Reporter Examines Cheating in Baseball, Exposing Forerunner of Spygate/Steroids Scandals

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With spring training upon us, Wall Street Journal Reporter Joshua Prager tells the long-hidden tale behind baseball's greatest moment in The Echoing Green, now out in paperback. Prager's widely-acclaimed account of the 1951 Shot Heard Round the World is not simply a timely discourse on cheating in sport. It is a timeless morality play about the effects of that cheating that will continue to lay low guilty ballplayer and disillusioned fan alike as long as there is foul play.

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Prager's reporting offers a historical context to cheating in professional sports and sheds new light on the current Spygate and Steroids scandals that continue to plague professional sports.

In 2007, scandal wracked pro sports: gamblers infiltrated basketball and tennis; steroids ravaged baseball, biking and track and field; stock car racing and football fell prey to cheating---and even the dynastic New England Patriots were caught stealing signs.

In his book, The Echoing Green: The Untold Story of Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca and The Shot Heard Round the World, author Joshua Prager writes of another year when another rash of scandal spread over sport. It was 1951. There was point-shaving in college basketball, racial violence in college football and, yes, sign-stealing at the Polo Grounds, spying that helped the baseballing New York Giants win a magical pennant. But unlike the Patriots of 2007, the New York Giants were not caught. Their scheme would go undiscovered for 50 years until Prager laid it bare on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

The Echoing Green follows the reverberations of that one moment -- the Shot Heard Round the World -- from the West Wing of the White House to the Sing Sing death house to the Polo Grounds clubhouse, where a home run forever turned hitter and pitcher into hero and goat.

The 1951 regular season was as good as over. The Brooklyn Dodgers led the New York Giants by three runs with just three outs to go in their third and final playoff game. And not once in major league baseball's 278 preceding playoff and World Series games had a team overcome a three-run deficit in the ninth inning. But New York rallied, and at 3:58 p.m. on October 3, 1951, Bobby Thomson hit a home run off Ralph Branca. The Giants won the pennant.

It was also in that centerfield block of concrete that, after the home run, a Giant coach tucked away a Wollensak telescope. The spyglass would remain undiscovered until 2001, when, in the jubilee of that home run, Joshua Prager exposed on the front page of the Wall Street Journal a Giant secret: from July 20, 1951, through the very day of that legendary game, the orange and black stole the finger signals of opposing catchers.

The Echoing Green places that revelation at the heart of a larger story, re-creating in extravagant detail the 1951 pennant race and illuminating as never before the impact of both a moment and a long-guarded secret on the lives of Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca.
A wonderfully evocative portrait of the great American pastime, The Echoing Green is baseball history, social history and biography--irresistible reading from any angle.

"Prager's reporting offers a historical context to cheating in professional sports and sheds new light on the current Spygate and Steroids scandals that continue to plague professional sports."

Praise for The Echoing Green:
A revelation and a page turner, a group character study unequaled in baseball writing since Roger Kahn's Boys of Summer. -- The New York Times Book Review

Thrilling. . . captures the enduring impact of the memorable moments that mark our lives. -- The Washington Post Book World

The most comprehensive account ever written of the most famous play in sports history. -- Newsday

This wonderful book is an absolute treasure. A master storyteller, Prager captures the reader from beginning to end. -- Doris Kearns Goodwin

A delightful book . . . You don't have to believe that the Giants stole the game to enjoy The Echoing Green. You don't even have to like baseball. That moment defined a generation. -- The New York Times

Compelling and thoughtful, the book meditates on the meaning of that home run in the legacies changed forever by a single crack of the bat. -- The Miami Herald

A seat along the first base line. . . Prager, like a good hurler with a command of many pitches, delivers nuance even when you're expecting a fastball. -- The Plain Dealer

Prager turns his remarkable powers of investigation on the men involved in the scheme. The result is an absorbing critique of the competitive ethic that too often rules not only America's playing fields but its boardrooms as well. -- Sports Illustrated

The depth of Prager's research staggers the mind. . . . A must-have for baseball mavens. -- The Buffalo News

You will not find a better-reported book on any subject than The Echoing Green. -- New York Post

Author Bio: Joshua Prager lives in New York City. He studied music theory at Columbia College and is currently a senior special writer at The Wall Street Journal. He has three times been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing.

Contact: Kate Runde, Senior Publicist
Vintage Books


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