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Thomson’s ‘Shot’ Evokes Good and Bad Memories

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The sports nut’s recurring dream: You’re presented with a time machine. You can dial up and attend any 20th century sporting event. Front-row seat.

If being at New York’s Polo Grounds 48 years ago today isn’t No. 1 on your list, it is for many others.

With one swing of his bat that day, Bobby Thomson gave baseball a moment treasured to this day by people who weren’t even there. Or maybe they heard Russ Hodges’ unforgettable, hoarse radio call: “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! . . .”

The Brooklyn Dodgers had a 4-1 lead in the ninth inning. The Giants scored a run on three straight hits. With two on, up came Thomson to face luckless Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca.

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On a one-strike count, Thomson launched the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” a drive that reached the left-field seats, putting the Giants in the World Series.

While Giant announcer Hodges was approaching hysteria on his call, the somber Dodger announcer, Red Barber, called it this way:

“It’s in there, for the pennant.”

Ironically, it was the first coast-to-coast telecast of a major league baseball game. The TV announcer was Ernie Harwell, then a member of the Giants’ radio crew.

After the game, according to author Roger Kahn, Branca was met by his fiancee. He asked her:

“Why me? I don’t smoke. I don’t run around. Baseball is my whole life. Why me?”

Also on this date: In 1962, the Los Angeles Dodgers experienced arguably their most disappointing defeat. At Dodger Stadium, the Giants scored four times in the ninth inning to win, 6-4, and take the best-of-three playoff series for the National League pennant. . . . In 1986, former major leaguer Vince DiMaggio died at 70. . . . In 1947, at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, in Game 4 of the World Series, Yankee pitcher Bill Bevens lost a no-hitter in the ninth when pinch-hitter Cookie Lavagetto hit a two-out double to right to give the Dodgers a 3-2 win.


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