Batter Bobby Thomson's three-run homer became legendary. Deborah Amos talks to writer Joshua Prager, who reveals that the Giants had an unusual home-field advantage.
Shot heard round the world
It's been described as the greatest baseball game ever played, and you don't have to be a baseball fan to mark the anniversary. It was the first nationally televised sporting event. Big shots from the movies, TV, the underworld were there; authors from Steinbeck to Don DeLillo have immortalized the event. The game ended with a homerun hit by Bobby Thomson off Ralph Branca known as the shot heard 'round the world. Branca throws, there's a long drive, it's going to be, I believe, the Giants win the pennant!
The Giants win the pennant! That was announcer Russ Hodges with his famous call.
But for years there's been a mystery about the game. Did the pennant winners, the Giants, cheat? Joshua Prager has written a book about the game.
In it, he solved the mystery about what happened 55 years ago today at the Giants' home field near the Harlem River. 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.
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And once he had sussed ph 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. 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. On that day, of course the fans had no idea what was going on. And you have quite a few remarkable cameo appearances in the book, fans who were either watching or listening to the game that day. Talk to me a little bit about the infamous Dodger fan who was on death row on that day. Well, Julius Rosenberg was listening to the game in the death house at Sing Sing.
Must redeem within 90 days. See full terms and conditions and this month's choices. More Books from this Author. Derek Jeter Presents Night at the Stadium. Home of the Brave. By Loren Long and Phil Bildner.
See more by Phil Bildner. The Death of Mrs. Westaway By Ruth Ware. Lying in Wait By Liz Nugent. The Outsider By Stephen King. Blacklands By Belinda Bauer. Thomson's dramatic three-run homer came in the ninth inning of the decisive third game of a three-game playoff for the pennant in which the Giants trailed, 4—2. The game—the first ever televised nationally—was seen by millions of viewers across America and heard on radio by millions more, including thousands of American servicemen stationed in Korea , listening on Armed Forces Radio.
The classic drama of snatching victory from defeat to secure a pennant was intensified by the epic cross-town rivalry between the Giants and Dodgers, and by a remarkable string of victories in the last weeks of the regular season by the Giants, who won 37 of their last 44 games to catch the first-place Dodgers and force a playoff series to decide the NL champion.
Shot Heard 'Round the World (baseball) - Wikipedia
The Giants' late-season rally and 2-togame playoff victory, capped by Thomson's moment of triumph, are collectively known in baseball lore as "The Miracle of Coogan's Bluff ", a descriptor coined by the legendary sports columnist Red Smith. The phrase " shot heard 'round the world " is from the poem " Concord Hymn " by Ralph Waldo Emerson about the first clash of the American Revolutionary War.
It later became popularly associated with Thomson's homer and several other dramatic historical moments. The Dodgers quickly pulled into first place, and widened their lead as the season progressed. The two teams concluded the regular season deadlocked with 96—58 records. The NL used a three-game playoff at that time to break ties for the pennant. The Dodgers won the coin toss to determine the playoff schedule; they elected to play the first game at home and the second and third if needed at the Polo Grounds, reasoning that after a likely win in Brooklyn, they would need to win only one of two at the Giants' park.
Clem Labine pitched a six-hit shutout against Sheldon Jones. A Giants rally in the second inning, initiated by Whitey Lockman 's single, fizzled when Thomson, trying to stretch a single into a double, failed to notice that Lockman had not advanced to third base, and was tagged out by Robinson. He was bunted over to third, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Thomson, tying the score at one run each. In the top of the eighth, the Dodgers came back with three runs. With Reese and Duke Snider on third and first after back-to-back singles, a Maglie wild pitch allowed Reese to score and Snider to advance to second.
Robinson was walked intentionally to set up a double play, but Pafko's ground ball to third bounced off the heel of Thomson's glove; Snider scored and Robinson took third. Billy Cox added another single to score Robinson, making the score 4—1 in favor of the Dodgers. According to some accounts, after eight innings on only two days' rest he attempted to take himself out of the game, but Robinson demanded that he continue: Giants shortstop Alvin Dark singled off Newcombe to start the bottom-ninth rally.
At that point, the Dodgers made a crucial defensive mistake: With no outs, a runner on first, and a 3-run lead, the normal strategy would be to position the infield for a possible double play; but first baseman Gil Hodges played behind Dark—apparently guarding against a highly unlikely steal attempt—leaving a large gap on the right side of the infield. Instead of a rally-killing double play, the Dodgers found themselves facing the potential tying run at the plate with two runners on base, nobody out, and Irvin—with regular-season RBIs—at bat; but Newcombe got Irvin to chase an outside pitch and foul out to Hodges.
Lockman followed with a double down the left field line, driving in Dark and advancing Mueller to third. Mueller slid awkwardly into the base, injuring his ankle, and was replaced by pinch runner Clint Hartung. In the bullpen, where Branca and Carl Erskine were warming up, coach Clyde Sukeforth noticed that Erskine—who had been troubled by arm problems all season—was bouncing his curve balls short of the plate, and advised Dressen to use Branca in relief.
That decision has been continually second-guessed by fans, sportswriters, and baseball historians: Branca had lost six of his last seven decisions, and gave up a game-winning home run to Thomson in the first playoff game. Dressen's options, however, were severely limited: This was the second questionable decision that inning by Dressen.
Mays had gone 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Branca in the first playoff game, but Dressen was unwilling to put the winning run on base, and worried that a veteran pinch hitter might be brought in to bat for Mays if he did so. Branca's first pitch was a called strike on the inside corner. His second was a fastball high and inside, intended as a setup for his next, a breaking ball down and away; but Thomson pulled the fastball down the left field line.
The ball disappeared into the lower-deck stands near the left field foul line for a game-ending, three-run home run. Thomson ran the bases, then disappeared into a mob of jubilant teammates gathered at home plate. The stunned Dodger players began the long walk toward the visitors' clubhouse under the center field bleachers; Robinson turned to watch Thomson, making certain that he touched every base, before following his teammates off the field.
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Later, after the celebrations had calmed down, a delegation of Dodgers—Reese, Snider, Roe, and Robinson—visited the Giants' locker room to offer their congratulations. Several television and radio broadcasters captured the moment for baseball fans in the New York City area and nationwide. The best known live description—"arguably the most famous call in sports"  —was delivered by Russ Hodges , who was broadcasting the game on WMCA-AM radio for Giants fans.
His call captured the suddenness and exultation of the home run:.
I don't believe it! I do not believe it! Bobby Thomson hit a line drive into the lower deck of the left-field stands and this blame place is going crazy! Horace Stoneham has got a winner! The Giants won it by a score of 5 to 4, and they're picking Bobby Thomson up, and carrying him off the field! Broadcasts were not routinely taped in , and no one at any of the local radio or television stations was recording the game. The WMCA call survives only because a Brooklyn-based fan named Lawrence Goldberg asked his mother to tape-record the last half-inning of the radio broadcast while he was at work.
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In fact, Goldberg had been a Giants fan since childhood.
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