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Friday, November 25, 2016

The "The Shot Heard Round The World" Story

Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants has just hit a homerun off
Ralph Branca of the Broklyn Dodgers to win the 1951 National League.
It was an ordinary day.  My dad is screaming at the TV!  "He did it!  He did it!" he screamed over and over.  Mom came running from the kitchen thinking it must have been something I did that made dad mad.  Not so!  I never did a thing my dad didn't like!!  Just ask my brother who calls me Moses.  Seems dad and I were watching the final game of the 1951 National League Playoffs to determine who would play the hated New York Yankees in the World Series.  Dad loved watching baseball games on TV, but in this case he had the radio on also, since he liked listening to announcer Russ Hodges give the play-by-play description of the game.  Our favorite, the Philadelphia Phillies, had faded into a distant third late in the season so dad and I had to root for the Giants.  
Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants.
The Giants were playing the equally hated, at least in our house, Dodgers when a Giants player, Bobby Thomson, hit a 3-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning winning the ball game and sending the Giants to the World Series.  The game was the first ever nationally televised game and we were watching it on our little black and white television.  On the chimney, atop our two-story duplex, was the neatest contraption that made our TV picture much easier to see.  Dad had climbed up on the roof earlier in the summer to attach it to the chimney.
  In the bottom of the ninth the home-team Giants were behind by three runs.  They scored a quick run and after one out, had two men on base.  The Dodger's pitcher, Don Newcombe, was pulled and Ralph Branca was brought in to pitch to Bobby Thomson.  
Ralph Branca of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
On deck for the Giant's was my all-time favorite player, Willie Mays, who was in the running for "Rookie of the Year." It was decided to pitch to Thomson instead of walking him and pitch to Mays, even though Branca had struck-out Mays twice in the first game of the three game series a few days ago.  Well, the rest is history as they say!  On the second pitch, a fast ball inside, Thomson hit it over the left field fence at the Polo Grounds.  Radio announcer Russ Hodges called the play …
There's a long drive … it's gonna be, I believe … The Giants win the pennant!  The Giants win the pennant!  The Giants win the pennant!  The Giants win the pennant!  Bobby Thomson hits into the lower deck of the left-field stands!  The Giants win the pennant!  Mom came running, screaming what was wrong.  Well, I tell you this story today since Ralph Branca, the goat of the game, died a few days ago at the age of 90.  I don't remember much of the game except for the screaming on the radio and of course mom and dad screaming. Many stories flew around during the ensuing years after the game.  Thomson's home run became entangled in accusations  of a sign stealing operation conducted by the Giants.  Several players, it was reported, had confirmed that they stole opposing catcher's signals for much of the season via a buzzer system using a "spy" telescope in the center field clubhouse at the Polo Grounds.  
Bobby Thomson crossing home plate after his home run.
Thomson said no one ever told him what pitch Branca was going to throw to him.  Branca disagreed when he heard the accusa- tions.  He said Thomson knew exactly what pitch was coming.  Over the years Branca and Thomson appeared together at old-timers' games, baseball dinners and autograph shows.  Much of the money they made was donated to charity.  They became close friends and at one appearance on the 40th anniversary of the history homerun, Thomson remarked that "Ralph didn't run away and hide."  Branca responded, "I lost a game, but made a friend."  Branca eventually grew resigned to being known solely as the classic goat of baseball history.  Not many know that he won 21 games when he was 21 years old or that at the age of 25 he had accumulated 75 wins.  Great baseball player in any person's mind.  And … Bobby finally cleared his conscience by telling Ralph that he knew what pitch was coming that fateful day.  Bobby Thomson died in 2010 at the age of 86 and a few days ago the other part of the historic story duo died at the age of 90.  The homerun was known as "The Shot Heard 'Round The World" and the game is one of the few memories I have of my very early childhood.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - check out the video of the play.


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