On the fiftieth anniversary of "The Shot Heard Round the World," Don DeLillo reassembles in fiction the larger-than-life characters who on October 3, , witnessed Bobby Thomson's pennant-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Edgar Hoover, basking in Sinatra's celebrity, is about to be told that the Russians have tested an atomic bomb; and Russ Hodges, raw-throated and excitable, announces the game -- the Giants and the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds in New York. DeLillo's transcendent account of one of the iconic events of the twentieth century is a masterpiece of American sportswriting. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read.

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DeLillo had a reputation for writing counternarratives to historical events, and his novella promised more of the same, undermining the nostalgia surrounding a playoff baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. At fifteen pages, it is the longest piece in the magazine. The paper in this section is thicker and has a bluish tint. The bottom of each page is lined with monochrome illustrations that depict various scenes from the narrative.

In an accompanying blog post, publisher John R. MacArthur said that it was time to bring back the section, which was quietly discontinued in This, according to MacArthur, was the motivation for the original launch of the Folio section in Instead of the Internet, however, a new editor at The New Yorker was the reason for the overemphasis on brevity in First, DeLillo had name recognition. The two teams had a three-game playoff series to break the tie atop the National League.

The game became a focal point for nostalgia surrounding baseball as well as the s. Specifically, it has become a symbol of a mythical, simpler, unified America that existed at the dawn of the Cold War. This essay examines those layout decisions, with particular attention to the six photographs that accompany the novella.

To begin, I will describe the nostalgia that surrounds the game. I will then move on to examine the way the layout and photographs function in the magazine issue from Finally, I will look at the ways the text i. In other words, baseball renders America visible to itself. The spirit of our national life is combative; Base Ball is a combative game. We are a cosmopolitan people, knowing no arbitrary class distinctions, acknowledging none.

In a speech, future president of the National League A. This attention was the result of three factors. Additionally, the Dodgers and Giants were two of the most racially integrated teams. The New York teams drew attention not only for their success, but also for their relative diversity. Second, the pennant race was an unusually dramatic one. Although attendance numbers during this era, including the October 3 playoff game, were lower than previous years, scholars point to the increasing availability of television and televised baseball games as a possible reason.

Those who did not have access to a television could tune into multiple radio broadcasts. It was a moment when all the country roared. On October 4, , the New York Times ran eight stories that covered the game. Hundreds of thousands of their husbands left their work at intervals to rush back into the shipping department, where the boys had a portable radio.

These challenges to traditional American identity and community permeated baseball as well. Two articles in particular, which happen to fall in the middle of what Sobchack identifies as particularly nostalgic eras, illustrate this romanticized understanding of baseball.

So goodbye, baseball. When the gentleness goes out of a people, the love of subtlety and grace vanishes too. Myrer clearly links the decline of baseball to a loss of artistry, individualism, subtlety, and grace. First, a photo of Andy Pafko standing at the outfield wall of the Polo Grounds, the home field of the New York Giants, was divided in two. The top half, occupying the place normally reserved for cover photos and illustrations, portrayed fans cheering in the stands beyond the wall.

The bottom of the page depicted Pafko watching the ball sail over his head. Later in this essay I will examine the significance of the photograph in more detail. For now, it is important to note the break in tradition. Abbreviated titles of other articles without descriptions or by-lines appeared at the top of the cover. This is likely due to the expectation that readers would recognize the cover photo, and know which pennant, which year, and how the Giants won.

This would not be a sentimental retelling of a baseball game that affirmed the artfulness of the sport or its ability to invoke hope and freedom; it was the story of a Harlem boy who somehow distinguishes himself from the sulking Sinatra, exploding bomb, descending Bruegel, even the triumphant Giants. Specifically, they provide a visual reminder of the nostalgia that surrounds the game.

Some of the other images are recognizable from newsreel footage. Enhancing the link between the photos and nostalgia is the stylized way in which the photos were presented. The yellow-brown coloring of the paper gives the Folio the appearance of a scrapbook of manila paper, while also making the photos appear sepia-toned.

Both images signify the nostalgic tradition of the imagined past, which included a crowd and country unified around the game. The outfield wall dwarfs Pafko in the cover image. While it is cropped around his body, the grainy nature of the photograph indicates that it has been enlarged. The only other photograph of game play comes earlier in the text, when radio announcer Russ Hodges begins to feel the mounting tension of the game, and Cotter, an African American Giants fan, begins to feel despair.

It is difficult to tell which team is on the field because the players are so small. The photographs place viewers at a distance from players and within the crowd watching the game. Although frozen, they allow viewers a small piece of what it was like at the game, seeing what the fans saw. Fans in all three photographs exhibit this kind of cheerful belonging.

In one photograph fans line up outside the Polo Grounds, waiting to get into the game. The majority have their hands raised and look in the same direction. Like the Bobby Thomson photo, it splits two columns of text, which describes the crowd pouring into the stadium. Viewers both become part of the crowd and observe it. The photo comes at a place in the [End Page 33] text where members of the crowd watch Gleason, Sinatra, and J.

Edgar Hoover rather than the game itself. The final photo features fans celebrating on the field after the win. Some in the photo are walking toward the exit, but most of the people leaving seem to be the defeated Dodgers players. In the center, a group of fans celebrate the win with Giants players.

In the blurry distance, more fans climb over the walls. This image breaks up the left column of text on the page, which describes Hoover contemplating the Cold War in the midst of a celebrating crowd while Cotter struggles to get the home-run ball. Initially, these images might do less to invoke nostalgia than the more recognizable images of Pafko and Thomson. However, the surrounding context that situates the photographs, combined with the visual unity of the crowd at the game, invites viewers to partake in that union, even as the story dismantles it.

In this novel, language is a democratic experiment. Once again, these narratives are made up of small details overlooked by the larger narratives of history. Critics have generally noted two of these little stories that counter the mythic narrative of unity surrounding this baseball game.

He sees Hoover as the exception because he is not willing to engage in the communal atmosphere. Cotter, an African American boy, skips school and sneaks into the stadium where he meets Bill, a middle-aged white man. A man takes his kid to a game and thirty years later this is what they talk about.

In the DeLillo text, however, the relationship is fraught with racial tension. The tension erupts when Cotter and Bill fight over the home-run ball. Bill chases Cotter and pleads with the boy to hand over the souvenir. While race relations and the Cold War are obvious challenges to the mythical unity of the baseball crowd, there are other, more subtle challenges.

On one hand, the crowd acts in unison, thinking, longing, and vocalizing together. Somebody makes a nice play, they look at Frank to see how he reacts. Disunity also appears in other parts of the stadium. Finally, in the radio booth, the technicians make racist jokes and ignore the game. The talking disturbs Russ Hodges, the radio announcer whose famous call of the game has been replayed on numerous sports highlight shows. Those aspects of the game and its historical context are blocked and cropped out.

The text uses these little stories of disharmony to counter the mythic narrative of unity surrounding the game that supports Cold-War nostalgia. The country has lost all sense of direction and purpose, and the vacuum of moral leadership, I think, troubles people even more deeply than the collapse of the American economy. They are asking whether those who set the tone of American life remember what makes life worth living.

They long for leaders who can offer their children something to live for—the real meaning of hope. Markusen, Coontz, and Lasch all call for action. While they challenge a dominant narrative, they all offer a replacement narrative that they hope will become dominant. Instead, the meaning of the game is left fragmented, a compilation of contradictory narratives which do not fit together, just as the members of the crowd do not form a cohesive whole.

In fact, many were contributing editors, including Wallace. Nonetheless, an initial survey indicates that most of the pieces are not counternarratives. They are often long travel narratives with a slight political slant, or longer, quirky stories.

Despite the clear reservations of the protagonist, who goes by the alias Paul Anderson, the mission goes ahead. Several participants declare that it has been a success, but the results are somewhat unclear. The rest of the novel reveals that the events of the mission were covered up to avoid a scandal. The framing of the Folio section in the two different issues reflects this difference. The Folio is only one of the sections promoted on the cover. In the version of the Folio, the illustrations are buried at the bottom of the page, and help set the mood of the piece rather than highlight a contrast.


Baseball, America, and the Shot Heard ’Round the World

Sixty years ago today, Bobby Thomson hit a three-run homer with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning to clinch the National League pennant, as the New York Giants defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers in a three-game playoff for the right to face the Yankees in the World Series. Underworld is a sprawling account of that era, beginning with the Giants-Dodgers game in and stretching through the early s. Click here to read the interview. Looks like thirty-five thousand and how do you figure it. It affects the mood. People say the hell with it. Believe me, I know this where I live.


Director’s Cut: Underworld by Don DeLillo

DeLillo had a reputation for writing counternarratives to historical events, and his novella promised more of the same, undermining the nostalgia surrounding a playoff baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. At fifteen pages, it is the longest piece in the magazine. The paper in this section is thicker and has a bluish tint. The bottom of each page is lined with monochrome illustrations that depict various scenes from the narrative.


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