The First Hero – Andy Pafko
THE FIRST HERO
When my dad first took me to Ebbetts Field to see the Brooklyn Dodgers the lineup the Dodgers put on the field would become legendary. Hall of famers everywhere, Jackie at second, Peewee at short, “The Duke” in center, Campy behind the plate. A few who fell just short of being hall of famers, Gil Hodges at first, Sal “The Barber”. And there were some pretty fair country ball players at other positions who would become immortal as “The Boys of Summer”, Billy Cox, the original third base vacuum cleaner who scooped ’em up and threw ’em out with the best of them, and Carl Furillo in right, “Scoons” his teammates called him, and I bought into the nickname, just didn’t know until years later that the monicker referred to his favorite dish, scungilli.
If ever a compilation of ballplayers could capture a young boy’s imagination it was the “Brooklyn Bums”, basically a bunch of neighborhood guys representing a proud burrough, background music provided by the quirky, off beat, off tune, “Brooklyn Dodgers Sym-phony”, all backgrounded by green grass and green walls dotted with ads from local businessmen, using local heros to sell their products to local patrons, amid the national beer and cigar advertisements.
But there’s no telling who will catch the wide eyes of a little boy overwhelmed by such a setting. For me it was the guy in left field, a five time all star who had become a platoon player during what would be a relatively short stay in Brooklyn. In terms of Brooklyn Dodgers left fielders Sandy Amaros would certainly carve a more enduring place in the history of it all with one catch in the 1955 World Series. But on that day, in that setting, for this little boy, it was Andy Pafko. I talked about him all the way home. He was my first major league hero, though my first true hero status would later be bestowed on another Dodger, pitcher Johnny Podres, when he dealt “Them Bums” to the Series win over the Yankees, with help from that Amaros catch.
But on my first trip to the cathedral Andy Pafko was my guy. And a year later he was gone, to the Milwaukee Braves, ironically the team that made my dad a National League fan during their days in Boston, and they always held a place in his heart, putting Braves games high on the list when the Dodgers schedule came out, giving me many opportunities over the years to watch Andy Pafko play ball. I rooted for him and the Braves in ’57, when he finally got his World Series championship.
Before I came along Andy Pafko’s biggest claim to fame was that he was the outfielder over who’s head Bobby Thompson’s famous “Shot heard round the world” soared in the third game of the playoff that climaxed the “Miracle of Cougan’s Bluff”. Andy Pafko died yesterday at age 92. In most corners his passing has gone unnoticed, but not here. Heroes are in the eyes of the beholder. In my eyes Andy Pafko will always be a hero. More than happy to elevate his status in the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.