(Note from GV: My friend Jerry Rosenthal was an all-conference shortstop at Hofstra. He is a Brooklyn kid, Madison High, the school of RBG, and suffered on Oct. 3, 1951, as did George Hirsch and Ed Martin and other aging fans of The Brooklyn Dodgers. Jerry says he cried for two days. This week’s Bobby Thomson and Bucky Dent anniversaries sent Jerry to the keyboard to send me this message:)
By Jerry Rosenthal:
George, kudos for your fine piece, “Red Sox- Yankees: As Good As It Gets!”
I’m glad you mentioned George Hirsch’s fine article, “70 Years Later, Thomson’s Homer Still Hurts” ( Sunday, 10/3/21 edition of the Times)!
Mr. Hirsch’s vivid description of cutting his high school classes, with a few of his buddies, to see what turned out to be the greatest playoff game in baseball history, resonated with all Brooklyn Dodgers’ fans, including me!
As a minor league infielder in the Milwaukee Braves organization in the early sixties, I would often chat with my spring training hitting coach, Andy Pafko about his major league playing days, especially the two seasons he played with the Dodgers (1951-2 ).
Knowing that I was from Brooklyn, Andy told me that his two years in Brooklyn were the most enjoyable of his career! He loved playing in Ebbetts Field in front of the great Brooklyn fans.
Andy said the saddest day of his career was when the Dodgers traded him to the Braves.
He thought he would be the Dodgers’ left fielder for years to come, but that wasn’t to be. However, he had some very good years with the Braves.
My conversations with Andy usually took place after dinner. We sat on a couch in the “rec room.” He wanted to talk more about Brooklyn than Chicago!
I finally worked-up the courage to ask Andy about that fateful October day in 1951 when Thomson hit his pennant-winning homer into the lower deck of the left field stands in the Polo Grounds.
Andy said: “I played left field with the Cubs for many seasons. As a visiting player, I knew that right-handed pull hitters, who made good contact had a good chance of hitting a homer run over that short left-field wall. Well, that’s just what Bobby did!! That’s about all Andy wanted to say about that devastating day.
It’s ironic that Pafko and Thomson became teammates on the Milwaukee Braves later in their careers. They played together for four seasons with the Braves and were roommates on the road.
Just think of the conversations they must have had!
(GV: Jerry Rosenthal is a retired teacher who lives in New York.)
(FROM PETER VECSEY, long-time basketball columnist and commentator, still writing, listening, and learning. From memory, my brother just reconstructed conversations he had with two great athletes -- Don Newcombe, who pitched into the ninth inning on that fateful day, and also with Bill Sharman, better remembered as basketball player and coach, who was on the Dodgers' bench for the final game, but never did play in a major-league game. )
Peter Vecsey: Shortly before Obama was elected president, Newk and I sat for almost 4 hours at a hotel near LAX. No camera. No recorder. He said numerous people had approached him to tell his story in book or movie/doc form, but declined all overtures.
Newk was furious after the game that (Manager Charlie) Dressen had removed him. Considering all the innings he pitched down the stretch, he felt he deserved to determine the outcome. Additionally, as I recall, Newk knew Branca had not been successful against Thompson.
Bottom line: almost 60 years later, Don Newcombe remained furious.
Sharman described the thoroughly depressed, mostly silent (except for the cursing) locker room and its emotions. What stands out, he said Jackie Robinson tried to console the inconsolable Branca. That’s what I remember off the top.
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.