New York Giants' hero Bobby Thomson (c.) is hugged by team owner Horace Stoneham (l.) and manager Leo Durocher (r.) after slugging a 3-run homer in the ninth inning to beat Dodgers.
The man who hit the most famous home run in baseball history is gone.
Bobby Thomson, whose "Shot Heard 'Round the World" capped a best-of-three playoff and the New York Giants' miracle comeback to win the 1951 National League pennant over the Dodgers, died Monday night at his home in Savannah, Ga.
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. On the play, Mueller severely sprained his ankle sliding into third and as he was attended to and finally removed from the game for pinch-runner Clint Hartung. 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!'"
Like Newcombe, Branca had been used extensively as Dressen desperately sought to hold off the surging Giants, and after pitching 1-1/3 innings of relief in the last game of the season and eight more innings the next day as the Dodgers' starter in the Game 1 of the playoff, he didn't expect to be called on again two days later. But when Dressen called down to the bullpen, Clyde Sukeforth, the bullpen coach, reported that Carl Erskine had bounced a ball in the dirt, and the Dodger manager told him to send in the burly righthander instead.
To say his name - Bobby Thomson - was to resurrect the memory of a moment, a moment of sports history elevated into transcendence by a city's primordial currents.
There was nothing so special about Bobby Thomson in the life of New York as things went before the midpoint of the 20th century. He was an immigrant from Scotland during a wave of European immigration. He lived on Staten Island. He played ball. He was good enough for the majors, above average but not great.
But then came the moment. An outfielder for the New York Giants, he came to the plate in the team's home field of the Polo Grounds, Oct. 3, 1951, bottom of the ninth in the game that would decide whether the Giants, of upper Manhattan, or the Dodgers, of Brooklyn, won the National League pennant.
On the mound for the Dodgers was, of course, Ralph Branca. And there the ball went, off Bobby Thomson's bat and over the left field wall, as announcer Russ Hodges brought ecstasy and desolation with the call, "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!"
Robert Brown Thomson, then and forever, in life and now death at 86, the man who hit the Shot Heard 'Round the World, and immortal for having done so.