Baseball History: Bobby Thomson Dies at 86
Bobby Thomson hit one of the most if not the most dramatic home runs in baseball history on October 3rd, 1951, when he hit a home run that turned a 4-2 defeat into a thrilling 5-4 come from behind win for the New York Giants over the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The hero of the 1951 NL playoffs died Monday at the age of 86 at his home in Savannah, Georgia. The mere mention of his name brings back memories of that day in 1951 when Thomson hit the "Shot heard around the world".
The Dodgers had took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning and Bobby Thomson tied the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh when he hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field, scoring Monte Irvin.
However, the Dodgers came back with three runs in the top of the eighth to give them a 4-1 lead. The Giants were unable to score in the bottom of the frame and Dodgers went down in order in the top of the ninth.
Alvin Dark and Don Mueller singled to start the bottom of the ninth for the Giants. Monte Irvin made the first out when he popped up to first base. Then, Whitey Lockman hit a double to left field scoring Dark to make it a 4-2 game.
Then Don Newcombe was relieved by Ralph Branca who had given up a home run to Thomson earlier in the playoff series and was facing Thomson with runners on second and third and with one out.
Thompson had an 0-1 count when he hit a line drive home run over the left field wall giving the Giants a 5-4 walkoff win culminating the 1951 season when the Giants were 13 games behind the Dodgers on August 11 with a 59-51 record. The Giants would play 29-8 baseball the rest of the season and won 11 of their last 13 games to take the NL championship.
The N.Y. Times obituary says the Giants were 13.5 games behind the Dodgers, but baseball-reference.com shows that they were never more than 13 games behind in 1951.
Thomson was 3-4 at the plate and drove in four of the five Giant runs, so he not only won the game with his three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth, but had put them in position to win by tying the game in the seventh.
Ralph Branca shown lying face down after giving up the dramatic home run to Bobby Thomson that gave the Giants a 5-4 victory that sent them to the World Series.
While Thomson and the Giants were celebrating the dramatic home run—Branca, the reliever who gave up the home run—was devastated and took the loss very hard.
This paragraph from an article about Branca written after the death of Thomson tells what a priest friend told Branca that day—
“I remember the parking lot,” Branca said. “I remember going out to the parking lot. Ann was in the car with a friend of ours, Father Paul Rowley from Fordham. And I said to Father Rowley, ‘Why me? Why did this have to happen to me?’ And Father Rowley said, ‘God gave you this cross to bear because you’re strong enough to bear it.’”
Thomson and Branca, who is now 84, were not good friends till 1982 when they discussed the possible stealing of signs by the Giants in that game. Since then they had made several appearances together.
Only in America could a two year old Scottish boy move to America with his immigrant parents and become one of the biggest heroes in American baseball history for one day in October of 1951.
Thomson was not a one season wonder, as he hit hit 264 major league home runs and drove in 1,026 runs in his 15 year major league career. He drove in over a 100 runs for the Giants in four seasons.
He was traded by the Giants to the Braves on February 1, 1954, but would break his ankle, allowing a young outfielder named Hank Aaron win a place in the starting lineup. When Thomson returned to the lineup, he was playing third base because Aaron was doing so well.
Thomson would never be considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but for one day in October of 1951 he was a Hall of Famer to Giant fans everywhere.
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