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Pafko at the Wall

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,057 ratings  ·  211 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 October 9th 2001 by Scribner
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  1,057 ratings  ·  211 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
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.
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: top-100, own
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.
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
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.
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is now the introduction to Delillo's Underworld. So go see my review of that ;)
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.
Joe Stinnett
Nov 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Had read Underworld years ago and while it was good, this snippet is much more accessible, a self-contained novella with a minimum of DeLillo’s smart but hard to understand musings.
Matt Ely
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: baseball, fiction
If you want a small book that artfully demonstrates the "baseball as microcosm" approach, this is a good place to start.
Apr 25, 2014 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 October 3, 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
Aaron Sinner
Aug 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: baseball
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laurie Cooper
Dec 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I hesitate to write a glowing review without time to reflect- but this is one for my absolute favorites shelf. It captures the tone of baseball, fandom, friendships only forged for the sake of the game, world events and the fleeting glory of sport amidst the world's ills. Hero status is momentarily shared by many characters...

Ironically reading this weeks after the death of Ralph Branca - who became a close friend of Bobby Thomson. I'll have to reread during spring training!!

A few favorite quote
Michael Scheinert
Apr 29, 2015 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
John Damaso
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teaching
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
Apr 28, 2014 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 29, 2015 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
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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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