The Echoing Green
The Untold Story of Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca and the Shot Heard Round the World
By Joshua Prager
(Pantheon, Hardcover, 9780375421549, 512pp.)
Publication Date: September 19, 2006
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The 1951 regular season was as good as over. The Brooklyn Dodgers led the New York Giants by three runs with just three outs to go in their third and final playoff game. And not once in major league baseball’s 278 preceding playoff and World Series games had a team overcome a three-run deficit in the ninth inning. But New York rallied, and at 3:58 p.m. on October 3, 1951, Bobby Thomson hit a home run off Ralph Branca. The Giants won the pennant.
The Echoing Green follows the reverberations of that one moment–the Shot Heard Round the World–from the West Wing of the White House to the Sing Sing death house to the Polo Grounds clubhouse, where a home run forever turned hitter and pitcher into hero and goat.
It was also in that centerfield block of concrete that, after the home run, a Giant coach tucked away a Wollensak telescope. The spyglass would remain undiscovered until 2001, when, in the jubilee of that home run, Joshua Prager laid bare on the front page of the Wall Street Journal a Giant secret: from July 20, 1951, through the very day of that legendary game, the orange and black stole the finger signals of opposing catchers.
The Echoing Green places that revelation at the heart of a larger story, re-creating in extravagant detail the 1951 pennant race and illuminating as never before the impact of both a moment and a long-guarded secret on the lives of Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca.
A wonderfully evocative portrait of the great American pastime, The Echoing Green is baseball history, social history and biography–irresistible reading from any angle.
Joshua Prager is a senior special writer at The Wall Street Journal. He lives in New York City.