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Sports Then and Now

Bobby Thomson’s Greatest Moment Will Live Forever

Posted on August 17, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Bobby Thomson raced around the bases and into baseball immortality with his pennant-winning home run in 1951.

One hundred and seventy five players in baseball history have hit more home runs than the 264 blasted by Bobby Thomson during his 15-year major league career. However, it is arguable that no one has ever hit a more memorable homer than his “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” that lifted the New York Giants into the 1951 World Series.

Thomson passed away Monday at the age of 86 after a long illness, but his home run in the ninth inning of the final game of a three-game playoff between the Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers will live on forever.

The 1951 National League playoff race was to its generation what the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox race was to fans 27 years later. The Dodgers led the Giants by 13 games on August 11th, only to watch the lead disintegrate over the final seven weeks as Brooklyn went 26-22 in their final 48 regular season games.

At the same time, the New York Giants went 37-7 after August 11th to catch the Dodgers and force a three-game playoff.

After splitting the first two games, the squads met at the Polo Grounds for one game that would decide who would face the New York Yankees in the World Series.

Thanks to the pitching of Don Newcombe, the Dodgers led 4-1 entering the ninth inning and seemed headed to victory. However, three hits plated a run and knocked Newcombe out of the game just two outs short of victory.

With new pitcher Ralph Branca on the hill, third baseman Bobby Thomson strode to the plate with destiny in his hands.

The right-handed hitter launched the second pitch from Branca over the left-field wall to drive home three runs and complete the improbable comeback. The home run was immortalized by the famous radio call in which Russ Hodges emphatically screamed, “The Giants Win The Pennant, The Giants Win The Pennant!”

That the Giants went on to lose the World Series to the Yankees is often forgotten and generally inconsequential.

The 1951 season was the peak of a long and solid major league career for Thomson. He hit a career-high 32 home runs while hitting .293 and driving in 101 runs. He would finish his career with 264 home runs, 1,026 RBI and a .270 batting average.

Unfortunately for Thomson, the 1951 playoffs and World Series would be the only post season experience of his career. He was traded to the Milwaukee Braves prior to the 1954 season (in which the Giants won the World Series) and then was traded back to the Giants during the 1957 season (which concluded with the Braves winning the World Series). He played two seasons with the Chicago Cubs and then finished his career with brief stints with the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles.

But Thomson will always have a place in baseball immortality thanks to his one titanic blast.

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