Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's gonna be I believe

I think I knew about Bobby Thomson before I knew the names of my uncles.

It is, as I try to recall the sequence now, one of my earliest if not my earliest recollection--hearing both my mother and father tell me about the 1951 pennant race.

Down thirteen games in the middle of August, the Giants clawed back to tie the Dodgers and force a three game playoff.

The teams split the first two games. In the third the Dodgers led the Giants by two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Bobby Thomson came up with men on second and third and then..

"Branca throws. There's a long fly ball. It's gonna be I believe. The Giants win the pennant. the Giants win the pennant. The Giants win the pennant. Bobby Thomson hits a line drive into the left field stands and they're going crazy, they're going crazy. Ahhhhhhh"

According to family lore, my father--a salesman at the time--had stopped in a restaurant to watch the end of the game. When Thomson hit the homerun he jumped up and down and coins flew out of his pocket. He retrieved one of the dimes and phoned my mother. When she picked up, my father--without much of a hello--simply repeated "Did you see that. Did you see that. Did you see that."

Fifty nine years later I still get goose bumps when I listen to recordings of the Thomson at-bat. And fifty nine years later a generation that witnessed the homer, and the generation who heard the narrative from their mothers and fathers were saddened yesterday when they heard the news that Bobby Thomson passed. Strangely, Clint Hartung, the runner on third when Thomson connected, passed within the last several weeks himself.

Two books, at least, have been written just about the homerun. One is called The Miracle at Coogan's Bluff. The other, The Giants Win the Pennant. The recording of Thomson's homerun has been played on sport shows dozens of times in the last 24 hours. It is, of course, an indication of the power of sport that an event 59 years ago can stay alive and still excite people six decades later.

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