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What if, Babe? A review of Harry Turtledove’s “The House that George Built”

Nowhere do the seemingly mutually exclusive entertainments of sport and science-fiction come closer than in that simple musing question “what if…?”

In sport, the question is often lamentably formed of second-guessing the decision of manager, general manager, umpire or player. To wit:

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Bobby Thomson, of the Shot Heard Round the World, dies at 86

Bobby Thomson, that unwitting creator of a million zillion what-if stories both published and unpublished, that subject of prose and poetry, that metaphorical slayer of poor Ralph Branca, died today at his home in Savannah, Georgia. He was 86.

Thomson played Major League Baseball for 15 years mostly with the New York Giants, going for a .270 lifetime batting average, three All-Star bids and 263 home runs plus one Shot Heard Round The World.

In its mundane three-dimensional existence on the baseball field, Thomson’s famous shot was “merely” the culmination of 154 games of war in a baseball for National League supremacy among New York City boroughs: Brooklyn vs. Manhattan. In an extra playoff game – actually, the third extra game in a best-of-three series, actually, and don’t remind Bud Selig or we’ll have another round of MLB playoffs – Thomson’s walk-off homer against the Dodgers’ Ralph Branca gave the Giants the pennant. Or, as the man said:

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“What if?” sports moments (or Without “Without Bias”)

One sphere wherein science-fiction and sports meet nicely is in the realm of alternate universes. O sure, in sports they call it the “What If” game, but endlessly do fans debate what might have been…

Infinite are the parallel universes that splintered off from reality when Bobby Thompson missed Ralph Branca’s inside fastball for strike two, when Harry Frazee took the Chicago White Sox’ offer of $60,000 and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson for Babe Ruth; when Scott Norwood makes the field goal; when the Portland Trail Blazers draft Michael Jordan at no. 2.

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