As a loyal baseball fan I'm quite familiar with Bobby Thomsom and his "shot heard round the world" in the 1951 playoff with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Knowing some of the facts surrounding that big home run and feeling like you've actually just relived it are two completely different things. Having read Johsua Prager's The Echoing Green I feel like I not only sat in the stands that October afternoon, but I've also become close acquaintances with Thomson and the Dodger on the mound that day, Ralph Branca.
I'm truly amazed at the level of detail Prager provides in this book. He meticulously describes Thomson and Branca's pro careers and how they crossed paths many times before that fateful day. Of course, the big story behind this one is the spying and sign-stealing work done by the Giants from their clubhouse perch in center field. If you've heard anything about this part of the story you won't be surprised by what you read in Prager's book; but what you will read is first-hand accounts from many of the Giants on the roster that year, including Thomson himself.
How can an almost 500-page book about one swing of the bat be so entertaining and interesting? Well, first of all, there's really only about 350 pages of reading material here. That's not to say the remaining 150 pages are worthless; they're mostly reference material and notes to support all the facts presented throughout the book. Those sections are tucked away in back and there if you need them.
Prager is clearly a gifted and engaging writer. He almost makes you feel like you could take a deep breath and smell the concessions stands from almost 60 years ago. He also does a fantastic job describing the ups and downs of Branca and how he managed to keep his cool (for the most part) over the years, despite the rumblings of Giant cheaters.
Hmmm...Giant cheaters...now that I'm a fan of Prager, I wonder if he'd consider writing another well-researched book on the subject of our modern day Giant cheater...