The search for one of baseball’s most famous relics.
At 3:58 in the afternoon on Oct. 3, 1951, New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson produced a baseball miracle. With his team down to its last out in the bottom of the ninth inning, he hit a three-run homer that clinched the National League pennant for the Giants. The so-called “shot heard ’round the world” is documentary filmmaker Biegel’s subject in the first book-length account of his search for the Thomson ball. With freelancer Fornatale (co-author: A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex, 2007, etc.), Biegel deftly chronicles the stages of his quest, which captured his interest and rescued him from deep depression and the “life of tortured fear” he experienced after a bitter divorce. The author also traces and convincingly contextualizes why that home run—which didn’t even occur during a World Series game—achieved instant mythic status. To find the ball, which is worth more than an estimated $1 million, Biegel enlisted the help of private investigators, retired detectives and forensic photo experts. He also interviewed Thomson and traveled from New York to New Mexico and back to solve the mystery that started with the identity of the fan who caught the ball. The narrative is peppered with riveting oral reminiscences of the game and passages from eminent sportswriters like Red Smith, filled with the kind of epic hyperbole that makes baseball writing so captivating. “The art of fiction is dead,” wrote Smith. “Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.”
Even mild sports enthusiasts will eat up this surprisingly moving account; baseball addicts will be over the wall.