The” “Giants Win the Pennant! the Giants Win the Pennant!
This book has much to recommend it. There is the event itself, Bobby Thomson’s home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of the deciding game of the Dodgers-Giants playoff, his “shot heard ’round the world.” There are the players who were involved in that memorable game and season: Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Sal Maglie, Gil Hodges, and Jackie Robinson are still names to conjure with. Equally colorful are the managers, Leo Durocher, who had piloted the Dodgers before he moved across the Brooklyn Bridge to their arch rivals, and Charley Dressen, formerly Durocher’s assistant, who wanted to prove that he was smarter than his former boss.
The book shows what baseball was like half a century ago, when players’ incomes had fewer digits. In 1947 Thomson finished third in the balloting for Rookie of the Year; his 1948 contract gave him $13,000. After winning the pennant for the Giants in 1951 he was offered a $2,000 raise (he asked for, and finally received, an increase of about $15,000). Thomson takes the reader back to the days of all-white teams, when the few black players often could not sleep under the same roof as their teammates. He reminds everyone of how new television was to the sport. One of the reasons that the 1951 playoff has become part of baseball mythology is that for the first time the entire country was watching it live. Because television was in its infancy, Thomson’s home run has not been preserved on tape. “THE GIANTS WITH THE PENNANT!” does, however, provide some wonderful photographs that re-create a vanished world.
With all these strengths the book should be better than it is. The account of the 1951 season is interrupted repeatedly; the story cuts back and forth chronologically and occasionally repeats itself. With three writers it is hard to tell whose voice one is hearing, and the writing is uniformly sloppy. What could be a great book is instead a good one. Lovers of baseball will enjoy Thomson’s account and learn from it, but they will also wish for more.