On this date in 1951 Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants hit a three-run homer with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving his team a 5-4 playoff victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers and the National League pennant.
Did you know there were Nashville connections to the famous game?
Charles Dressen, who had managed Nashville in the 1930s, was the Brooklyn manager who chose Ralph Branca to come out of the bullpen in relief of starter Don Newcombe in the ninth inning even though Branca had given up a home run to Thompson in the first playoff game. Dressen also could have chosen to intentionally walk Thompson, as first base was open (the on-deck batter was Willie Mays). Although Branca threw a strike on the first pitch, Thompson hit next pitch over the left field fence.
Clint Hartung was on third base when Thompson hit his homer, pinch running for Don Mueller. Hartung would play in 25 games for the Nashville Vols in 1955.
Tommy Brown, who hit a home run in Ebbets Field in 1945 at the age of 17 to become the youngest player ever to hit a four-bagger, was on the Dodgers bench. Brown would play for Nashville from 1955 through 1958, making Nashville his home after retiring.
Giants utility infielder Hank Schenz was in Nashville during the 1947 season, but may have played an important part in the regular season success, and also in Thompson’s home run. In his book, “The Echoing Green”, author Joshua Prager claims that at the beginning of the season Schenz showed Giants manager Leo Durocher his telescope.
Supposedly coach Herman Franks used it to spy on opposing team’s signals from the centerfield locker room at the Polo Grounds, relaying the pitch to the Giant’s dugout. Could Bobby Thompson have known the pitches that Branca threw to him, ultimately resulting in his famous home run?
One additional piece of trivia: future Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Sharman was on the Dodgers’ bench, an end-of-season call-up from Fort Worth.