Right Field

October 3, 1951, at the Polo Grounds

Unless you’re a Dodgers fan, this never gets old — Russ Hodges’s call of the Shot Heard ’Round the World, Bobby Thomson’s home run at the Polo Grounds on October 3, 1951:

Thirteen and a half games behind the Dodgers on August 11, the Giants stormed back in the last seven weeks of the season to tie them for first place in the National League. The two teams split the first two games of an improvised three-game playoff series. In Game 3, the Dodgers were up 4 to 2 in the bottom of the ninth. With two men on, Thomson hit a line drive into the left-field deck of the Polo Grounds, surely one of the oddest-shaped ballparks in the history of MLB.

Some baseball fans know Hodges’s call by heart, much as schoolchildren might have once been able to recite the Gettysburg Address:

The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! . . . I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it! I do not believe it! . . . and the Giants win it, by a score of 5 [Hodges’s voice rising slightly on “5”] to 4, and they’re picking Bobby Thomson up, and they’re carrying him off the field.

Rumors that the Giants began stealing signs around the time of their improbable late-season comeback persisted for years. In 2001, as the 50th anniversary of the Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff approached, Joshua Prager in the Wall Street Journal pretty much laid to rest any doubt on the subject. He quoted former players who explained a fairly elaborate scheme that the Giants had invented for stealing signs. Thomson was ambiguous in his answer to the question whether he got help on his pennant-clinching home run, which he hit 61 years ago today.


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