You may not know who Andy Pafko was, but you’ve seen him. He shows up ever so briefly here, at the left field wall, at the 27-second mark:
That quick shot of Andy Pafko watching Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning home run go over the wall is part of one of baseball’s greatest moments (or worst, depending on your point of view). It also inspired the prologue to Don DeLillo’s epic novel Underworld, entitled “Pafko at the Wall.”
Andy Pafko died yesterday at the age of 92.
Pafko was more than a small detail in a grander moment. He was an excellent outfielder. He played in the majors for 17 years. He came up with the Cubs, for whom he played in the 1945 World Series. He returned to the World Series with the Dodgers in 1952 and the Braves in 1957 and 1958.
He was a four-time All-Star who picked up MVP votes in multiple seasons. For his career he hit .285/.350/.449 with 213 homer runs and 976 RBI. Maybe not a guy who, if he was your best hitter, could lead you to the World Series himself, but a good-to-excellent player who would be at home on any pennant winner. A pretty profoundly overlooked player by modern fans, I’d say.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: