Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bobby Thomson et al, The Giants Win the Pennant, The Giants Win the Pennant (1991)

The term "memoir" applies to this personal story just as it applies to Eric Kandel's In Search of Memory. While the French term "memoire" describes a text akin to a thesis; the term "memoir" has a personal or autobiographical component to it. It is not a full-blown biography or autobiography. As Gore Vidal explained, "A memoir is how one remembers one's own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked." It is more about what can be gleaned from a section of one's life than about the outcome of the life as a whole. In this case, the memoir offers us a self-interpretation of an event in a man's life and his role in the life of others, not just those who immediately surround him, but those in the community where he resides as well.

Every San Francisco Giant baseball fan has heard a recording of Russ Hodges' broadcast of Bobby Thomson's game winning home run off of Ralph Branca of the Brooklyn Dodgers, in the bottom of the ninth inning during the final game of a 3-game playoff to win the 1951 National League pennant. It was the end of an improbable series of events over the course of one baseball season, as documented in Thomson's memoir. And as Thomson's line drive crossed over the left field fence at the New York Polo Grounds, Hodges screamed, "The Giants Win The Pennant, The Giants Win The Pennant!" As a child, I had an audio recording of famous sporting broadcasts on a long-playing vinyl record (another information storage device - see previous post), which included the Hodges broadcast.

The term "memoir" is obviously related to "memory," both words having derived from the latin word "memoria." And given that memory was the subject of the previous post on the biography of Thomson's teammate, Willie Mays, it is worth noting that the perceptions that formed the memories of Bobby Thomson's memoir, are not always identical to the memory of the same events reported in the biography of Willie Mays. But that is at it should be. The books discussed at the very beginning of this blog attest to the problems of comparing information about the same event when one records that information in two different places. So it is not, and should not be surprising that Thomson and Mays and other observers may recall the same event differently. And the fans of the Giants remember Thompson's home run with a slightly different meaning than the fans of the Dodgers, whose team did not win the pennant.

The Giants Win the Pennant, The Giants Win the Pennant preserves the memories of the hero of this story. Bobby Thomson died a month ago, just before I started to read his book. He will not be sorting out his memories anymore. But because he deposited his memories of his life event to book form, and those memories are largely the same as or very similar to the memories deposited by others in book form, video, photographs, and other recorded means about the same event, one hundred years from now or even a thousand years from now (for anyone who wants to recall this event a thousand years from now) the story will be regarded as authentic in the minds of the listener. It is not a story that can be edited, redacted, or based solely on the spoken word transmitted over generations that is not supported by contemporaneous written documentation --- in which case it would be fiction.

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