I loved the Yankees; they’d won it all in ’49 and ‘50
And now they waited for mysterious opponents in 1951.
This much of a mystery was solved:
They would face another New York City team.
The Dodgers and the Giants, still then the forebears
Of the Metropolitans, were going to face each other
In a single playoff game, the third and the decisive one,
Winner take all that was National League,
Winner gaining the “honor” of taking on the Bronx Bombers —
Brooklyn or Manhattan against the Bronx,
A friendly civil war — and there I was, curious but uncaring,
Watching a game filled with potential enemies, listening
To foreign voices in lieu of my accustomed Mel Allen
And his dramatic, reassuring Southern twang —
And yet, as always, baseball drew me in
And I was hooked, watching for the love of the sport
That in those days was by far the American fans’ favorite,
And every pitch seemed to be electric and
A potential harbinger of the final dramatic moment
That history holds up as the second shot heard ‘round the world,
One not as massively meaningful to the annals of history
But one touching enough to make men cry in grief or scream in triumph,
Depending on which team they rooted for —
And isn’t “rooted” interesting, for baseball does take root
In one’s soul and then does not let go!
And on this afternoon, worthiness held the focus of millions
Around the country and around the world — the worth
Of the Dodgers and their stars — Robinson, Reese, Furillo,
Hodges, Erskine — and of the Giants, winners of 37
Of the final 44 games to erase a 13 ½ game August lead
And tie the Bums for first —
And on this day, as I watched mesmerized by a pair of teams
I really had no feelings for, the game itself provided the emotions.
The Giants, losing 4 to 1 going into the final inning —
The Dodgers having scored 3 in the penultimate inning —
Made it 4 to 2 and interesting, and with two runners on,
Up came Bobby Thomson, the Flying Scot, there in his home field
Polo Grounds (ironically, eleven years later, to be the home of
New York’s replacement team, the Metropolitans). Ralph Branca,
Was now pitching in relief, the man who’d given up the winning homer
To the same Thomson in the first playoff game — and you know the rest,
If you know baseball history — a three-run shot into the left field stands,
Thomson bouncing from third to home, a dejected, devastated Branca
Trudging to his dugout, eyes staring at the ground — and one non-fan
Of either team engulfed in the drama and the history of this baseball moment,
Ingrained in his psyche as flecks of metal become attached to a super magnet.
I was thrilled for Thomson and his accomplishment and as well saddened
By the torrent of emotions that swept Branca into a permanent dungeon
Of the mind, magnetically connecting him to the grief of a borough
And anointing him bearer of a burden that also was sadly shared post-season
By players named Owens, Hodges, Terry, Winfield, McGwire, Canseco,
Buckner and even The Babe in 1926. Look it up.
Thomson and Branca — polar opposites in 1951, linked by history
That could not be obliterated — now are memories who represent
The Melpomene and Thalia of the baseball world.