafko at the Wall

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,127 ratings  ·  222 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, 90 pages
Published October 9th 2001 by Scribner Book Company
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  1,127 ratings  ·  222 reviews

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Andrew Smith
Nov 15, 2013 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 I just seem to get lost. 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 promis
Jan 05, 2010 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
Nov 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant prologue to Underworld, DeLillo at his best. It is fun, well-written, and overall, just amazing!
Jan 17, 2013 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
Aaron Burch
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The escalating tension/energy/excitement, starting right around the halfway point, when it pushes from introduction and build-up toward the actual moment of Bobby Thomson's homerun is especially amazing and gripping.

Plus, Jackie Gleason vomiting what "seems to be...someone's taupe pajamas" and it "splashing freely" on Sinatra's "stout oxford shoes" was pretty much worth the read alone.
Ben Kort
Apr 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Pafko at the Wall is an interesting Novella that encapsulates many aspects of America. It is for one a retelling of "the shot heard around the world", one of the most famous baseball moments of all time. But even more than that, it is an in depth look into the attitudes and lives of Americans in the 1950s. There are characters from all walks of life, such as Cotter from the marginalized, Hoover from the government and Frank Sinatra from the entertainment world. Delillo blends all of these charac ...more
Henry Learner
Apr 05, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Rowe
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is interesting because while it's about baseball, there is so much more going on. It's about the anonymous faces of the fans. In this book there are musicians communicating with businessmen and comedians and then marginalized people communicating with the wealthy. It shows how big sports events can bring us together but then also tear us apart. Rather than being about the game of baseball, this story is about what happens outside of the game and in the crowds, providing a very interest ...more
Apr 05, 2012 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
Joe Kraus
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: baseball
This is at least the third time I’ve read this. The first was when it appeared in Harper’s magazine in 1992 as the first-ever “portfolio” extended piece they published. (Now they do them once every three months.)

The second time was when I read all of Underworld, where this appears as the opening segment. That turned me into a DeLillo fan, something I had not been when all I’d read was White Noise. I thought then, and see no reason to think otherwise, that Underworld was one of the great novels o
Angus McKeogh
Jul 31, 2015 rated it liked it
An interesting piece on historical events tied together in a small space of time.
Timothy D Dolan
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is a beautiful story about a historic moment in baseball. Packing watches the ball as it soars over the wall, leaving the Dodgers behind.
May 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
The reason why I begrudgingly held onto Underworld with the claim of wanting to finish it, because its opening chapter was so beautifully told despite being about a subject I cared little for. I've formally admitted defeat to that novel, but this section remains untarnished in my memory. ...more
Apr 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I rate this as the best piece of sports writing I've ever read, and yes that includes DFW's Roger Federer as Religious Experience. I first read it as part of Underworld, and found that 90% of the best writing in that enormous book was in this short novella spliced throughout it. Here are my favourite sections - the writing so good it turns sport into a symphony:

He speaks in your voice, American, and there’s a shine in his eye that’s halfway hopeful. It’s a school day, sure, but he’s nowhere nea
Jan 12, 2011 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
Brad Lyerla
Dec 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sports
I love this novella. It is a faces in the crowd treatment of the "shot heard round the world" game when Bobby Thomson took Ralph Branca deep for a three run homer in the bottom of the ninth to win the NL pennant in 1951 at the old Polo Grounds. DeLillo's story features Russ Hodges, Frank Sinatra, J. Edgar Hoover, Jackie Gleason, Toots Shor and various New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodger players and coaches.

Among three principal subplots, the best is about a teenager from Harlem who skips school
Sep 04, 2007 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
May 12, 2011 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
Aug 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, top-100
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. ...more
Blake Johnson
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Gleason says, "I told you chumps, it's all Dodgers today. I feel it in my Brooklyn bones."

Anticipation is running deep in the stadium. Dodgers scoring runs, up 4-1 top of the eighth. Nobody is expecting the Giants to win the night. October 3, 1951. Spectators are turning in now to beat the crowd. Giants fans are still holding out for a miracle. One out, one in, two runs down, men on second and third. Gleason is having gastric reflux. Thomson swings. 'Pafko at the wall. Then he's looking up. Peop
Feb 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Mostly I think baseball should just be watched. There's so much out there that elevates baseball to a religious experience [Field of Dreams, most Billy Crystal movies], it makes my eyes roll.
But there are are a few good ones out there, including this one. It is Don DeLillo at his best. I'd put it up there with Updike's New Yorker article "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu".
It is Don DeLillo, so it's about a little more than baseball, as you can imagine, but there some observations about the communal feeli
Amy Lively
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was just what I needed. To be lost in the swirl of a baseball game that was much more than that. I could see and hear and smell and touch it all. I could hear fans yelling at Jackie Gleason to give them the lines they already knew so we'll, I could hear the crack of the ball off of Thompson's bat, I could see the paper swirl around Pafko's feet, and I could feel the iron seat leg dig into Cotter's back as he fought for the ball. For about an hour, I was at the Polo Grounds in October 1951 a ...more
Aug 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: america, sports
I started Underworld this morning at the urgent request of my twin brother who was infatuated with it. I told him I finished this section and he said "it's amazing, right?" I was like "uhh... I dunno. It was okay." He then articulated what it was about and I could see it getting more interesting in hindsight but I missed it (possibly due to a slight hangover). I decided to call off Underworld, mark this read, and then shelve the big boy for a date in the not too distant future when I can reread ...more
Brian M.
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book. I love reading about baseball past and have read many such books. The Bobby Thompson home run, the "Shot heard 'round the world", is legendary and I hoped to read and get a feel of what it might have been like to be in the Polo Grounds on that day. The book did give me some perspective, and for that I am grateful. Too much of the book was simply crass, and unnecessarily (and often surprisingly) so.

I don't recommend this novella.
Katie Palazzolo
Jun 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I listened to an Audiobook/live recording by Billy Crudup, Zachary Levi, and Tony Shalhoub which was amazing. It was lively and so fun and interactive!

I don't care about baseball or sports in general, but it was more about....the joy of the game, American past times, and honestly just people watching. It made me want to go to a game!

I recommended to plenty of baseball-loving friends, but I think anyone would enjoy it - plus it was only 2 hours.
Aug 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a perfect story that puts you right in the moment, in the game, in the stands, sitting in front of a radio eagerly leaning forward to catch every word, phrase, sound, that comes out of the game.

I found myself leaning forward, holding my breath, just waiting to see what happened next.

It is a story about baseball, and therefore it's a story about life. And hot damn what a good life it is.
Eric Cartier
Aug 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The extraordinary prologue to Underworld as a standalone novella. It's absolutely among the best of DeLillo's writing from beginning to end: subjective and fractional moments completely expanded and multifarious perspectives within collective experiences compressed into breathless and palpable prose. Exquisite work. Highly recommended. ...more
Apr 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I loved this when I read Underworld. It's the best part. I recently listened to an audio presentation performed by Billy Crudup, Zachary Levi, and Tony Shalhoub. I enjoyed it even more as performed. Shalhoub in particular brings out some of the arch humor of Pafko. ...more
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is now the introduction to Delillo's Underworld. So go see my review of that ;) ...more
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bobs
I do love sports books. I hate sports but I love sports books. This one was lovely, you're in it with them, see it all experiencing the raw emotion. ...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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