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Bobby Thomson Dies, Thanks For The Memories

Time out, you political hacks who think you know everything. It’s time for a brief commercial. Bobby Thomson is dead. He was 86.

Although not the greatest player by a longshot in his time, Bobby Thomson hit “The Shot Heard Around the World.” His three-run homer for the New York Giants in the bottom of the ninth inning in the third game of the 1951 National League playoff beat the Brooklyn Dodgers 5-4 to overcome the dreaded rival’s 13 1/2-game lead in mid-August.

I was a freshman in high school and remember how crushed I was listening to that radio announcer shout “The Giants Win! The Giants Win! The Giants Win!” I was a Dodger fan.

In all fairness and a glimpse of Bobby Thomson as a man, he said he doubted his fame would have lasted as long were it not for the New York media who believe the world begins and ends near the Hudson River.

I interviewed Thomson when I was a sports desk jockey in San Diego when a Major League seniors all-star team played an exhibition in San Diego Stadium in the early 1970s.

He was a gentleman, humble and respectful of the game and the people around him including Ralph Branca who was the ill-fated Brooklyn pitcher.

By the time I met him, Thomson had answered the question of that famous home run so many times a computer would lose track. Did the fame go to his head? No. Did he financially capitalize on his fame? No. He is the farthest player from the opportunistic Pete Rose one can fathom.

Thomson played 15 years in the Bigs but it was that one hit that catapulted him into the cloud of baseball heavens.

I was reading comments from various websites on news of Thomson’s death. The threads from old baseball geeks as myself related similar stories on where they where when the “Shot Heard Around The World” occurred.

One father told his son. ‘Who?” the son asked. Oh, Bobby Valentine’s father-in-law. Thomson’s daughter married Valentine, another journeyman ballplayer who managed in the Majors and now is a sports analyst on ESPN.

That’s what’s so beautiful about the game of baseball. Stories and statistics and arguments are handed down from grandfathers to sons to grandsons. Yes, daughters, too.

I loved Bobby Thomson as a man, a man who recognized his 15 minutes of fame that endured for decades was just a fluke in the wake of life’s experiences.

Thomson’s heroics are embellished over time, perhaps because it was New York and the Giants went on to win the World Series in 1951.

I was amused by some of the comments that the reason Thomson got a pitch he could hammer was because Willie Mays was the next batter. It was Mays rookie season and he had a pedestrian record in that playoff although capped by the greatest catch in history in that year’s World Series at the Polo Grounds and onward to induction into the Hall of Fame.

Baseball is a game of a billion records and I delegate the Thomson home run as the greatest in franchise history, much further down the ladder that in all of baseball.

Thomson’s dramatics should be considered in terms of the Giant franchise and not the hype from the nation’s media giants.

Who’s to say Bill Mazerowksi’s winning home run for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series triumph over the New York Yankees was not the greatest ever.

Who’s to say Bob Gibson’s World Series pitching heroics for the St. Louis Cardinals over the Detroit Tigers was not the best ever.

Or Luis Gonzales’ winning single for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the seventh game of the Series against the favored Yankees

Or the crippled Kirk Gibson’s homer for the Dodgers in the first game of one of their World Series against the once awesome Oakland A’s.

Bobby Thomson is remembered forever. He is joined by a cluster of heroes of equal fortune. He was a man, a true gentleman, among his peers.

God bless you sir, for the fond memories of what once was our national pastime. A mystical angel who will never fall from grace.

(Photo credits: Baseball card, Baseball Almanac.com; High fives after historic home run, Tullycraft blogspot.com;  circa age 75, wolvesheroes.com)

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