In mid-July of 1951, with his New York Giants languishing behind the Brooklyn Dodgers, manager Leo Durocher moved struggling slugger Bobby Thomson from the outfield to third base. "Maybe he's putting me back there so I can be nearer the fans who've been giving it to me so good," Thomson said. (Previously Durocher moved Thomson from centerfield to left to free up at bats for 20-year-old Willie Mays.) Ten weeks later the Giants were National League champions and Thomson was the toast of Coogan's Bluff. His ninth-inning home run off Ralph Branca, of course, gave the Giants the pennant, but that one swing overshadowed his remarkable stretch drive: After teammate Whitey Lockman convinced him to close his stance and crouch more at the plate, Thomson hit .358 in the second half of the season, including .440 in the final month.
The Shot Heard 'Round the World brought the Scottish-born Thomson, who died on Aug. 16 at age 86, fame and countless free drinks—not to mention an engraved watch at the Feast of the Haggis in Chicago the following month—but for years he was flustered at the extent the homer obscured everything else he did. (He hit 32 homers in '51, and when his career ended in 1960 he was 24th on the career home run list, with 264.) "I've tried to forget it," Thomson said in 1957. "I imagine Ralph, a nice guy, has tried even more." But eventually both men came to accept that they were part of something remarkable that October afternoon at the Polo Grounds. They appeared at memorabilia shows together, played golf together, even traveled with their families together. "Let's face it," Thomson said in 1991, "without that moment, we'd both be long forgotten."
AP (THOMSON SWING)
BIG SHOT Thomson sent Branca's second pitch over the wall to win the pennant.
NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY/MLB PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES (BAT KISS)
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