“The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”
That famous call by Russ Hodges punctuated what is probably the most dramatic moment in baseball history. Bobby Thomson of the Giants hit a pitch thrown by Ralph Branca of the Dodgers into the left field seats, securing a spot for his team in the World Series and a place for himself in baseball immortality.
The play occurred at the end of the 1951 season, and it’s hard for a modern fan to appreciate what a momentous event it was. First, these two teams were then crosstown rivals with fans that chose sides and did so with great passion. And second, on August 11 the Dodgers had a 13 1/2 game lead over the Giants, and finished the season a more than respectable 26-22. But the Giants went on a phenomenal 37-7 tear to pull to an identical 96-58 record. The champion would be determined by a three-game playoff, and the two teams split the first two. Everything was on the line for this last game.
The Dodgers held a 4-1 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning. But the Giants rallied, and with a run in and men on second and third, Bobby Thomson came to the plate. The Dodgers brought in Branca as a relief pitcher, a curious decision considering Thomson had homered off Branca to win the first game of the playoff. With a one-strike count, Branca came in high and inside, and Thomson turned on the pitch and deposited it in the left field stands. And Russ Hodges – and Giants fans across the country – went crazy: