Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

60 Years Ago: The Shot Heard ‘Round the World

Posted on October 03, 2011 by Dean Hybl

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

Sixty years before Evan Longoria’s home run lifted the Tampa Bay Rays into the baseball playoffs and completed the greatest September rally in baseball history, there was another home run that completed another improbable comeback. It was on October 3, 1951 that Bobby Thomson blasted the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” that lifted the New York Giants into the 1951 World Series.

The 1951 National League playoff race was to its generation what the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox race was to fans 27 years later and the September Wild Card rally of the Rays and Cardinals to current fans. 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!”

Ironically, in an era before every radio broadcast was saved for posterity, Hodges’ call would have been lost for eternity had it not been recorded by a Dodgers fan who wanted to hear Hodges have to “eat crow” when the Dodgers won.

In an era when there was no wild cards or multiple playoff rounds, the three-game playoff was a special moment in baseball and led immediately to a trip to the World Series against the New York Yankees. That the Giants went on to lose the World Series 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 that completed a comeback for the ages.

Leave a Reply

  • Current Poll

    Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
  • Post Categories

↑ Top