Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Picture Worth A Few Million Words

There's a great article today, in the Murdoch Street Journal, from writer Joshua Prager, on the infamous Bobby Thompson homerun ("The Giants win the pennant! ... The Giants win the pennant! ...) that is well-worth reading;

The Man Who Shot 'the Shot Heard 'Round the World'

On Oct. 3, 1951, in the upper deck of the Polo Grounds, a little man with a big camera snapped a portrait of Yankee outfielder Hank Bauer seated nearby. Rudy Mancuso had just one more exposure. And so, as the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants waged their final playoff game in Harlem, the amateur photographer let pass 77 balls and 142 strikes, at last clicking his Busch Pressman at 3:58 p.m., a split second after Giant Bobby Thomson pulled an 0-1 fastball from Dodger Ralph Branca with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

Unbeknownst to him, the 31-year-old Mancuso had just taken what is arguably the most famous photograph in the history of baseball (see nearby). "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" coalesced hours later in a tub of dektol on East 79th Street. Mancuso had stilled a Spalding some 280 feet before it cleared a green wall, won the Giants the pennant (won the Giants the pennant!) and commenced inspiring so much prose as to imperil, wrote Daniel Okrent, "great stretches of Canadian pulpwood forest."


Many years passed. Mancuso's pencil moustache turned from black to white as newswires and then vendors and then Web sites hocked an inexhaustible supply of his photo. He made no money from his shot and held no proof that it was he, an embosser and die cutter living in a Lower East Side walk-up, who'd most famously preserved baseball's greatest moment.

"It was one of those family legends," says his nephew Peter Vincent. "You wondered if it was true or not."

Then, in January 2001, I wrote an article for this newspaper describing how the Giants stole the signals of opposing catchers in the months leading up to Thomson's homer. Messrs. Thomson and Branca discussed it with me that fall at the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in Montclair, N.J. Mancuso, 80 years old and pink-faced, approached me and told of his supporting role in their mid-century drama. He had no proof. But Hank Bauer confirmed that he'd sat where Mancuso alleged and I eventually found that Sylvania ad. And so, I put Mancuso in "The Echoing Green," my 2006 book about the home run.
There's a lot more to read here, the arc of a mans', and photos', life ... Of fame lost, then found ... Of a legacy delayed

Go read The Man Who Shot 'the Shot Heard 'Round the World'

Bonus Bonus

The Shot Heard 'Round The World

Special Essay - Play Ball! ... Batter Up! ... Could You Please Tell Me, What Is This Thing Called Baseball?

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