Bobby Thomson's "The Shot Heard Around the World" It was October 3, 1951, and the New York Giants hadn't won pennant since 1937. As late as mid-August, they,d trailed the favored Brooklyn Dodgers by 13 games. But the giants, led by former Dodgers skipper Leo Durocher, went on a tear, and the two teams finished the season in a dead heat. Now the best-of three playoff was knotted at a game apiece.
Today's finale, played at the Polo Ground was for all the marbles. Dodgers ace Don Newcombe held a 4-1 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. Three quick outs and the flag would fly in Brooklyn. But Alvin Dark and Don Mueller quickly singled to open the inning. An out later, Whitey Lockman doubled, scoring Dark. Mueller, injure on his way to third, was pulled for a pinch-runner. Two men on, two run down. Up came Bobby Thomson, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, converted to a third baseman earlier in the season.
His replacements in center field, rookie Willie Mays, watched anxiously from the on-deck circle. With Newcombe out of gas, Brooklyn manager Dressen went to his bullpen. Number 13, Ralph Branca, was a loose and ready. Branca had surrender a pair of homer to Thomson earlier in the season, but he was a the best man available. The big lefty's firs offering was a fast ball over the plate.
Thomson took it for strike one. The 1-0 pitch came slightly high and inside. One swing of the bat and the ball was sailing over the left fence, while Giants announcer Russ Hodges roared the most famous call in baseball broadcasting history over into the microphone,
"THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT"
Four broadcasters captured the moment for baseball fans in the New York City area and nationwide. Excerpts from the three radio accounts were played during the second hour of the October 6, 1991 installment of the Costas Coast to Coast syndicated radio show. Russ Hodges' call, which was the most famous of the three, was played last, but only to the extent of Thomson's climactic at bat.
The segment of Red Barber's version started with the final out of the Dodgers' ninth and continued through both the live Schaefer Beer commercial read by his broadcast partner Connie Desmond and the entire bottom half of the inning. The portions from Gordon McLendon's broadcast included his buildup to the first pitch, Maglie's strikeout of Carl Furillo to start the game, Thomson's baserunning blunder in the bottom of the second and the decisive homer. Copies of the audio and/or visual of the telecast are currently not known to exist.
The main reason for the terminology of being a shot heard around the World was due to the high number of U.S. servicemen who listened to the game on Armed Forces radio.
In February 2001, Joshua Harris Prager of the Wall Street Journal reported that the Giants had positioned coach Herman Franks with a telescope in the Giants' clubhouse during the latter half of the season, including the game itself, and had stolen the pitching signs of the Dodger catcher, Rube Walker, subbing for the injured Roy Campanella in the playoff game. Prager concluded that the spy had signalled pitches to the Giants' batters, including Thomson, thus enabling Thomson to know in advance what pitch Branca was going to throw him. According to Prager's research, Franks was hidden in Giant manager Leo Durocher's office, which was positioned in the Polo Grounds center field and offered a line-of-sight view of the catcher. A buzzer system was installed so that Franks could signal a player in the Giants' bullpen, located on the field of play in deep left field. The player would then signal the batter as to what pitch was coming.
However, acknowledging that sign-stealing was not made a violation of rules by Major League Baseball, and that it had been a part of baseball since the inception of signs as a means of communication between pitcher and catcher, Prager in an interview with CNN on February 3, 2001, left it to readers to determine if the sign-stealing, which Thomson denied, diminished the stature of the event. While the Prager article said that MLB had formally outlawed sign-stealing in the 1960s, his followup book in 2006, The Echoing Green, notes that the major leagues to this writing have not outlawed the practice.
The burden of uncovering sign-stealers is consigned to the opposing team, typically the visiting team. The fact that the visiting teams won the first two games of the playoff series raises the question of how effective the alleged sign-stealing really was. Nonetheless, Prager points out in The Echoing Green that Thompson hit over .100 higher after the sign stealing scheme began in July 1951 and "no doubt" received advanced notice of the two fastballs Branca threw at him that day. #1800beisbol