Seeing as that the ‘season of miracles’ is now upon us, readers will be introduced to some of the top sports miracles of all time. For this particular article, we turn to some pretty famous words that were said by a man named, Russ Hodges, who was broadcasting a baseball game one day. This particular broadcast was not national, just a local game for Giants’ fans to enjoy. Hodges was definitely a calm, laid-back sort of guy who no one would ever ‘deem’ excitable. However, on this particular day, it was his calm, steady voice that captured a true sports miracle.
The call began with the quiet words: Bobby Thomson…up there swingin’… And the announcement ended with the most famous words ever spoken in baseball history:
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! HEEEY-OH!!!
That was the incredible moment in 1951 when the New York Giants needed a huge miracle in order to get that pennant away from their cross-town rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers. In the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game, Bobby Thomson stepped to the plate with two men on base, and two pitches later he hit a high fastball just far enough to clear the fence in left field. He jumped wildly around the bases, and was carried from the field on the shoulders of his teammates. This shot – this one incredible shot – rang out through all five New York boroughs and beyond!
The phrase, “shot heard round the world,” was actually used by the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1837, when in the Concord Hymn, he referred to the ‘shot’ as the first battle of the Revolutionary War. But the use of the phrase with regard to Thomson’s home run may also have been inspired by the high number of U.S. servicemen who listened to the game on Armed Forces Radio while stationed in Korea.
On August 11, Brooklyn had held a thirteen-and-a-half game lead on the Giants. But the Giants turned around and won their next sixteen games, putting together a streak that is almost unequalled in baseball today! They went 37-7 in their last 44 games, and with their fourteen-inning victory over the Phillies – who were the league champions he year before – they made the Dodgers force a best-of-three showdown.
Brooklyn won the coin toss to decide home-field advantage in the series and the manager, for some odd reason, chose to play only the first game at home rather than the last two. Even though fans were upset, he thought that if the Dodgers won their only home game, they would only need to win one out of two on the road – and that would be simple.
However, the Giants won the first game at Ebbets Field, with Thomson being the hero of that one as well when he hit a two-run home run to seal the win up. When the series moved to the Polo Grounds, the Dodgers won the second game – a complete shutout with a rookie pitcher.
For this famous third game, Thomson tied it up with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh, and in the eighth inning the Dodgers did so well that they ended up heading to the bottom of the ninth with a secure 4-1 lead. However, their pitcher – Newcombe – was seriously tired. Before this, he had pitched a complete game, then thrown for almost six innings in relief the next day in the season finale. Pitching with only two days’ rest, he attempted to take himself out of the game, but was talked into finishing the inning. The Giants shortstop singled and a rally began. Newcombe did finally head to the bullpen, where the bullpen coach made a choice that fans simply didn’t understand – and a choice that also ended up costing him his job. The relief pitcher who was sent in was the same one who had pitched and lost Game 1 of the tiebreaker on a Thomson home run; a pitcher who had actually given up several home runs that year to Thomson, who had hit thirty-one during the season.
But the man, Branca, headed to the mound and met face-to-face with Thomson yet again. A fastball sailed down the middle for a strike, but his second pitch was also a fastball – one that Thomson yanked down the left-field line. A Dodgers’ left fielder rushed toward the fence, thinking the rapid line drive might bounce off the wall but, no luck. The ball disappeared into the stands for a game-ending three-run home run. With one swing Thomson had transformed a definite defeat into a victory, and snatched the pennant for the Giants.
It was truly a sight to see when that ball disappeared over the fence. In videos, every fan can still see Thomson as he hopped crazily around the bases before disappearing into the huge pack of extremely excited teammates who were waiting for his arrival at home plate. The Dodger players were absolutely stunned as they headed for the clubhouse. And another amazing notation in history is that the man waiting to hit behind Thomson was a young rookie who would end up hitting his own excess of thrilling home runs – Willie Mays.
If you think media is an unbelievably large industry nowadays, it was absolutely crazy on that day. TV and radio broadcasters captured the moment for baseball fans across the globe, although Russ Hodge’s words would be the ones to live in infamy. Harry Caray – the famous broadcaster – was also in the Giants’ radio booth with Hodges, and people wonder what the famous man was doing when Hodges screamed about the shot heard round the world.
The official attendance of that third game was only a little over thirty-four thousand – quite low considering the importance of the game and the bitter rivalry that existed between the two teams. Oddly enough, historians agree that this only represented the number of tickets sold before the game began, and did not account for the New Yorkers and Brooklyn-ites who had left work early to head to the massively important game.
The Giants advanced to the 1951 World Series, but they would only be given that one miracle for the season. The New York Yankees would end their miraculous ride by winning the Series in six games.
But, in the end, the winners of the Series that year just didn’t matter. For all any baseball fan will ever remember from 1951 are the words of Russ Hodges when he heard the crack of that bat and announced to everyone: THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!!
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