Synopses & Reviews
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.
"October 3, 1951, 3:58 p.m., Polo Grounds, New York City: 'Branca throws. There's a long drive. It's gonna be, I believe the Giants win the pennant!' That's the way New York Giants' announcer Russ Hodges described what is arguably the greatest moment in American sports, the shot 'heard round the world,' as the Giants defeated the Dodgers to win the National League pennant. Prager, a senior special writer at the Wall Street Journal, has written a brilliant narrative not only about the most famous homerun in baseball history but also about the mystery that haunts it. Americans love a conspiracy, be it the grassy-knoll variety or perhaps a more innocuous one, like the stealing of baseball signs. For that is at the crux of this book: did the Giants know what the Dodger pitchers were going to throw before they threw it? (It should be pointed out that there is no baseball rule prohibiting stealing the opposing team's signs.) Prager, who first broke this story for the Wall Street Journal in 2001, tells a tale worthy of a 'Deep Throat.' The sign heist was ingeniously simple all that was involved was a telescope, a buzzer and an isolated bullpen catcher. The baseball story is exciting, but Prager concentrates on what happened to the protagonists: Ralph Branca, the pitcher, forever branded a loser; Bobby Thomson, the phlegmatic gentleman, equally haunted by his heroics. We see the change in Branca when he learns the truth years later from Sal Yvars and the bitterness it engendered toward Thomson, a God-fearing man uncomfortable with his legal cheating. Finally we see a reconciliation between old adversaries, who became business partners, lucratively exploiting their infamy, becoming friends along the way. Although Prager does have a tendency to overpsychoanalyze both ballplayers, he paints a marvelous portrait of New York City baseball in the tradition of The Boys of Summer and Summer of '49, bringing to life once again a genuine piece of Americana." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The Echoing Green is an intriguing, groundbreaking and always riveting story of one of the greatest games ever played and its aftermath. A terrific read." Kevin Baker, author of Paradise Alley
"Down-slope from Coogans Bluff, the hollowed, hallowed ground on which Thomson bested Branca, the intrepid and indefatigable reporter Joshua Prager has revealed the dark side of the miracle." Nicholas Dawidoff,
author of The Catcher Was a Spy
Joshua Prager is a senior special writer at The Wall Street Journal. He lives in New York City.
"A masterful blend of journalism, sports history, social history and even literature: one of the best baseball books to appear in a long time." Kirkus Reviews
Prager presents the full, fascinating story of one of the most famous moments in baseball history: Bobby Thomson's home run which won the pennant for the New York Giants against the Brooklyn Dodgers.