Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bobby Thomson Dies

Bobby Thomson did a lot of things in the major leagues, and he would be deserving of a place in baseball history even if he hadn't fired the shot heard 'round the world that sent the New York Giants to the World Series after a dramatic playoff against the Brooklyn Dodgers at a time when playoffs (other than the World Series) only occurred if two teams tied for first place in either league.

But he did — on Oct. 3, 1951.

Anyway, Thomson died the other day at his home in Georgia. He was 86 years old, and his daughter said he had been in failing health in recent years.

"Partly because of the fierce rivalry between the Giants and the Dodgers; partly because it was broadcast from coast to coast on television; and partly because it was memorably described in a play–by–play call by the Giants radio announcer Russ Hodges," writes the New York Times' Richard Goldstein, "Thomson's three–run homer endures as perhaps the most dramatic moment in baseball history."

If you've ever heard children fantasizing aloud about being at the plate with two on and two out and a two–run deficit to make up in the ninth inning, they could be describing that October afternoon when Thomson hit a three–run home run to complete what had been a truly remarkable comeback at the end of the regular season.

In mid–August of that year, the Dodgers led the Giants by 13½ games, but New York won 16 in a row and pulled even with Brooklyn on the final weekend, setting up a best–of–three playoff.

And when Thomson fired his historic shot, he gave generations of boys something to emulate. Like Harry Truman's famous political upset only a few years earlier, it was proof that, as Yogi Berra said, it ain't over 'til it's over.

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