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The Shot Heard around the World refers to a game-winning home run that was scored by New York Giants third baseman Bobby Thompson on October 3, 1951 to give the Giants the National League Pennant. It had been the first time that the National League was being decided with a playoff game and the Giants who had established themselves as kings of comeback that year, put on a game that further cemented that status.
The Lead-Up to the Shot
In mid-August, the Giants appeared down and out of the National League pennant race having fallen behind first placed Dodgers by 13 games. However, they turned their form around and won the next sixteen games in a row to move to within six games of the Dodgers.
They went on to win a total of 37 out of 44 games while the Dodgers dropped some crucial games and the two teams finished joint top of the National League, both with a 96-58 record. This necessitated a three-game tie break series, the first of its kind in the National League, to determine the pennant winners.
The Dodgers, who won the coin toss decided to play the first game at home and the second away at the Ebbets Field, reasoning that they would win the first home game, which would mean that they would only need to win one more game at the Giant’s home field.
How did the event Unfold?
The Giants won the first game 3-1 but the Dodgers evened the series with a 10-0 whitewashing in the second game. In game three in front of an audience of 34,320 with the inclusion of the Yankees team that awaited the winner of this game in the World Series, the Giants found themselves trailing by a solitary point for the first six innings.
After the Giants responded in the seventh inning to even the score, it got worse for them as the Dodgers extended the lead through 3 points in the eighth inning, which meant the Giants were trailing 4-1 heading into the ninth inning. The Dodgers fans were beginning to empty as despairing fans left to avoid seeing what they must have felt was an inevitable disappointment. In the ninth inning, the Giants pulled one back through an Al Dark drive.
With the Giants’ Bobby Thompson waiting to bat, the Dodgers brought on relief pitcher Ralph Branca. With first base open and in the knowledge that Thompson was a reliable hitter, the Giants thought Branca would throw an intentional walk. Dodgers coach Chuck Dressen had considered putting on a winning run in place of Branca but was afraid the Giants could bring on an experienced pinch hitter for star rookie Willie Mays.
However, Branca elected to pitch and it was a called strike. His second pitch, an inside fastball connected superbly with Thompson’s bat who unleashed with all his might, sending the ball into the lower stands for a three-run homerun. Thompson ran the bases and then into a mob of fans who ran onto the field realizing, the Giants had just won the Pennant.
Aftermath of the Shot
One of the most memorable commentaries of the moment was done by radio announcer Russ Hodges who kept screaming, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” the following day, the New York Daily News captioned the game under the headline “The Shot Heard ‘Round the Baseball World” and that epithet spread quickly among baseball fans.
The famous home run continues to be a moment of adulation for many fans and artifacts from the game are treasured assets for many collectors. There was controversy regarding the Rangers’ supposed illegal hidden communication between pitchers and catchers but that has never been proved. The shot is also immortalized in a 1997 novel Underworld that begins with a prologue that narrates the events of the game. ESPN ranked this game at second on their list of greatest 20th century games while the shot itself is ranked as the fifteenth greatest sporting moment of all time.
In the World Series, the Giants started strongly be beating the Yankees 5-1 in game one. However, the Yankees won the next three games to lift the series. They would make amends in the 1954 thanks to a great performance by Willie Mays. Bith the Giants and the Dodgers left New York for California before the end of the 1950s.