2016-09-29 / Sports

Baseball hero and icon of yesteryear

BASEBALL’S BEST
By LAMAR GARRARD
baseball historian

“There’s a long drive ... it’s gonna be, I believe ... the Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” – Russ Hodges, N.Y. Giants baseball radio announcer.

The above famous “shot heard round the world” radio call was made during the October 3, 1951, National League game at the Polo Grounds in New York. The Giants and Dodgers were in a three-game playoff to break the tie for the National League pennant. Bobby of the most famous home runs in baseball history to send his Giants into the 1951 World Series. Tied at one game apiece, this home run clinched the tie breaker and the Dodgers went back to Brooklyn having just lost the pennant in a bottom-of-the-ninth nail biter.

In my baseball travels I have been very fortunate to meet many of the heroes of the game from years ago. It seems like now most of them have passed away. One summer day a few years ago in Savannah, I was honored to be able to meet the man who hit that famous home run.

Driving up to the landings in a gated community in Savannah, I announced my arrival at the guard en- trance noting I had an appointment to see the great Bobby Thomson. After being given permission to en- ter the subdivision, I was impressed with the beautiful homes, the mani- cured lawns and land- s cape, and the general eye appeal of a picturesque suburban set- ting.

Upon meeting the grac ious Mr. T homson, who was very tall and lanky, I could tell that I was in the presence of a man who, although very humble, knew that circumstances and time had placed him in a situation in which he could have been a hero or a goat. Fortunately, the story turned out for the best for Bobby and his Giants. He told of how Leo Durocher, the manager, approached him before his turn at bat and said to him, “Bobby, if you ever hit one, hit one now.”

Thomson said he was more con- cerned with hitting the ball and making contact and not embarrass- ing himself than he was in hitting a home run. He said something to himself to the effect of please just let me hit the ball.

Of course we know that the Giants went on to the World Series and lost to the N.Y. Yankees in six games. Atlanta native and Giants pitcher Jim Hearn recorded one victory for the National League team. The Yankees featured rookie sensation Mickey his last World Series.

Bobby Thomson reminded me during our chat that he had hit more home runs in his career than just the “shot.” In fact he had already hit a home run in an earlier game in the three-game play off with the Dodg- ers.

Bobby Thomson was a splendid baseball player possessing very good speed, the ability to hit for av- erage and for power, and he also was a strong defensive player. Listening to Bobby that mid-summer day a few years ago in his beautiful home was a treat that I will never forget.

Washington, Georgia, native and Hall of Fame announcer Ernie Har- well was broadcasting the game on Television for NBC. His call was somewhat shorter as he voiced these two words for Thomson’s shot: “It’s gone.”

The memories of this famous home run are not gone and are not forgotten by baseball fans and baseball historians. The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown has on display Bobby’s spikes and glove from that historic game. This exhibit is said to be one of the most popular in the museum.

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