Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Shot Heard Round The World


This Oct. 3, 1951, file photo shows Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants hitting a home run, to win the national League pennant against the Brooklyn Dodgers, in the ninth ining of a baseball game at the Polo Grounds in New York. Famed home run hitter Bobby Thomson died Monday night, Aug. 16, 2010. He was 86. (AP Photo/File)

I will never forget that afternoon of October 3,1951 ~ it's emblazoned in my soul for the sheer emotion and excitement lifted me to unparalled bliss, if not ecstacy. Yes, it was the day I became a Giant fan forever: Allen L Roland

It was a crisp typical late fall afternoon in Western Massachusetts ~ I had just finished football practice and was sitting on the stairs of the Mount Hermon Prep School Fieldhouse listening to the radio play by play of the last game of the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers National League playoff.

The Giants had won 37 of their last 44 games to force this three game playoff with the powerful Brooklyn Dodgers. The Giants had won the first game at home 4 to1 but had lost the second 10 to 0 in Brooklyn and were now trailing 4 to1 going into the last of the ninth of the final and decisive game at the Polo Grounds ~ with the fearsome Don Newcombe on the mound for the Dodgers.

Things looked very grim indeed for the Giants ~ but Newcombe was showing the effects of overuse from the season's final days. Pitching on only two days' rest and tiring badly, he attempted to take himself out of the game, only to have Jacky Robinson talk him into trying to finish the ninth inning.

Giants shortstop Alvin Dark singled to start the ninth inning rally. Then Don Mueller singled to right, which sent Dark from first to third base. Monte Irvin followed, with a chance to drive in a run, but he chased the first pitch and popped out. Whitey Lockman followed with a double down the left-field line, scoring Dark and advancing Mueller to third. Mueller slid awkwardly into the bag and broke his ankle, forcing the Giants to send in Clint Hartung to pinch-run for him.

Charlie Dressen, the Brooklyn manager, finally pulled the obviously drained Newcombe and sent Ralph Branca into the game. (That move has bewildered baseball historians to this day ) Branca had pitched and lost Game 1 of the series and had given up several home runs that year to Thomson, who had hit 31 during the season. However, in Dressen's defense, he had no well-rested pitchers available; in the last regular-season game alone the Dodgers had sent seven men to the mound . Besides that , Willie Mays was on deck behind Thomson ~ so he couldn't pitch around Thomson. During the pitching change, Giant manager Leo Durocher reportedly implored Thomson ~ " If you ever hit one, hit one now ! "

So the stage was set and I was besides myself in excitement ~ Branca's first pitch was a fastball down the middle for a strike. His second pitch was a fastball up and in to Thomson, intended as a setup for his planned next pitch, a breaking ball down and away ~ which never happened. For Thomson pounced on that fast ball and drove it down the left-field line, a rising shot toward the invitingly close outfield fence, and into the third row of a frenzied mass of Giants fans who went stark raving mad ~ including myself as I screamed with broadcaster Russ Hodges ~ The Giants win the Pennant, The Giants win the pennant ...

So here is that moment frozen in time ~ this treasured memory was indelibly implanted in my young mind for it was etched in total joy and delight ~ forever associated with the late Bobby Thomson who died last week at 86 years old.

Allen L Roland

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Allen L Roland is a practicing psychotherapist, author and lecturer who also shares a daily political and social commentary on his weblog and website He also guest hosts a monthly national radio show TRUTHTALK on


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