Bill Katz remembers, and forgives:
Bobby Thomson has died. You never heard of him? Then you’re unfit to be an American and must move right now to someplace outside the country, like Nancy Pelosi’s congressional district. Bobby Thomson was the greatest heartbreaker in the history of sport…well, in the history of Brooklyn, New York. It was an October day in 1951 when Thomson, of the New York Giants, facing Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca, fired “the shot heard ’round the world” – a home run in the decisive National League playoff game, winning the pennant for the Giants and throwing us Dodger fans into permanent depression.
I heard it live. Our school allowed us to listen to championship baseball games involving New York teams, suspending classes if need be. Because of our devotion to the Dodgers, we considered it a religious holiday.
And we could barely believe it when we heard the crack of the bat, a screaming announcer, and the foul words, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” It was Pearl Harbor all over.
I had gym the next period. Our coach was one of those fatherly types out of central casting – gray hair, in his fifties, a bit of a belly, with a John Wayne walk. (You never heard of John Wayne? Then you’re…oh, forget it.) And Coach gave us one of those philosophical homilies, weighing the profound question of whether Thomson’s hit was luck or skill.
It was luck. Trust me on that. All Dodger fans knew it was luck.
It was because there was no “p” in Thomson. It brought him luck. That’s all it was.
Ralph Branca, the pitcher, fell into disgrace. If this were Russia, he would have been airbrushed out of all team pictures. Thomson became a folk hero to those spirtually void New Yorkers who rooted for the Giants. And yet, the two became the best of friends, united in the memory of what many consider the most exciting moment in the history of baseball…if you were a Giants fan, and willing to admit it.
We forgive you, Bobby Thomson. RIP.