Random Memories No. 4: “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”

It was a clear, cool, sunny Wednesday that October 3, 1951 as I walked along Livingston Street in downtown Brooklyn on my way back to the YMCA on Hanover Place. I had reserved a room there as a convenient place to stay until I found an apartment. I had been given a “classy room” with a single bed, wooden desk, straight back wooden chair, no phone, and shared showers and toilets at the end of the hall. But the price was right. 

Both pedestrian and vehicle traffic along Livingston Street were at low ebb as I walked along since rush hour had not started. 

About half way along my six block walk I saw a group of people standing around a news stand up ahead in the middle of the block, and as I got closer I realized that they were listening to the New York Giants – Brooklyn Dodgers baseball game, the deciding game of a three game playoff to see who would be in the World Series against the Yankees who had already clinched the American League top spot. The much-loved Red Barber, the “voice of the Dodgers” was calling the game. Most of the passing pedestrians would stop, at least for awhile before moving on, and many stayed, causing the crowd to grow.                       

There was an understandable concern among all Brooklyn Dodger fans about the playoffs. Just a short time before, in mid-August, the Dodgers had been 13 ½ games ahead of the second place Giants, but then the New Yorkers closed the gap and tied at the season’s end. They seemed to have the “BigMo” and were not to be denied – or so many Brooklyn fans feared. 

I listened too, although I was then a Cincinnati Reds fan and “didn’t have a dog in this fight.” “Dog” seems an appropriate euphemism for the Reds that year since they came in sixth in the league. But even so I did like to listen when Ewell Blackwell pitched, and it was always suspenseful when Ted “Big Klu” Kluszewski, the Reds’ home run hitting first baseman came to bat. 

Soon I noticed a street bus slowing down on our side of the street. There was no bus stop near there but the driver came to a stop by the newsstand, opened the door and yelled out, “What’s the score?”  “The Bums are up 4-1 in the ninth with the Giants coming up!” someone answered. “Good,” said the driver and he closed the bus door and continued on down Livingston Street. He left too soon. 

When the Giants came up in the last half of the ninth they scrambled to score one run and get two more on base. The batter was then Bobby Thomson, born in Scotland, he was called the “Staten Island Scot” and was a power hitter. He took one strike from the Dodger pitcher, Ralph Branca, and then hit the next one over the left field fence to win the game 5-4 and the Giants were in the World Series. “The shot heard ’round the world.”

There was much muttering, a few profanities, and then it was quiet as everybody walked away from the news stand and on to their previous destinations. I, too, went on to my “luxury room” at the YMCA. I had to search the newspaper ads for suitable furnished apartments for rent that I could visit over the weekend. 

The World Series that year was won by the Yankees, four games to two. Some interesting personalities were involved. This would be the last World Series for Joe DiMaggio, who retired afterward, and the first for rookies Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. 

The Yankee manager was Casey Stengal, a successful manager for many years. He also had some interesting things to say over the years, somewhat like Yogi Berra. Stengal continued to manage the Yankees through the 1960 season and into the World Series again. After the Pittsburgh Pirates then defeated them in an electrifying seven-game World Series, the Yankees fired manager Casey Stengel, who had turned 70 in July. The Yankees said he was too old. Later Stengal told the press, “I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again.” 

Managing the Giants was Leo Durocher, another famous Hall of Fame manager. He was previously the Dodger manager around the time Jackie Robinson joined the team as the first black player in the major leagues. Durocher said, in response to grouching among his players; “I don’t care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a zebra. I’m the manager of this team and I say he plays.” He greatly admired Robinson for his hustle and aggression, calling him “a Durocher with talent.”  

Footnote: Bus 41 ran up Flatbush Ave to downtown Brooklyn (Borough Hall area), turned west on Livingston Street, stopping in front of my office building at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, then turned north on Court Street and began its loop back along Flatbush Ave, past Ebbets Field, then home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and past where our apartment was in ’52-’53. I always rode 41 to and from school. I just checked the NYC transportation web pages and, nearly sixty years later, the same route is run today and the bus is still number 41!

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