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The shot heard 'round the world

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Column by Jim Clark

By Jim Clark

The year was 1951, and I was just a little tyke (yes, I was little at one point) getting interested in baseball.

My earliest recollections are from 1950, when the Yankees played the Phillies in the World Series. The Phillies always fascinated me because they had these huge numbers on their uniforms.

My father was from East St. Louis, Illinois, and was a Cardinals’ fan. My uncle, who lived across the street, was from Brooklyn and was a Dodgers’ fan. So, in the spirit of not wanting to offend either, I became a New York Giants’ fan. The Yankees were a bad word in both houses, so there was little choice, since we lived in New Jersey, very close to New York City.

That year, 1951, the Giants were seemingly out of the race, but came back to tie the Dodgers for first place. In those days there were no playoffs. Only the league champion advanced directly to the World Series.

The teams got into a playoff and it came down to the bottom of the ninth. With two men on base, Bobby Thomson lofted a home run to left field, and we have all heard the recording of Giants’ announcer Russ Hodges: “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”

Historians have called it “the shot heard ‘round the world.” They’ve called it the most important home run in the history of baseball.

Actually, it was just a lazy fly ball. The Polo Grounds was shaped in a large oval, with home plate at one end and center field way back at the other. It was less than 300 feet down the line to left, and that’s where Thomson’s home run landed.

I can remember my dad coming home from work and telling me not to mention the game to my Uncle Ed. At that age, though, I did not understand the emotion of the Brooklyn community, which at that point had never won a World Series.

I did mention it, and I remember the hurt look in his eyes. He would never have said anything to upset me, but I knew I had made a mistake, even at the age of 7.

Bobby Thomson died earlier this week, and hearing stories of his passing and watching the fuzzy video on the sports shows brought back a flood of memories. It was the year that started a lifelong passion for the game of baseball for me, and I’ve never forgotten that day when I came home from school and heard about the ending. Even though the Giants lost to the Yankees in the series, that started a loyalty for the team that I knew would continue for a long time.

Unfortunately, that was shattered in 1958 when the team moved to San Francisco. But the Mets came along in 1962, and I’ve been rooting for the Amazins ever since. Especially for the past few seasons, I now know how my uncle felt. That hopeless feeling seems to emerge every August and September if you’re a Mets fan.

And a quick aside to ESPN: Get the dates right. In the gamebreak Wednesday morning on Mike and Mike, the young lady doing the sports twice said it happened in 1955. Those of us who lived through it know better.

Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen. He can be reached at editor@smcitizen.com or at 352-854-3986.