Posts Tagged ‘Bobby Thomson’

Astros Face Brink of History on Major Date

October 3, 2012

The Houston Colt .45s began our 51-season franchise NL history with a three-game series sweep over the Chicago Cubs in 1962. Today the Houston Astros have a chance to go out as a club leaving the NL by doing the same thing. All they need do is win today.

Sixty-One years ago, on October 3, 1951, Bobby Thomson unleashed his “Shot Heard ‘Round the World, that incredible 3-run walk-off homer to left in the 9th at the Polo Grounds that propelled the New York Giants to that magical pennant playoff game win over the Brooklyn Dodgers by a 5-4 count.

Today, October 3, 2012,  some lesser achievements are on the line for the Houston Astros as the close out the season and their 51-year National League lifespan on their way to the American League next season, but they are there to be had – and having them in the bag of local baseball history would be nifty.

(1) As Darrell Pittman noted yesterday in a comment on my column about the Cubs, an Astros sweep of the Cubs series would allow the franchise to leave the NL in the same way they entered the league back in 1962, that is, with a 3-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs.

(2) A shutout win over the Cubs today in their last game would allow them to finish the season as the first 100-loss club in history to finish a year with four shutout victories. – Whoa? Has any club ever finished with four shutout wins? And when was the last time a big league manager got fired after leading his team to four straight shutout wins at the end of the season?

C’mon, boys, let’s do it. – It would be nice to close the season with any kind of win to avoid a loss that would set the new record for most losses in a single year. “106” is a big enough “L” bulge. Let’s not make it any worse.

Go Astros! – Gout with guts, glory, and the symmetry of two three-game Cub Sweeps as the bookends on your history in the National League. That would, indeed, be sweet!

Strikeout Memories and Might Have Beens

March 28, 2012

No Joy in Mudville.

How could we ever forget poor Casey?

He was the disappointment to all of Mudville when he went down swinging in the bottom of the ninth at the climax of baseball’s greatest foray into poetic suspense, but his epic failure assured that we would all remember him until the crack of doom.

What if the same thing had happened to Bobby Thomson back in the famous third game of the 1951 playoff series at the Polo Grounds? After all, Thomson had almost the identical circumstances that faced Casey of Mudville on his equally famous moment. In both games, the teams of Bobby and Casey each faced imminent defeat in the bottom of the ninth by 4-2 scores – and each man came to bat with runners on first and third with a chance to end it all on one mighty connecting swing of the bat.

The big factual differences were that Thomson was baiting with only one out and facing  1-1 count when his big moment came. If Bobby failed, his Giants had another chance coming that would have placed rookie sensation Willie Mays clearly into the Casey spotlight with two outs. Dear Casey, on the other hand, had defiantly taken two strikes to put himself into the total swat or swish position that was coming at him on the 0-2 count. No one has ever argued that Casey had plans for working the count for a few balls. Even the sneer on Casey’s lips swore that he was going for broke on the third pitch he was about to see and that he would be taking no more called strikes on this late afternoon.

Well, we all know what happened from there. And neither man has ver been forgotten for what he each then left to the world as his legacy memory in baseball history.

Bobby Thompson fired “the shot heard ’round the world. New York Giant fans went out to bars and also home to celebrate their club’s miracle capture of the 1951 National League pennant.

Mighty Casey – struck out. The fans of Mudville went out to the bars and also home to cry over a few beers or a tap or two mug dips into the old whiskey keg.

The walk-off home run and the hope-killing K in your club’s last  time at bat in a game are both two of the most memorable moments in a baseball game.  Imagine how we might have remembered both these men differently today, had their outcomes been reversed.

Who would remember Bobby Thomson today, had he struck out back in 1951 and brought Willie Mays to the plate against Ralph Branca of the Dodgers? Would Branca have faced Mays? Probably. Would we remember what Mays did or didn’t do? You bet, but especially so, had it been either a home run or a strikeout.

How about old Casey? If he homers at the end of the poem, would we have long remembered the “Joy of Mudville” or simply written off the poem a long time ago as a hackneyed celebration of the heroic moment?

Here’s another HR/K situational  reversal to ponder in closing: It is October 15, 1986. The New York Mets have taken a 7-4 lead over the Houston Astros through the top of the 16th in Game Six of the National League Championship Series. The Astros rally, however, scoring two runs in the bottom of the 14th and, with Glenn Davis representing the tying run at second with two outs, Kevin Bass is coming to the plate to face the Mets nasty veteran lefty, Jesse Orosco.

Bass strikes out swinging, pulling away from a low pitch outside from Orosco. Game over. Mets take the NL pennant. The Astros will have no opportunity to go after the Mets with their ace – and New York’s nemesis – Mike Scott.

What if ….

What if Orosco’s pitch had been a little higher and closer to the plate?

What if Kevin Bass had guessed it was coming and been leaning out to reach it with the sweet spot?

What if Kevin had caught it well enough to send the pitch darting like a rising rope to right field?

What if we all first think it’s a line drive out? Then we think it’s going to be a game-tying double off the right field wall?

What if we finally see it dip over the wall for a game-winning home run?

What if a moment of shocked silence is quickly followed by the loudest roar in Astrodome history?

What if all this Astros-wishful wonder about Kevin Bass on that fateful day in 1986 had all been true?

…. If it had been so, where would Kevin Bass be today in our Hall of Greatest Astros Moments?

Random Observations

September 5, 2010

Astros Stirring Hope at 2010 Sunset.

With the Astros’ comeback for a 6-5 win over Arizona on Saturday stoking new coals of hope for the future, their record is now 63-72. They are now in full possession of 3rd place, ahead of Milwaukee, Chicago, and Pittsburgh in the National League Central. They are 16 games back of 1st place Reds, with 27 games to go, and they are 8 back games of the 2nd place Cardinals. They are also 14.5 game back of the Phillies in the wild card race.

The Astros can no longer fear 2010 as their first season to lose 100 games. The worst they could do now is drop all 27 and finish 63-99, Of course, they way they’ve playing in August, there’s an even greater slight chance that may run the table and finish 90-72.

Wouldn’t that last outcome possibility frost some pumpkins in the planting fields of baseball ore?

I like our position prospects and I like our pitching. Iron Man Brett Meyers, Wandy Rodriguez, cured of his Jekyll/Hyde complex, J.A. Happ, angling to become the next Andy Pettittee, and Norris, Figueroa, and Paulino are looking good as other hopes for are the 2011 rotation, unless we get some other guy to blossom or join the club by trade free agent signing.

Boby Thomson's famous HR in 1951 left the yard at 3:57 EST.

Of course, I knew he recently died. I wrote an article about him. I just learned, however, that Bobby Thomson died in his sleep at his home in in Savannah, Georgia.

What a charmed life the man led. He hits one the arguably most remembered home run in baseball history. rides off into the sunset as a hero, and then leaves this troubled world peacefully as an old man living out his years in one of the most beautiful places in America.

You deserved it, Bobby!

That’s going to be it for me today. I’m a little bit under the weather.

Have a great Labor Day celebration with family and friends!

The Taint on The Thomson Shot

August 18, 2010

Oct. 3, 1951: "The Giants Win The Pennant!"

Most of us have heard the call by Giants broadcaster Russ Hodges:

“Branca throws. There’s a long drive. It’s going to be — I believe! — The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! Bobby Thomson hits into the lower deck of the left-field stands. The Giants win the pennant! And they’re going crazy! They’re going crazy! Oohhh-oohhh!”

The date was October 3, 1951. It was 3:57 PM at the Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan, the hallowed ground of Coogan’s Bluff hovered nearby. The home team New York Giants had runners on first and third, with one out; right handed batter and third baseman Bobby Thomson was batting with the Brooklyn Dodgers leading 4-2 in the deciding Game Three of the special playoffs to decide which of the two tied National Leaguers would take the pennant and go on to the World Series to oppose the mighty New York Yankees.

The story of the year to this point had been the incredible comeback of the Giants from 13.5 games back of the Dodgers late in the season to tie for first on the last day. Now something was about to happen to put a cap on the experience that would practically be all that any of us saw for the next forty to fifty years. Bobby Thomson was about to hit a line drive homer into the left field stands off right handed Dodger relief pitcher Ralph Branca that would win the game and the pennant for the Giants, 5-4, in a walk off blast is still remembered and revered as “The Shot Heard Round the World!”

Bobby Thomson celebrates his famous "shot heard round the world."

The death of 86-year old Bobby Thomson yesterday, August 17, 2010, at his home in Savannah, Georgia came after years of declining health, but it now no longer brings about the pleasantly magical memory of his famous home run also, but also the more recent disclosures that came out in fact and evidence just prior to the fortieth anniversary celebration of “the shot heard ’round the world” back in 2001.

According to an Inside Baseball story from 2001, it is now known that the Giants had been stealing pitch signs by binoculars from their clubhouse in dead center field over what roughly appears to be the period of their great comeback in 1951 – and that includes the period of their playoff games with the Dodgers and one particular time at bat for Bobby Thomson. Of course, if it’s true, those shenanigans at the Polo Grounds would not explain nor help the Giant’s’ also improved play on the road, but it sure puts a taint upon the thrilling memory of Thomson’s shot.

Thomson’s home run has always been one of my most cherished baseball memories. The thought that he may have known what pitch was coming is a real spoiler. I still don’t like to think of it very often, but his death, and my dedication to the truth, won’t allow me to escape the conclusion that he most probably did know what was coming when he swung.  Bobby Thomson’s responses to the straightforward question in a 2001 interview by Joshua Prager cause him to come off more as an “artful dodger” than a “moral giant.”

Examine that segment of inquiry, read more; then decide for yourself. Here’s how writer Joshua Prager described that part of his 2001 interview with Bobby Thomson at age 77:

Mr. Thomson, now a widower, has never spoken publicly of sign-stealing and has never raised the subject with Mr. Branca. ‘” guess I’ve been a jerk in a way,” he says. ‘That I don’t want to face the music. Maybe I’ve felt too sensitive, embarrassed maybe.”

Mr. Thomson sits on his couch, wearing the tweed jacket and tie he wore to church that morning. Suddenly, he uncrosses his legs, squares his feet with his shoulders and puts his fists together, right over left, as if gripping a bat. He hunches his torso forward and turns his head toward his left shoulder. He looks out of unblinking eyes into his fireplace.

Did he take the sign?

From the batter’s box, “you could almost just do it with your eyes,” Mr. Thomson says.

His hands relax. He drops his arms to his sides.

Did he take the sign?

“I’d have to say more no than yes,” he says. “I don’t like to think of something taking away from it.”

Pressed further, Mr. Thomson later says, “I was just being too honest and too fair. I could easily have said, ‘No, I didn’t take the sign.’ “

He says, “It would take a little away from me in my mind if I felt I got help on the pitch.”

But did he take the sign?

“My answer is no,” Mr. Thomson says.

He adds: “I was always proud of that swing.”

For a much more detailed account what writer Joshua Prager says transpired on the sign-stealing set-up, check out the whole 2001 story at this link: http://joshuaprager.com/wsj/articles/baseball/