word craft


“Remember 1951!”

The oth­er night I watched the final play­off game between the Los Ange­les Dodgers and the San Fran­cis­co Giants. 

For me, how­ev­er, it was a base­ball game between the Brook­lyn Dodgers and the New York Giants, a con­tin­u­a­tion of their fierce rival­ry from the days I grew up in New York City. 

In my youth, there were three base­ball teams in the city. There were the two cit­ed above and the New York Yan­kees. In my world, how­ev­er, the Yan­kees (no doubt because they were so suc­cess­ful) were elite aris­to­crats, and we had defen­sive con­tempt for them. 

But the Giants and the Dodgers … we lived and breathed that rival­ry. I went to Ebbets Field. I lis­tened to the Sym­phoney [sic] there. We rejoiced in Jack­ie Robin­son. Those were the days when there were three great cen­ter field­ers. Mick­ie Man­tle, Duke Sny­der, and Willie Mays were all play­ing. We could (and did) take hours debat­ing their hero­ics. Mays was my hero. 

This recent night, as I watched the game there was a brief flash of a sta­di­um sign that read, “Remem­ber 1951!” In that con­text, a quick grainy news­reel was shown of Bob­by Thompson’s epic home run that won the pen­nant for the Giants that year. In truth, that’s why I watched the game, a reunion, if you will, of memories.

1951 World Series

I urge you to read this mar­velous essay: https://nyti.ms/2Y5iqHa 

Catch You Later, Traitor
Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor, hard­cov­er edition

That 1951 pen­nant run is a key ingre­di­ent to my book, Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor. While the book tells a tale of cold war pol­i­tics, a lot is about base­ball. The phrase “CATCH YOU LATER, TRAITOR,” is spo­ken by the char­ac­ter Kat, when she learns that her best friend Pete (the nar­ra­tor of the sto­ry) switch­es his alle­giance from the Dodgers to the Giants in that very year, 1951. This, in 1951, was seri­ous stuff. It was some­thing I did, my first seri­ous act of youth­ful rebellion. 

In the nov­el, there is an account of lis­ten­ing to the his­toric game in school. That is, I relate how the teacher brought in a radio, and the whole class lis­tened to the game. My edi­tor ques­tioned that part of the sto­ry, say­ing no teacher would ever do that. But in fact, base­ball was so fun­da­men­tal to Brook­lyn cul­ture, my teacher did do that. Also, in the course of the sto­ry, an FBI agent comes to the door of Pete’s apart­ment and tries to ques­tion him about his pol­i­tics. A review­er said that would nev­er have hap­pened, but as with the radio in the class­room, it did happen—to me. 

It was a dif­fer­ent time. Or maybe not. 

While what occurs in the nov­el is fic­tion, it is full of bits and pieces that ref­er­ence my life in the 1950s, includ­ing how I became a news­pa­per read­er to a neigh­bor­hood blind man.

In short, Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor is the most per­son­al of my books. Hard­ly a sur­prise that it is one of my favorites.

As for the game the oth­er night, I wish the Giants had won. Regard­ing the way it end­ed, to use a Brook­lyn phrase, “We was robbed!” 

2 thoughts on ““Remember 1951!””

  1. I loved your men­tion of play­ing the radio in gym class. When I was a kid, I was a big New York Mets fan. It was the first time they were in the World Series in 1969 and I had gym class the last peri­od of the day. Instead of play­ing bas­ket­ball or doing exer­cis­es, my gym teacher wheeled in a TV on a cart and said, “We’re not hav­ing gym class today, we’re watch­ing the World Series.” I was nev­er hap­pi­er. We watch part of the game, school end­ed, and I sprint­ed home to turn on my TV to watch my beloved New York Mets win their first World Series. Great mem­o­ries, thanks for shar­ing yours.

  2. Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor is on my TBR pile. I’ll bump it up my read­ing list because I espe­cial­ly enjoy the most auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal nov­els by my favorite authors.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Posts