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The phrase the “shot heard around the world” has come to be identified with several famous world political historical and war-time†events.
But for baseball fans, particularly those from 40 years and up, the phrase† “the shot heard around the world” has come to be and will always be†identified with the climatic 3 run leftfield walkoff homer†slammed by† New York Giants’ outfielder Bobby Thomson in the bottom of the ninth inning on the 2nd pitch from Brooklyn Dodgers’ pitcher Ralph Branca.† Branca relieved starter Don Newcombe with 2 on and 1 out in the inning, in the final of a 3 game playoff series to decide the 1951 NL pennant. The Giants won the pennant-clinching game by a 5-4 score.
That the Giant’s cross-town AL rivals, the Yankees†would go on to win the 1951 World Series by 4 games to 2 keeping their dynasty intact, would prove to be†anti-climatic after the drama generated by the 3 game NL pennant playoff and Thomson’s winning blast.
…died “peacefully” at his Georgia home on Monday night. He was 86 years old and had been in poor health.
…the most famous home run in baseball history…
The New York Daily News report continues:
The cause of death had not been specified, and although Thomson had been in declining health in recent years, his daughter, Megan Thomson Armstrong, said he died peacefully. He was 86.
Baseball has had several historic home runs, but Thomson’s shot off Ralph Branca into the left-field seats of the Polo Grounds on Oct. 3, 1951, will always be regarded as the granddaddy of them all.
The dramatic blast capped the Giants’ incredible charge to the pennant after they had trailed the Dodgers by 13-1/2 games as late as Aug. 11. Beginning on Aug. 12, the Giants won 16 straight games and went 37-7 down the stretch to tie the Dodgers at season’s end. In the playoff series that ensued, the Giants won the first game, 3-1, on a two-run fourth-inning homer by Thomson off Branca, and the† Dodgers came back to win the second game, 10-0, behind the six-hit pitching of Clem Labine.
That set the stage for the deciding game, which the Dodgers led 4-1 going into the ninth inning. But Dodger starter Don Newcombe tired in the ninth, surrendering a leadoff infield single to Alvin Dark, another single to Don Mueller, and then, after Monte Irvin fouled out, a two-run opposite field double by Whitey Lockman.
Dodger manager Charlie Dressen summoned Branca from the bullpen to replace Newcombe with Thomson coming to the plate. “The delay really helped me,” Thomson later said. “I walked out to talk to (Giants manager) Leo (Durocher) and he said: ‘If you ever hit one, hit one now.’ I could see he was plenty excited, too, and I calmed down a bit.
“On my way back to the plate, I said to myself: ‘You’re a pro. Act like one!’”
Branca’s first pitch was a called-strike fastball. Thomson hit his second pitch, another fastball, toward left. As Dodger left fielder Andy Pafko drifted back to the wall, the ball sailed over his head into the seats for a 5-4 victory.
From the broadcast booth, Giants announcer Russ Hodges could be heard screaming, “THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!”
“Right away after I hit it I thought it was a home run,” Thomson had said. “Going around the bases, I could hardly breathe. I was starting to hyperventilate.”
…Thomson and Branca became friends years after their careers ended and capitalized on the historic home run by doing autograph sessions together…
“Bobby was a really good guy,” Branca said from his home in Rye, N.Y. “He was just doing his job and I was just doing mine…”
Thomson said…. “I was looking for a fastball and that’s what I got. We’re married to each other by this.”
In some ways, the home run was a bit of a mixed blessing because it raised expectations that Thomson was never able to meet. Thomson hit .293 with 32 homers and 101 RBI in 1951 and had similar seasons in ‘52 and ‘53, but he never achieved superstar status. After the ‘53 season in which Thomson hit .288 with 26 homers and 106 RBI, the Giants traded him to the Milwaukee Braves. For Thomson, the ‘54 season was a complete bust as he broke his ankle sliding into third base in spring training and appeared in only 43 games for the Braves. He was traded three more times before retiring in 1960 with a lifetime .270 average, 264 homers, 1,705 hits and 1,026 RBI over 15 years.
Thomson was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and moved with his family to Staten Island when he was 2 years old, where he later attended Curtis High School before serving in the United States Air Force in World War II. In addition to his daughter Megan, Thomson is survived by his other daughter, Nancy Thomson Mitchell and her husband, Charles (Chuck) Mitchell; his daughter-in-law, Judy Thomson; and six grandchildren.
…Private services will be held in Savannah and in Watchung, N.J.
“He’ll be remembered, I’ll tell you. We’ll always be grateful for what he did,” Irvin said. “He was a great ballplayer, a great fella, and he was beloved by all the Giants’ fans and teammates.”
So†let’s return†to yester-year — to October 3, 1951 and remember Bobby Thomson and “the shot heard around the world”!
Bobby Thomson passes away at 86.