As mentioned in my Blog: Baseball and Television Grow in Popularity Together, certain individual baseball games shown on television had an enormous impact on baseball’s popularity. This blog will highlight a game which is considered one of those special games.
The date was October 3, 1951. The game was Game 3 of a three-game playoff series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. These three games were the first games televised live from coast-to-coast. This game had one of the most famous home runs, one of the most famous announcer calls, and one of the most talked about controversies.
The 1951 pennant race seemed to be a certainty for the Dodgers when as a late as August 10 the second place Giants were 12 games behind the Dodgers. The Giants went on to win 16 games in a row to cut the deficit to six games. By winning their last seven games, the Giants and Dodgers ended the season with identical records of 96-58.
At that time the rules said a three-game playoff was necessary to declare the pennant winner. Game 1 was won by the Giants 3 to 1. Bobby Thomson homered and Ralph Branca was the losing starting pitcher. Remember these two names. The Dodgers routed the Giants in Game 2 by a score of 10 to 0. This led to Game 3 which was held at the Giants home called the Polo Grounds.
For Game 3 Sal Maglie started for the Giants and Don Newcombe started for the Dodgers. Jackie Robinson drove in the Dodgers first run and Thomson drove in the Giants first run with a SF in the sixth inning. In the top of the eighth the Dodgers rallied for three runs. Going into the bottom of the ninth the Dodgers led 4-1. After scoring a run in the bottom of the ninth, Bobby Thomson came up to the plate with two runners on. Even though Thomson homered off of Branca in Game 1 of the playoff, Dodger manager Charlie Dressen brought Ralph Branca into the game to pitch to Thomson. After taking Branca’s first fastball for a strike, Thomson blasted the next fastball over the left-field wall. The ball landed in the first row approximately 315 feet from home-plate. After winning the pennant, the Giants lost to the Yankees in the 1951 World Series.
One of the most famous baseball calls of all-time was given by Russ Hodges, the Giants announcer. The call was: “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! The Giants win the pennant! Bobby Thomson hits into the lower deck of the left-field stands! The Giants win the pennant and they’re goin’ crazy, they’re goin’ crazy!”
In those days broadcasts were seldom taped and no one at any of the networks were taping the game. This call only survived because a Dodger fan at work, had his mother tape the last half-inning of the Giant broadcast just to hear Russ Hodges’ sad words describing the Giant loss.
A controversy arose when rumors spread that the 1951 Giants were stealing signs at their home games. The clubhouse was located some 480 feet behind center field. The rumors say the Giants used a telescope manned by Herman Franks, a coach, to see the catcher’s finger signs and then relay these signs to the dugout through a buzzer line. Thomson insisted he had no foreknowledge of Branca’s pitch. Branca thought he knew the fastball was coming but he still had to hit it.
The phrase “The Shot Heard Round the World” appeared in a NY newspaper and was attached to Thomson’s home run from that point on.
Later Branca and Thomson became close friends and for several years appeared together at many functions.
To see this home run do ctrl click on the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrI7dVj90zs