Bobby Thomson's Famous Homer Lives On
Throughout the long history of baseball there have
been poignant, exciting, dramatic moments. But very few can compare to
what happened on October 3, 1951 at the old Polo Grounds in New York City.
Some refer to that time as "The Miracle at
Coogan's Bluff." Others, especially in Brooklyn, call it "Dat
Day." But no matter what label is applied it was a time to remember.
It was a time when the Giants played out of the Polo
Grounds in Manhattan and the Dodgers entertained millions in their tiny
Brooklyn ballpark, Ebbets Field. It was a time of tremendous fan devotion
to each team.
In July Brooklyn manager Charlie Dressen had bragged,
"The Giants is dead." It seemed to aptly describe the plight of
Leo Durocher's team. For on August 12 the Giants trailed the Dodgers by 13
l/2 games in the standings.
Then, incredibly, the Giants locked into what has
been called "The Miracle Run." They won 37 of their final 44
games - 16 of them in one frenetic stretch - and closed the gap.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime situation,"
recalls Monte Irvin, who batted .312 that year for the Giants. "We
kept on winning. The Dodgers kept on losing. It seemed like we beat
everybody in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning.
The Giants and Dodgers finished the season in a
flat-footed tie for first-place and met on the first day of October in the
first game of the first play-off in the history of the National League.
The teams split the first two games setting the stage for the third and
Don Newcombe of the Dodgers was pitted against Sal
Maglie of the Giants. Both hurlers had won 23 games during the regular
The game began under overcast skies and a threat of
rain. Radio play-by-play filtered into schoolrooms, factories, office
buildings, city prisons, barbershops.
The Wall Street teletype intermingled stock
quotations with play-by-play details of the Giant-Dodger battle.
The game was tied 1-1 after seven innings. Then
Brooklyn scored three times in the top of the eighth.
Many of the Dodger fans at the Polo Grounds and the
multitude listening to the game on the radio thought that the Giants would
not come back.
Durocher and the Giants never gave up. "We knew
that Newcombe would make the wrong pitch," said Monte Irvin.
"That was his history."
The Giants came to bat in the bottom of the ninth
inning - only three outs remained in their miracle season.
Alvin Dark led off with a single through the right
side of the infield. Don Mueller slapped the ball past Dodger first
baseman Gil Hodges. Irvin fouled out. Whitey Lockman doubled down the left
field line. Dark scored.
With runners on second and third Ralph Branca came in
to relieve Newcombe. Bobby Thomson waited to bat. Durocher said, "I
did not know whether they would pitch to Thomson or not. First base was
open. Willie Mays, just a rookie, was on deck."
Veteran New York Giant announcer Russ Hodges
described the moment to millions mesmerized at their radios that October
"Bobby Thomson up there swinging.... Bobby
batting at .292. Branca pitches and Bobby takes a strike call on the
inside corner. Lockman without too big of a lead at second but he'll be
running like the wind if Thomson hits one.
"Branca throws ... there's a long drive...it's
gonna be, I believe. . .' The precise moment was 3:58 P.M., October 3,
"... the Giants win the pennant!" Hodges
screamed the words at the top of his voice, all semblance of journalistic
objectivity gone. "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the
Hodges bellowed it out eight times - and then
overcome by the moment and voiceless, he had to yield the microphone.
Pandemonium was on parade at the Polo Grounds for
hours after the game. For almost half an hour after the epic home run,
there were so many phone calls placed by people in Manhattan and Brooklyn
that the New York Telephone Company reported service almost broke down.
Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca would play out their major league careers.
But the moment they shared - as hero and goat that October day at the Polo
Grounds - would link them forever.
# # #
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
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