October 3, 1951. Over 34,000 fans came too see this one-game playoff between the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers at the Polo Grounds. The Giants had come from behind, 13.5 games during the regular season, something no team had ever done. Don Newcombe and Sal Maglie had kept the game at a 1-1 tie entering the 8th inning. The Giants run came off a Bobby Thompson homerun and the Dodgers run came off a Jackie Robinson single scoring Pee Wee Reese.
The Dodgers erupted for 3 runs in the 8th, in the middle of the rally both Robinson and Reese scored runs. With the Dodgers up 4-1, Newcombe breezed into the 9th, but the Giants did not go quietly. The Giants lead off with two singles and with 1 out, Whitey Lockman doubles to LF making the game 4-2 with Bobby Thompson due up. Thompson had homered earlier in the game was already 2-3 and had hit 7 of his 31 home runs vs the Dodgers. Ralph Branca was brought in to get the last 2 outs. Thompson launched a 0-1 pitch into the left-field corner for a game-winning home run.
Aware of the infamous Fred Merkle blunder, Jackie Robinson was the only Dodger to remain on the field making sure Thompson touched all the bases.
The blast will become known in baseball lore as the Shot Heard ‘Round the World. The Giants had come from behind, 13.5 games during the regular season, something no team had ever done.
As time went on it was revealed, the Giants were stealing signs the last two months of the season.
And now, the rest of the story. This was one of the most famous stories my Dad would ever tell me. He was a teenager attending Cambridge Rindge High School, and he had happened to come home for lunch. Living in Cambridge, MA he told me on a rare occasion he could pick up the New York Giants on the radio. As so happened on that day he was able to pick up the game. It was a day game of course, and once he got it tuned in he could not leave. He was a Boston Braves fan so he didn’t have a rooting interest, but he spun the story of him listening to every pitch of the game. I had fantasized he had a hand on the sink, a foot on a metal radiator and was holding the radio just so, to be able to hear the game.
As he told the story and built the drama, it was almost like I was there, even though I would not be born for another 16 years. He told me about every pitch, and then he would almost tear up going into full detail on Russ Hodges call.
Several years before he passed I gave him an autographed picture showing Thompson’s home run. My Dad was never a man to show much emotion, but I could tell when he turned away it brought back all his memories of that amazing game he just happened to listen too. It brought him not only joy the day it happened, but the years telling the story I think meant just as much to him.