Wednesday, August 18, 2010
The Shot Heard Round The World
I bring this up because the NAQT National Quiz Bowl Championships in 2002 were in Rosemont, Illinois, a town right outside of Chicago that has little import beyond its proximity to O'Hare Airport, and while my biggest memory from that was probably a Yankees-White Sox game at new Comiskey during which one of my clueless teammates continually clamored for Jason Giambi to "hit the moneyshot", it was almost decidedly more impactful on me because while waiting in O'Hare for my flight home, I purchased a book called "The Giants Win the Pennant! The Giants Win the Pennant!" -- a personalized retelling of the the famous 1951 National League Pennant Race as told by Bobby Thomson, the man who brought the thrilling chase to an end with his momentous home run off Ralph Branca.
Bobby Thomson had passed away at the age of 86. As I always say when someone passes away at that age, it's hard to be too upset when a man or woman dies in their mid-80s. After all, they had a pretty good run, they beat the odds, and in the case of Thomson, they experienced what must be one of the most incredible moments anyone can, a walk-off home run in the postseason to win a pennant and devastate your historic rival after closing an almost absurd 13 1/2-game gap in the standings from the summer. Thomson's life was a different breed than the rest of us, not just because he was a good baseball player, but because he created the signature moment for an entire sport in what was a solid but otherwise unremarkable career.
Bobby Thomson's pennant-clincher is almost undoubtedly the most famous home run of all-time, perhaps even the most famous moment in all of American sports.
Anyone who grows up a baseball fan in this country knows about the Shot Heard 'Round the World by the time they're 10 years old, regardless of when they were born. It is a seminal moment that rises above all others in the American pantheon, to the point that even someone who was born 34 years after the event occurred could be excited to receive a baseball signed by Thomson and Branca -- as I was. Interestingly, Branca and Thomson became good friends over the rest of their lives, almost by necessity as they would be forever linked by the event. Branca was among the first to express their condolences on Thomson's passing.
The game and time itself may not be erased from our collective memories until Branca or the rest of the men on the field that day have all passed on, but looking back on it now, there is little doubt that the game feels like it lost something. It was inevitable, sure, but that doesn't make it feel any less sad in an undefinable way that Thomson, the man who helped turn baseball into myth is no longer among us.
Bobby Thomson gave us that message when he clocked Branca's pitch into the left field stands. Hopefully, that message won't die with him.