The Echoing Green: The Untold Story of Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca, and the Shot Heard Round the World

Joshua Prager, Author . Pantheon $26.95 (498p) ISBN 978-0-375-42154-9

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. $125,000 promotional budget; appearances by Thomson and Branca; 6-city author tour. (Sept. 12)

Reviewed on: 06/05/2006
Release date: 09/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 498 pages - 978-0-375-71307-1
Open Ebook - 441 pages - 978-0-307-38933-6
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-7435-6431-1
Compact Disc - 978-0-7435-2646-3
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