Andy Pafko, all-star baseball outfielder, dies at 92


In 1951, Andy Pafko was the man whose head the Giants’ Bobby Thomson’s famous “Shot Heard Round the World” home run sailed over on its way out of the park and into legend. (AP/1952 AP PHOTO)
October 9, 2013

Andy Pafko, a four-time all-star who played on the last Chicago Cubs team to reach the World Series and was the famously forlorn outfielder who watched Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World” sail over the left-field wall during the 1951 National League playoff, died Oct. 8 at a nursing home in Stevensville, Mich. He was 92.

Kraig Pike, director of the Pike Funeral Home in Bridgman, Mich., confirmed the death but did not provide a cause.

A fan favorite known for his dogged play and diving catches, Mr. Pafko played with Jackie Robinson for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951 and 1952 and with Hank Aaron as a Milwaukee Brave from 1954 to 1959. But he is perhaps best remembered as part of one of the most famous games in baseball history, when Thomson’s three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth gave the New York Giants the win in the decisive Game 3 of their NL playoff against the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds.

“The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” shouted broadcaster Russ Hodges, one of the signature moments in major league history.

The Giants went to the World Series. The Dodgers went home.

“Everybody remembers who was the pitcher, but nobody remembers I was the outfielder who watched it go over the fence,” Mr. Pafko said in a 1999 interview with the Associated Press. “That was the biggest disappointment of my whole career. I wanted to go to the World Series.”

The prologue of Don DeLillo’s 1997 novel, “The Underworld,” is a fictional description of the game, titled “Pafko at the Wall.”

Thomson later became Mr. Pafko’s teammate and roommate with the Braves — and “Bobby never wanted to talk about that homer after that,” Mr. Pafko said.

Andrew Pafko was born Feb. 25, 1921, in Boyceville, Wis., and started his baseball career in the Cubs’ farm system.

He hit .298 with 110 runs batted in in 1945, helping the Cubs to the pennant. The Cubs lost the World Series to the Detroit Tigers in seven games.

Mr. Pafko was an all-star from 1947 to 1950. In 1948, he hit .312 with 26 homers and 101 RBI. In 1950, he had an average of .304, with 36 home runs and 92 RBI.

He retired in 1959 with a .285 batting average and 213 home runs.

Mr. Pafko played in the World Series with Brooklyn in 1952 and with Milwaukee in 1957 and 1958.

Pafko once described a run-in with Robinson in 1948, when the Dodgers great hit a triple and bowled him over at third base. The Cubs dugout emptied.

“I thought there was going to be a big fight. But we backed off and it all quieted down,” Pafko said in a 1997 interview. “Later, when I joined the Dodgers and he was my teammate, Jackie came over to me and asked me if I remembered that incident at third base. Both of us laughed about it.”

After his playing career, Mr. Pafko was a major league coach and minor league manager for the Braves, then scouted for the Montreal Expos in the late 1960s. He later worked at a golf course in the Chicago area.

Mr. Pafko was a sought-after figure by baseball card collectors. One of his Topps cards from 1952 sold for nearly $84,000 in 1998.

“I just gave the cards to the kids in the neighborhood and they put them in their bicycle spokes,” he said. “And there went the money — click, click, click.”

— Associated Press

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