It was back in the late 1970s
that I was researching and interviewing for my
book “New York City Baseball 1947-1957 the Last
Golden Age” for Macmillan Publishers. That work
was about the old Brooklyn Dodgers, New York
Giants and New York Yankees.
The old Giant Bobby Thomson,
not that far removed from “The Shot Heard ‘Round
The World,” was one of my more intriguing and
modest interviewees. We had such rapport that I
suggested to the publisher that he be used when
I went around talking and signing books. It
didn’t happen. Too bad. The price was minimal
and the rewards would have been maximum.
Now the sad news has come out
that the man they once called “the Scot from
Staten Island” has passed at age 86. His epic
clout was tarnished when it was claimed decades
later that Leo Durocher’s Giants had used a
buzzer-and-telescope system that season to steal
signals from opposing catchers. Thomson,
however, always firmly denied that he ever knew
what pitch was coming that long ago day –
October 3, 1951 at the old Polo Grounds in New
Some refer to that time as
"The Miracle at Coogan's Bluff." Others,
especially in Brooklyn, call it "Dat Day." But
no matter what label is applied it was a time to
It was a time when the Giants
played out of the Polo Grounds in Manhattan and
the Dodgers entertained millions in their tiny
Brooklyn ballpark, Ebbets Field. It was a time
of tremendous fan devotion to each team.
In July, Brooklyn manager
Charlie Dressen had bragged, "The Giants is
dead." It seemed to aptly describe the plight of
Leo Durocher's team. For on August 12 the Giants
trailed the Dodgers by 13 l/2 games in the
Then, incredibly, the Giants
locked into what has been called "The Miracle
Run." They won 37 of their final 44 games - 16
of them in one frenetic stretch - and closed the
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime
situation," recalls Monte Irvin, who batted .312
that year for the Giants. "We kept on winning.
The Dodgers kept on losing. It seemed like we
beat everybody in the seventh, eighth and ninth
The Giants and Dodgers
finished the season in a flat-footed tie for
first-place and met on the first day of October
in the first game of the first play-off in the
history of the National League. The teams split
the first two games setting the stage for the
third and final game.
Don Newcombe of the Dodgers
was pitted against Sal Maglie of the Giants.
Both hurlers had won 23 games during the regular
The game began under overcast
skies and a threat of rain. Radio play-by-play
filtered into schoolrooms, factories, office
buildings, city prisons, barbershops.
The Wall Street teletype
intermingled stock quotations with play-by-play
details of the Giant-Dodger battle.
The game was tied 1-1 after
seven innings. Then Brooklyn scored three times
in the top of the eighth.
Many of the Dodger fans at the
Polo Grounds and the multitude listening to the
game on the radio thought that the Giants would
not come back.
Durocher and the Giants never
gave up. "We knew that Newcombe would make the
wrong pitch," said Monte Irvin. "That was his
The Giants came to bat in the
bottom of the ninth inning - only three outs
remained in their miracle season.
Alvin Dark led off with a
single through the right side of the infield.
Don Mueller slapped the ball past Dodger first
baseman Gil Hodges. Irvin fouled out. Whitey
Lockman doubled down the left field line. Dark
With runners on second and
third Ralph Branca came in to relieve Newcombe.
Bobby Thomson waited to bat. Durocher said, "I
did not know whether they would pitch to Thomson
or not. First base was open. Willie Mays, just a
rookie, was on deck."
Veteran New York Giant
announcer Russ Hodges described the moment to
millions mesmerized at their radios that October
"Bobby Thomson up there
swinging.... Bobby batting at .292. Branca
pitches and Bobby takes a strike call on the
inside corner. Lockman without too big of a lead
at second but he'll be running like the wind if
Thomson hits one.
"Branca throws ... there's a
long drive...it's gonna be, I believe. . .' The
precise moment was 3:58 P.M., October 3, 1951.
"... the Giants win the
pennant!" Hodges screamed the words at the top
of his voice, all semblance of journalistic
objectivity gone. "The Giants win the pennant!
The Giants win the pennant!"
Hodges bellowed it out eight
times - and then overcome by the moment and
voiceless, he had to yield the microphone.
Pandemonium was on parade at
the Polo Grounds for hours after the game. For
almost half an hour after the epic home run,
there were so many phone calls placed by people
in Manhattan and Brooklyn that the New York
Telephone Company reported service almost broke
Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca
would play out their major league careers. But
the moment they shared - as hero and goat that
October day at the Polo Grounds - would link