October 22, 2020

The day Wayne Terwilliger was a footnote in a trade to get ‘Pafko at the Wall’

Wayne Terwilliger, the former longtime fist-base coach for the Twins, played 37 games for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951. The Dodgers weren’t interested in Twig, but they did want the Chicago Cubs’ Andy Pafko, so the Dodgers sent a handful of players to the Cubs and got Pafko, Twig and more in return. Pafko was a decent hitter, but he is perhaps best remembered in a photograph that shows him against the outfield wall at the Polo Grounds, looking up at a home run hit by the New York Giants’ Bobby Thomson, also known as the “shot heard ’round the world.”

That’s according to Roger Kahn’s, “The Boys of Summer,” widely regarded as one of the best books about sports. I have long wanted to read the book and was lucky enough to get it for my birthday. The book is divided into two parts: the first part is about Kahn growing up in Brooklyn to become a sportswriter for the New York Herald Tribune — his observations about hard-boiled Daily News reporter, Dick Young, is one of the best things about the book — followed by a second part that focuses on several former Dodgers and the somewhat tragic (Roy Campanella, Clem Labine) humdrum lives they later lead.

And there’s no telling a Brooklyn Dodgers story without mentioning Jackie Robinson, the most important figure in the history of baseball. And we see him here, asked to turn the other cheek for years to the racial abuse he endured, dishing out anger in his own way.

The book was sailing along for me until a chapter about former Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine and one of his children, Jimmy, someone we would describe today as having Down Syndrome, or more politely, a mental disability. But Kahn describes him as “mongoloid” which I find to be incredibly offensive.

His book was originally published in 1972, which seems modern enough to me to know that the term “mongoloid” is unacceptable. But maybe not. Kahn also resorts to “retarded,” which seems little better. Both uses put me off quite a bit and have hurt my overall enjoyment of the book. I’m glad we have learned to choose our words more carefully. I guess the other thing that bothers me about that chapter is this feeling that somehow Erskine’s life was diminished by Jimmy, and that is wrong, too.

Extra innings…

-Terwilliger is still with us at 95, according to Baseball-Reference.com, but longtime Minnesota media figure, Sid Hartman, died Sunday at 100. Many on social media left parting words for Hartman.

 

COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.