1951 was supposed to be an easy summer for the Brooklyn Dodgers. They’d won pennants in ’47 and ’49, and by mid-August, the Dodgers held a whopping 13.5-game lead over their closest division rivals. A World Series showdown against the defending champion Yankees seemed all but assured.
The only problem was, nobody told the New York Giants.
Over the course of the next month, the Giants clawed their way up the standings, and by September 20, the Giants were only 4.5 games back with a record of 89-58 to the Dodgers’ 92-52.
The Dodgers had 10 games left. The Giants had seven. Playing even .500 baseball would clinch the pennant for the Dodgers.
But the Dodgers went 4-6, and the Giants went 7-0. From a 13.5-game lead, the Dodgers found themselves tied on the last day of the season with their crosstown rivals with matching records of 96-58.
It was determined that there would be a three-game playoff to decide the winner. The Giants won the first game; the Dodgers, the second. On the final day, it all came down to two men: Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca.
Thomson had already knocked a homer off of Branca to win Game 1 of the playoff series. But with the Dodgers up 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth with two on and one man out, manager Charlie Dressen brought Branca in to face Thomson again, and the rest is baseball history.
Thomson knocked the ball over the Polo Grounds’ short left field fence for a three-run homer. The papers called it “The Shot Heard 'Round The World,” and the Giants completed their comeback. The team were winners, Thomson was a hero and the man in the batter’s box—an untested rookie by the name of Willie Mays—had the best view of it all.