The Sports Bookie -- Remembering Andy Pafko

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“Gentlemen, we have just traded for the pennant.”

That’s what an unnamed Brooklyn Dodgers official said on June 15, 1951, the day the team acquired Andy Pafko from the Chicago Cubs.

It didn’t work out that way. Pafko is immortalized in a black-and-white photo, looking up forlornly into the left-field stands at the Polo Grounds as Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ’Round the World” sent the New York Giants soaring into the World Series. “A spectator in uniform,” Roger Kahn wrote in “The Boys of Summer.”

Pafko died Tuesday in a Stevensville, Mich., nursing home. He was 92.

The Wisconsin-born Pafko also holds a hallowed place among baseball card collectors. He was slotted as card No. 1 in the iconic 1952 Topps set. That card is difficult to find in mint or near mint condition, since kids back in the 1950s were prone to rubber-banding baseball cards. If a kid stacked his cards by number, Pafko’s card would be at the top and would be subject to plenty of wear and creasing (not to mention marks from those rubber bands).

So, a 1952 Topps card of Pafko can bring some big bucks if the condition is right.

Pafko was like the Forrest Gump of major-league baseball during the 1940s and 1950s, popping up at key moments. Certainly, he was a blue-collar ballplayer. In 17 major-league seasons, he batted .285 with 213 homers and 976 RBIs. He hit 36 homers for the Cubs in 1950 and hit 30 in 1951 — 18 after being acquired by the Dodgers.

He drove in 110 runs in 1945 with Chicago and was a member of the last Cubs team to reach the World Series.

He played in four World Series, also reaching the Fall Classic in 1952 with the Dodgers, and in 1957-58 with the Milwaukee Braves. He was traded to the Braves in January 1953, the same year the franchise moved from Boston to Milwaukee. Braves officials wanted a Wisconsin native to help draw fans to County Stadium in Milwaukee.

Trivia question. Who did Henry Aaron replace as the Braves’ starting right fielder in 1955? That’s right — Andy Pafko.

Pafko was a humble man and a solid baseball player. When Kahn contacted him to include him in “The Boys of Summer,” Pafko demurred.

“I wasn’t in Brooklyn long enough,” he told Kahn over the telephone. “I don’t rate being with (Duke) Snider and (Carl) Furillo. I wasn’t in that class.”

Kahn was not swayed. Pafko got his own chapter.

He deserved it. After all, he was pennant insurance.

Rest in peace, Andy.
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  1. scottzoe's Avatar
    Great post, thanks. I love that quote about the Dodgers just trading for the pennant! I never realized who that was looking up in to the stands in the picture. Thanks for sharing.
  2. erdoro's Avatar
    Cool story! behind the scenes of the book. Thanks Bob