Where Was I on October 3, 1951?

by Joseph Pacheco

To honor the memory of Bobby Thompson, who died this week, we are again running this tribute, first posted in  2008.


In the belly of the beast,
the Social Lounge of Brooklyn College,
the only New York Giant fan surrounded
by more than a hundred Brooklyn Dodger fans
cutting their classes to watch
the most important game in history,
the third playoff game
between the Giants and Dodgers —
having arrived there just after the sixth inning
from my Classical Civilization class
and Professor Costas’s lecture
on Aristotle’s Poetics,
during which I had argued
that a modern example of hubris
was Dodger manager Chuck Dressen
singing “Roll Out the Barrel,
“The Giants are Dead”
after his team swept the Giants
in a doubleheader on August 8;

the crowd in front of the tiny TV set
parting like the Red Sea
to let the token Giant fan stand up front,
the better to taunt me and watch me suffer
when Sal the Barber Maglie tired
in the top of the eighth
and the Dodgers scored three
to go ahead four to one,
the Social Lounge a-roar in unison
like a Greek chorus
and the outlook no longer brilliant
for my Manhattan Nine that day,
Newcombe still throwing strikes,
the Giants’ miracle spurt to the pennant
fizzling before my eyes,
everyone taking turns backslapping me
in mock consolation except for two twerps
wearing Ivy League sweaters standing on the side
and smirking just like Yankee fans
at Giant-Dodger games;
the game going into the bottom of the ninth
and the tension between catharsis, escape
from the humiliation of blowing
a thirteen-and-a-half-game lead in late August
and the awareness that three colossal outs
still stood in the way
causing a nervous hopeful silence
to fall upon the Dodger fans,
the only sounds the TV announcer
and myself, yelling “Peripeteia,
Giants, peripeteia, turn it around one more time;”

then Dark and Mueller letting drive singles
to the consternation of all
and the much admired Lockman
tearing the cover off the ball
and then the dust lifting
and the announcer being heard,
“Alvin’s in, Whitey’s safe on second,
and Don’s a-hugging third…”

“Take Newcombe out, take him out now!”
everyone shouting at the top of their lungs
as if they were at the game
and the Dodger manager walking out
to make the change
and suddenly I recognized it all,
anagnorisis, just like in Greek drama,
Bobby Thomson coming up to bat,
and who would Dressen pick to pitch to him?
hamartia, Dressen’s tragic flaw,
his error in judgment, would now take over;

“Bring in Branca!” I remember shouting,
“No, no, not Branca” the Dodger fans beseeching,
knowing Thomson had already hit three home runs off him,
the last one two days before in the first playoff game
and yet knowing,
like Greek audiences advising Oedipus,
that Dressen would bring him in;

the first pitch a strike and then the TV announcer
shouting “Oh!”— a shot of the stands emptying,
the fans pouring out on the field,
Stanky wrestling Durocher to the ground,
I must have jumped up and down twenty times,
yelling, “Incredible! I can’t believe it! The greatest!”
till becoming hoarse and  remembering
where I was, I turned around to gloat in triumph

and there was no one there.

Where was I on
October 5, 1951?

Telling Professor Costas and the class,
Aristotle was right:
If not at first — in the long run,
hubris and a high inside fastball
will do you in.

Published in Fans, History | Link to this poem | 4 Comments

Where Was I on October 3, 1951?: 4 Comments

  1. Stu wrote,

    Just wonderful. What a great memory, and what great verse.

  2. Stephen Jones wrote,

    Amen re the verse. I learned a lot.

    Less punctuation, please – but that’s my personal glitch/gaff/head banger.

    Thank you so much.

  3. Maria wrote,

    Joe, that was fantastic! I know very little about baseball but your verse is impeccable and I can almost hear you reciting this poem. Congratulations!

  4. lidin wrote,

    wonderful mythic story told in poetic form…lovely poetry…wonderful, encompassing historic, emotional, passionate pacheco…at his best…and at 80 yet!
    pa’lante, amigo, siempre pa’lante…un abrazote, l.

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