Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bobby Thompson R.I.P.

He died yesterday at the age of 86.

The 1951 Major League season ended with the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants tied in the pennant race, each with a 96-58 record. It was decided that the league championship would be settled in a three-game series. The Giants won the first game, the Dodgers won the second. In the third and deciding game, the Dodgers led 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth when Bobby Thompson, the Giants' third baseman, came to bat with two men on base. He took the first pitch, a fastball, for a strike. Then:

It's called "the shot heard 'round the world," lending immortality to a very un-immortal poem by that self-important hack Ralph Waldo Emerson; and of course to Bobby Thompson, who became the protagonist in what is quite possibly the most dramatic moment in baseball history; and to Russ Hodges, the voice of the Giants' radio broadcasts, whose famous quadruple announcement that the Giants did indeed "WIN THE PENNANT" reminds us all of baseball's power to turn a grown man into a little boy.
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One final note -- and it's a cautionary note to any of my fellow Texas Rangers fans who may be reading this. In mid-August 1951, the Dodgers were leading the Giants by 13 games; by the end of September, that 13-game lead was gone, and the Dodgers ended up losing the pennant. The Rangers currently hold first place in the American League West division by eight games (although we're losing to Tampa Bay as I type these words). An eight-game lead is a nice thing to have. But in the long run -- and baseball is all about the long run -- it is no guarantee of earthly happiness.

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