Famed home run hitter Bobby Thomson dead at 86

continued from page 1

Question of the Day

What has been the biggest debacle on Obama's watch?

View results

For years, Thomson and Branca appeared together at functions of all kinds, a modern-day Abbott & Costello act, their retelling of the moment filled with fine-tuned comic touches and playful jabs. Often, Branca would prompt Thomson to claim more of the credit.

Only one thing was missing from their act: the home run ball itself. The prize remains an elusive souvenir, with several people claiming to have it but no one able to prove.

“We did award shows, dinners, autograph shows, golf outings, maybe five or six a year,” Branca said.

Thomson moved south about five years ago to be closer to one of his daughters. Branca said he hadn’t seen him for a couple of years.

Long after the Giants and Dodgers left town and moved west, Thomson remained a recognized figure on New York streets. Taxi drivers, office workers and pedestrians of a certain age would stop him or call out his name _ the old Giants fans cheered, the Dodgers crowd, not so much.

Thomson hit a career-high 32 home runs in 1951, and his shot on Oct. 3 sent the Giants into the World Series the next day. He hit a mere .238 without a home run as his team lost in six games to the crosstown New York Yankees, who were in the midst of winning a record five straight crowns.

The luster from Thomson’s shot, though, never dimmed. There was even a funny postscript, provided by the great Yogi Berra.

Berra and some of his Yankees teammates attended Game 3 of the Dodgers-Giants playoff, eager to see which team they would face. But after Brooklyn scored three times in the eighth inning for a 4-1 lead, Berra decided he’d seen enough and wanted to beat the late-afternoon traffic.

Yep, it’s true. The man who coined the phrase “it ain’t over till it’s over” thought it was over and actually left the Polo Grounds and was driving home when Thomson homered.

Bobby was a heck of a guy,” Berra said Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.

Moments of silence for Thomson were held at Yankee Stadium, where the grainy, black-and-white clip of his homer was shown on the videoboard, and Fenway Park.

Thomson’s home run came during an era that baseball fondly calls “The Golden Age,” a time when the sport was No. 1 in America and New York was its epicenter. The pennant race between those longtime rivals, the Giants and Dodgers, only heightened the tension.

New York won Game 1 of the playoff as Thomson homered against Branca in what turned out to be an eerie precursor. Brooklyn won Game 2 in a rout, setting up a winner-take-all rematch.

Down 4-1 in the ninth, the Giants began to rally when Alvin Dark and Don Mueller led off with singles against Don Newcombe. After Irvin fouled out, Whitey Lockman hit an RBI double that made it 4-2.

Mueller broke his ankle sliding into third and was replaced by pinch-runner Clint Hartung _ in fact, a little more than a month ago, Hartung died.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Get Adobe Flash player