Moser: Twilight struggle: Don DeLillo’s ‘Pafko at the Wall’

From SABR member Zack Moser at Baseball Prospectus on January 4, 2018:

The opening section of Don DeLillo’s magnum opus, Underworld, is actually the whole of a short story he published five years earlier, with a few minor changes. That story, “Pafko at the Wall,” is a brilliant flash of mid-century American anxieties and hopes, dashing the famous Dodgers-Giants playoff game featuring Bobby Thomson’s walkoff homer against the knowledge of the Soviets’ successful nuclear bomb test that same day. We, of course, are treated to unique perspectives on each: our primary characters are two sets of men, one comprising the quartet of J. Edgar Hoover, Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason, and Toots Shor; the other, a hooky-playing boy named Cotter, and the man whom he befriends during the game, named Bill.

While Hoover receives word about the bomb test and ogles a grotesque Bruegel painting printed in Life magazine shreds that rain down from the second deck, Gleason hurls his hot dogs and beer on Sinatra’s shoes, and Cotter jostles with Bill under the seats for the ball that Thomson had only just launched into the left-field bleachers. The air at the Polo Grounds is thick with historicity. DeLillo deliberately weaves a dense, entangled story to play with the idea of historical contingencies and the way that American historical consciousness realigned in the wake of the Second World War.

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Originally published: January 4, 2018. Last Updated: January 4, 2018.