All Andy Pafko could do was watch helplessly against the left field wall, as Bobby Thomson’s drive sailed over his head into the left field stands of the Polo Grounds. The New York Giants won the 1951 National League pennant from the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Thomson’s home run became known as, “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” The left fielder, whose position in the play was immortalized in Don DeLillo’s, “Pafko at the Wall,” passed away Tuesday at the age of 92 at a nursing home in Stevensville, Mich.
The Dodgers acquired Pafko as part of an eight-player deal on June 15, 1951 from the Chicago Cubs, where he was a beloved by the fans for his Midwestern work approach, and his starring role in the Cubs' journey to the 1945 World Series. Brooklyn was looking to solidify their left-field position with the addition of Pafko, as they had shuffled six different players in a search to compliment their other two All-Star outfielders, Carl Furillo and Duke Snider.
Pafko punctuated his arrival by hitting a home run in his first game after the trade, leading the Dodgers to a 6-4 victory over the Cubs on June 16, 1951. Unfortunately, no amount of magic by Pafko could have prevented Thomson’s home run off of Ralph Branca during that epic contest in the Polo Grounds.
During his 17-year career, Pafko was selected to the All-Star team four times, finished fourth in the MVP voting in 1945, and appeared in four World Series with the Cubs, Dodgers and Milwaukee Braves. He earned his only World Series ring with the Braves in 1957. He retired at the end of the 1959 season with 213 career home runs and a .285 lifetime batting average.
At the time of his passing, Pafko was only one of two living members of the 1945 Cubs team, the last in the organization’s history to reach the World Series. His death leaves the 96-year-old Lennie Merullo as the last surviving member to wear a Cubs uniform in the World Series.