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Poetic License: ‘Where Was I On October 3, 1951?’

By Joe Pacheco - | Sep 23, 2020


In the belly of the beast,

0200 Boylan Hall,

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’ lecture

on Aristotle’s Poetics

during which I had argued

that a modern example of hubri

was Dodger manager Chuck Dressen

singing, “Roll Out the Barrel

“The Giants is Dead”

after his team swept the Giants

in a doubleheader on August 8;

the crowd standing 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 the 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,

and the game going into the bottom of the ninth

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 judgement, would now take over,

“Bring in Branca!” I remember shouting,

“Bring in Branca!” as if Dressen could hear me,

“No, no, not Branca” the Dodger fans beseeching,

knowing that it would be the worst move to make

since 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,

and 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 were you 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.