1) The Shot Heard ‘Round the World
Russ Hodges was the play-by-play radio announcer for the New York Giants for 22 seasons, but he’s remembered today for one call from 1951: “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”
Hodges’ memorable call was made after a home run that has gone down in history as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” Bobby Thomson, with the Giants trailing their crosstown rival Brooklyn Dodgers by two runs in the bottom of the ninth in a winner-take-all tiebreaker, hit a three-run homer off Ralpa Branca to send the Giants to the World Series.
The Giants had gone on a memorable run just to get to that point. Thirteen games behind the Dodgers in mid-August and still six games behind with two weeks left in the season, the Giants won their last seven games, and 13 of their last 14, to force a best-of-three playoff. They won the first game 3-1 at Ebbets Field, but the Dodgers responded with a 10-0 shutout in game two.
The third and deciding game would be played at the Polo Grounds, and the Dodgers wasted no time going up 1-0 in the top of the first inning. Three runs in the eighth gave the Dodgers a 4-1 lead going to the bottom of the ninth. The first two Giants reached base before Whitey Lockman hit a double to left, cutting the deficit to two. Then, with pinch-runner Clint Hartung on third, Lockman on third and rookie Willie Mays waiting on deck, Thomson sent Branca’s 0-1 fastball into the left field bleachers.
That Thomson was the home run hero was no surprise. He finished the 1951 season with 32, and hit 264 in his career. Thomson and Branca eventually became good friends and made public appearances together, including in San Francisco to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the home run. The two players will always be linked by what happened that October afternoon.
The Giants would go on to lose the World Series to the New York Yankees in six games, while the Dodgers would win the next two NL pennants and also come up short against the Yankees dynasty. The Giants won the championship in 1954, their last in New York, while it wasn’t until 1955 that the Dodgers were finally able to beat the Yankees and win their first title.