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The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!
August 18, 2010 10:24 AM   Subscribe

'In 1951, there wasn't a more passionate rivalry in sports than the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. Giants fans hated Dodger fans. Dodger fans hated Giants fans. Fathers passed it on to sons. In August, the Giants were thirteen and a half games out of first place. That's insurmountable. Your season's over. But mnh-mnh. Giants come back from thirteen and a half games, fall into a first-place tie with, guess who -- the Brooklyn Dodgers. Now, they play a playoff game to see who gets to go to the World Series and the Dodgers have it won, right? Until a guy named Bobby Thomson hit what they called "the shot heard 'round the world."' -- Sports Night. Bobby Thomson, who hit the possibly the most famous home run in baseball history, has died at age 86.

His game-ending home run on October 3, 1951 (previously) won the National League pennant for the New York Giants and was a crucial moment in one of the most enduring sports rivalries of the last century. The rivalry would not survive the famous moment by even a a decade, though: by the late fifties, both teams had left New York.

Thomson himself went to the Milwaukee Braves some three years after his moment of glory, where a mishap during spring training left him with a broken ankle and allowed a rookie named Hank Aaron to earn a place in the starting lineup. To date, Thomson is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
posted by ricochet biscuit (43 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
To date, Thomson is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Nor should he be, really. He just wasn't that exceptional a player. He was good, mind you, but so are hundreds of guys who also shouldn't be in the HoF. The fact that he hit the most famous home run in history doesn't make him suddenly deserve a spot there. The home run he hit sure does, though.
posted by cerebus19 at 10:33 AM on August 18, 2010


This would almost certainly be the most famous home run in baseball history, had the team in question been American (and if it had been the Yankees Frank Deford would have written a poem about it).
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:34 AM on August 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Godspeed, Bobby.

We still hate the Dodgers.

.
posted by rtha at 10:38 AM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Giants cheated, and they have been cursed ever since (zero championships since moving West):
Mr. JOSHUA PRAGER (Author, The Echoing Green): There was a clubhouse in centerfield at The Polo Grounds that looked out directly onto the field. And the Giants set a coach - Herman Franks, who had been the third base coach -they positioned him in the fourth window there, and they gave him a telescope. And he peered through that window with this telescope at the finger signals of the opposing catchers. And once he had sussed out the sign, he pressed the button. And that button buzzed a buzzer in the right field bullpen, where the Giant pitchers were warming up.

One buzz was a fastball. Two buzzes was an off-speed pitch. And it was there that a backup catcher - generally, Sal Yvars - relayed the sign to the batter. So pretty much, it went spying the sign, relaying the signal and then relaying it by a hand signal to the batter.

AMOS: So they cheated?

Mr. PRAGER: Yes, they did. Baseball has a sort of strange relationship with the stealing of signs. When you're standing on second base and you're peering in and stealing the sign with the naked eye, baseball not only allows that, it applauds that. But when, on the other hand, you use a telescope, they don't feel that that's appropriate.
Go Dodgers.
posted by cell divide at 10:49 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nor should he be, really. He just wasn't that exceptional a player.

Oh, you're quite right, I am sure. I was merely expressing my mild surprise (as someone who is at best a casual sports fan) that he wasn't there. I imagine it is a debatable point, whether someone deserves recognition on the basis of a single career highlight.

I suppose the exact equivalent in my country is Paul Henderson, who scored the winning goal in hockey's 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the USSR and then returned to a respectable but unremarkable career. If Henderson has ever been to the Hockey Hall of Fame, I suppose it was the same way I got there: paying fifteen bucks at the door.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:49 AM on August 18, 2010


Delillo's elegiac description of the feeling after that homer is fitting:

He thinks they will carry something out of here that joins them all in a rare way, that binds them to a memory with protective power. People are climbing lampposts on Amsterdam Avenue, tooting car horns in Little Italy. Isn’t it possible that this midcentury moment enters the skin more lastingly than the vast shaping strategies of eminent leaders, generals steely in their sunglasses—the mapped visions that pierce our dreams? Russ wants to believe a thing like this will pulse in his brain come old age and double vision and dizzy spells—the surge sensation, the leap of people already standing, that bolt of noise and joy when the ball went in. This is the people’s history and it has flesh and breath that quicken to the force of this old safe game of ours. And fans at the Polo Grounds today will be able to tell their grandchildren—they’ll be the gassy old men trying to convince anyone willing to listen, pressing in with medicine breath, that they were here when it happened...Shouts, bat-cracks, full bladders and stray yawns, the sand-grain manyness of things that can’t be counted.

It is all falling indelibly into the past.

posted by Beardman at 10:50 AM on August 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


> This would almost certainly be the most famous home run in baseball history, had the team in question been American

Oh, come on. It would doubtless be better known than it is, but there's no reason it would automatically beat out Thomson, Mazeroski, and Kirk Gibson. I'm all for baseball arguments, but let's not let nationalist resentments dominate to quite that extreme, shall we?

Good post; it's too bad baseball has robbed us of the thrill of true playoffs with its endless parade of postseason series (pushing the World Series into fucking November).
/old fart who grew up with sixteen teams
posted by languagehat at 10:55 AM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


.


^Baseball being shot out of the park
posted by schmod at 10:59 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, come on. It would doubtless be better known than it is, but there's no reason it would automatically beat out Thomson, Mazeroski, and Kirk Gibson.

Joe Carter is from Oklahoma, and that particular moment got enormously heavy news coverage and is extremely well remembered there, anyway.
posted by norm at 11:03 AM on August 18, 2010


When you're standing on second base and you're peering in and stealing the sign with the naked eye, baseball not only allows that, it applauds that. But when, on the other hand, you use a telescope, they don't feel that that's appropriate.

I really don't understand why this is cheating, although I gather from reading your link that everyone in baseball seems to agree it's cheating. I also didn't understand that Belichick thing from a few years ago, until I learned that there was a clear restriction on the use of video in the NFL. Was/is there such a clear rule against this kind of surveillance? Or is it more of a "that's just not done, dear boy" kind of thing?
posted by Errant at 11:03 AM on August 18, 2010


Sure they carried the rivalry to the west coast. I was raised on Dodger Blue - and to dislike the Giants (and to hate the Braves!).

As my dearly departed mother would say, I'm for the Dodgers and whoever is playing the Giants or Braves. (San Diego didn't really count, anyway.)

Still, it was a heck of a shot heard 'round the world.

RIP, Bobby.

.
posted by Man with Lantern at 11:03 AM on August 18, 2010


Joe Posnanski's thoughts on Thomson.
posted by TedW at 11:11 AM on August 18, 2010


that particular moment got enormously heavy news coverage and is extremely well remembered there

They remember it in Philly, too.
posted by Kirk Grim at 11:14 AM on August 18, 2010


Let's not bring Delillo into this (or anything).
posted by Edgewise at 11:14 AM on August 18, 2010


They remember it in Philly, too.

Everyone should watch the last minute or so of that video to hear Joe Carter's incredibly empathetic and generous remarks about Williams and the Phillies.
posted by Ian A.T. at 11:19 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Trivia quiz from the game I was watching last night: Who was on deck when Thomson was batting?
posted by JanetLand at 11:21 AM on August 18, 2010


One thing that's interesting in this video of The Shot is how differently people celebrated only sixty years ago: there's the Mouth Pop, the Swinging Both Arms Clockwise, the Invisible Discus...even pumping your fist looked different; here, it resembles pulling a large lever.
posted by Ian A.T. at 11:30 AM on August 18, 2010


He may not be in Cooperstown but, by virtue of being born in Glasgow, he at least made it into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.
posted by Jakey at 11:31 AM on August 18, 2010


JanetLand: Willie Mays.
posted by jleisek at 11:36 AM on August 18, 2010


This would almost certainly be the most famous home run in baseball history, had the team in question been American (and if it had been the Yankees Frank Deford would have written a poem about it).

Of course, I'm biased, but I'm pretty sure that Fisk's "assisted" home run in 1975 is at least as famous as Thompson's.
posted by anastasiav at 11:42 AM on August 18, 2010


Speaking as somebody without a deep knowledge of baseball, from a state with no great baseball history (at least at the pro level, college is a different matter) to speak of, the Thomson home run is way ahead of other contenders like Gibson, Mazeroski, and Carter. Those were all also great home runs, but I think the famous "the Giants win the pennant!" call puts Thomson over the top.
posted by kmz at 11:55 AM on August 18, 2010


After reading the chapter set around Bobby Thomson's home run I was sure Underworld was going to be the greatest read, ever. It was not. That chapter is great. When I saw Bobby Thomson's name in the headlines, the first thing that came to mind was Delillo's novel.

To me the most unforgettable home run was Gibson's. Of course, I was not yet born when the Dodgers and Giants moved west.
posted by bukvich at 12:05 PM on August 18, 2010


I grew up in the NYC area in the early 60s and people were still talking about Thompson's HR. It's hard for me to imagine now how people could be so upset about a baseball game that was played 10 years before, but they were.

Oh, and having a last name very close to Bill Maszeroski's certainly raised the eyebrows of Yankees fans in those days. I learned quickly to explain we weren't related (although there's some possibility that we are).
posted by tommasz at 12:08 PM on August 18, 2010


I'm slightly ashamed that despite being a baseball fan, the reason I know about this homerun is the episode of Sports Night about it.

Good post; it's too bad baseball has robbed us of the thrill of true playoffs with its endless parade of postseason series (pushing the World Series into fucking November).

MLB is working on that: Game 7 of the 2011 World Series will be on October 28th.
posted by gladly at 12:11 PM on August 18, 2010


I just finished reading Forever Blue, a book about the Brooklyn Dodgers and their move to LA. It's rather empathetic of Walter O'Malley and the situation he was in (the HBO documentary on this was, too). I also am wrapping up a rewatching of Ken Burns' excellent Baseball and recently acquired the commemorative companion book. So I'm in quite the Dodgers/Giants frame of mind as of late.

I am a diehard Yankees fan. And had I grown up in New York City during the 40s and 50s, I would have likely been a Dodgers fan. But damn that's a kickass homerun at the exact right time. Good on you, Bobby.

.
posted by grubi at 12:16 PM on August 18, 2010


OK. A little personal story/sidetrack. My father was born in Scotland and fought in ww1 as a mule skinner hauling artillery pieces through the mud of Europe. A pretty tough hombre. Shot twice and never sought medical attention. Carried two bullets and shrapnel with him til he died. NEVER in his life saw a doctor until Bobby Thom. hit his famous home run. The Flying Scot was always my dad's favorite Giant. But 30 minutes after that home run my dad was rushed to St. James hospital in Newark, NJ with a massive heart attack. He died Christmas morning three months later. My mom never forgave Bobby. Until the day she died she believed his home run killed Dad.
posted by notreally at 12:17 PM on August 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


> Of course, I'm biased, but I'm pretty sure that Fisk's "assisted" home run in 1975 is at least as famous as Thompson's.

Only in the Northeast.

That's quite a story, notreally. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by languagehat at 12:35 PM on August 18, 2010


From what I've heard, Bobby Thompson was one of the good guys in baseball. Always accessible, willing to sign autographs, and generally nice to all.

The Giants may have won the pennant, but let's face it; the Yankees are the team that win the World Series. Drove the NL teams to the West Coast.

Godspeed Bobby T.

.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:38 PM on August 18, 2010


"The shot heard 'round the world"

Is this the same world as the World Series?
posted by jontyjago at 12:46 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the best tribute to Bobby Thomson would be for the team from New York to come from being way behind in August to win the National League Pennant.

RIP Bobby Thomson


/still hopeful Mets fan
//Ya Gotta Believe
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 12:59 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Drove the NL teams to the West Coast.

This isn't even remotely true. In the late 50s, all the New York teams' attendance were down. O'Malley and Stoneham each saw an opportunity to move and make some of that mad bank Milwaukee was serving up to the Braves since their move, compounded with the Baltimore move for the Browns.
posted by grubi at 1:10 PM on August 18, 2010


After reading the chapter set around Bobby Thomson's home run I was sure Underworld was going to be the greatest read, ever. It was not.

Agreed. (Sorry Edgewise!)
posted by Beardman at 1:48 PM on August 18, 2010


... Frank Deford would have written a poem about it.
Now I'm confused. It sounds like you are regretting that this did not happen.
posted by Killick at 2:20 PM on August 18, 2010


Is this the same world as the World Series?

sigh

posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:40 PM on August 18, 2010


Thanks to my mother, I am still a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Note only the Brooklyn Dodgers -- I am a hereditary fan of a team that no longer exists. I don't even like baseball, and my family was never big into sports in general, yet I am still somehow a fan of this team.

It's weird.
posted by kyrademon at 3:34 PM on August 18, 2010


I just wanted to say I really wish Sports Night had a longer run than it ended up getting. That show was really good, and the quote in the post is from one of the better episodes.
posted by genehack at 4:11 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just dropping in to say....duck the fodgers and their miserable fans forever. If that team never won another game they would be doing better than they deserve.

The rivalry still exists, just fyi.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 4:23 PM on August 18, 2010


> Now I'm confused. It sounds like you are regretting that this did not happen.

Rest assured that I am not.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:43 PM on August 18, 2010


genehack: "I just wanted to say I really wish Sports Night had a longer run than it ended up getting. That show was really good, and the quote in the post is from one of the better episodes."

Yes to this. Yes to this so hard.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:01 PM on August 18, 2010


i remember my wife telling me that her older brother (now a doctor in his early '70s) was in Hebrew School that day, but being a big Giants fan, he snuck out of class to listen to the game with the janitor and remembers the famous "THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!!" moment.

I mentioned this to my wife today upon hearing about Thomson's death and she swears she has no memory of either hearing that story or telling me it. Well, it's a great story anyway. RIP, Bobby.
posted by jonmc at 5:02 PM on August 18, 2010


"I just wanted to say I really wish Sports Night had a longer run than it ended up getting. That show was really good, and the quote in the post is from one of the better episodes."

Dan's monologue there is fantastic, but that episode is probably as good as it is for simply putting an end to the dumbest arc that series ever produced, in a sea of otherwise good stories. Hooray! The end of Dana's dumbass dating plan!

Still, Isaac's melancholy when he admits that he didn't get to see it is fantastic, as is Dan's cheering him up. "You see your grandson get born? You producing Sports Night? Then shut up. A guy hit a baseball."

That show was unbelievably good at making even non-sports fans feel the love for sports, while also making it clear that life is more important.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:01 PM on August 18, 2010


That show was unbelievably good at making even non-sports fans feel the love for sports, while also making it clear that life is more important.

That is exactly why I used this as the frame. There is nothing I can say about Bobby Thomson that is as good as what Aaron Sorkin said.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:20 PM on August 18, 2010


Also dead as of last month: Clint Hartung^, then a Giant and on field -- pinch runner at 3rd -- during the play. You can see him in the celebration at about 1:05 (#26) and again, I think, at 1:14. I guess that's him doing the windmill moves as he crosses home base at 0:30.

I guess I wonder who the black guy at 1:04 is and who the guy doing the fist pump at 1:05 is. Feel I should know them.
posted by dhartung at 8:59 PM on August 18, 2010


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