The other day, Bobby Thomson died. He hit the most memorable home run in baseball history in 1951. With the Giants 14 games back of Jackie Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodgers in mid-August, they staged the most improbable comeback in baseball history and tied the Dodgers for the pennant, leading to a three game playoff. With the series tied and the Giants down by two runs with two on in the bottom of the ninth, Thomson strode to the plate. Well, the rest is history.
My old man was a sophomore at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City at the time and, like his father before him, a rabid Giant fan. Friends of his offered him a ticket for the game, but he opted to go to class instead. After class, he and many others stood by a taxi in Journal Square listening to the game on the radio (remember – TV was virtually non-existent then). He had seen Thomson play numerous times for the Giants AAA affiliate, then located in Jersey City – across the river from Manhattan. The memory of the event summons equal parts joy and regret for my dad. That his fellow Giant-lover and father died shortly before Christmas that year only adds to the sweet/bittersweet element of the memory. Dad later ran into Bobby Thomson in the 80’s while working a trade show; somewhere in his house is an autographed polaroid of them.
I’ve seen this replay a thousand times with my dad, so I’ll share some of his recollections. Leo Durocher was the manager and third base coach for the Giants at the time. The way pitching coach Allie Reynolds practically molests him is one of my dad’s favorite elements of the play (dad saw the video later of course). Also, when you watch the video, you’ll see a rear shot of number 24 – Willie Mays, then a rookie. That the Giants went on to lose the Series to the Yankees in six games in no way overshadows the magic of this moment. Other than Al Michael’s call of the 1980 US-USSR hockey game, this is probably the most memorable broadcasting moment in sports history (though, I think this is the best).
Could the ghost of Thomson propel the current Giants on their quest to win their first World Series since 1954?