The pitch: In Roger Kahn’s 1972 classic “The Boys of Summer,” Dodgers short-time left fielder Andy Pafko merited his own chapter entitled “The Sandwich Man,” a brief interlude between pages 262 and 270.
Kahn writes: “Across seventeen major league seasons, Andy Pafko batted .285, hit 213 home runs and fired every throw and ran out each pop fly with the full measure of his strength. Certain athletes who grew up in the Great Depressions played that way, the mongrels of poverty tearing at their calves.”
Pafko debated with Kahn about meriting inclusion in such an important story about a beloved franchise, one that included him as a member for just the second half of the 1951 season and then entire NL champion ’52 campaign before he was sold to the Braves.
“Put me in,” he eventually told Kahn, who chronicled this discussion in the chapter, “but don’t make it a big thing. I never felt I was a Dodger star … Nobody remembers I was a Dodger.”
Maybe that’s because he started with 8 1/2 seasons as a Chicago Cub – where he was a four-time NL All-Star and played on their last World Series team in 1945 – and ended his career with seven more seasons for the Milwaukee Braves, who made “The Kid from Boyceville” virtually a home-town hero. Pafko may have played in four World Series, but it’s the one he won with the Braves in 1957 that capped his run, even if much of it was spent as a mentor to a young outfielder named Henry Aaron.
As the Dodgers and Giants end their three-game series in whatever they call the ballpark in San Fran-
cisco these days, we bring back a Dodger- Giant moment from 1951: That heart-breaking photo of a helpless Pafko, standing next to the giant left-field corner wall at the Polo Grounds watching Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World” sail over his head.
It may be the one Pafko moment that Dodgers fans remember most about him, and it gave Don DeLillo a novella title in “Pafko at the Wall.”
But after discovering all that really made up the injury-prone but well- regarded player in this book by Niese, a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and a Chippewa Falls, Wisc., resident (and not the New York Mets pitcher, whose name is Jon), that photo from the third game of the 1951 National League playoff needs a longer caption.