August 17, 2010


Bobby Thomson Dies at 86; Hit Epic Home Run (RICHARD GOLDSTEIN, 8/17/10, NY Times)

Robert Brown Thomson was born on Oct. 25, 1923, in Glasgow and arrived in the United States at age 2. The son of a cabinetmaker, he grew up on Staten Island and signed with the Giants’ organization for a $100 bonus in 1942 out of Curtis High School.

A right-handed batter with good power and excellent speed, Thomson was in his fifth full season with the Giants in 1951. He got off to a slow start, playing center field, then went to the bench in May when the Giants called up a 20-year-old rookie named Willie Mays. But Thomson was playing regularly again by late July, this time at third base, and he hit better than .350 over the final two months of the season.

In mid-August, the Giants trailed the first-place Dodgers by 13 ½ games, and the Dodgers’ manager, Charlie Dressen, had proclaimed, “The Giants is dead.” But they went on a 16-game winning streak, and they tied the Dodgers for the National League lead on the season’s final weekend.

The Giants won the playoff opener, 3-1, at Ebbets Field, behind Thomson’s two-run homer off Branca, the Dodgers starter. But the Dodgers romped, 10-0, the next day at the Polo Grounds.

On Wednesday afternoon, the teams returned to the Polo Grounds to play for the pennant. It was an overcast day, and the attendance was just 34,320 — some 22,000 below capacity — for a duel of pitching aces, the Giants’ Sal Maglie against the Dodgers’ Don Newcombe.

Thomson authored an unlikely ending (Red Smith, October 4, 1951, New York Herald Tribune)
Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. There art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again. ;...]

So it was the Dodgers ball game, 4 to 1, and the Dodgers' pennant. So all right. Better get started and beat the crowd home. That stuff in the ninth inning? That didn't mean anything.

A single by Al dark. A single by Don Mueller. Irvin's pop-up. Lockerman's one-run double. Now the corniest possible sort of Hollywood schmaltz -- stretcher bearers plodding away with an injured Mueller between them, symbolic of the Giants themselves.

There went Newcombe and here came Ralph Branca. Who's at bat? Thomson again? He beat Branca with a home run the other day. would Charlie Dressen order him walked, putting the winning run on base, to pitch to the dead-end kids at the bottom of the batting order? No, Branca's first pitch was called a strike.

The second pitch -- well, when Thomson reached first base he turned and looked toward the left-field stands. Then he started jumping straight up in the air, again and again. Then he trotted around the bases, taking his time.

Ralph Branca turned and started for the clubhouse. The number on his uniform looked huge. Thirteen.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at August 17, 2010 4:03 PM
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