For folks of my father’s generation, baseball was far and away the most popular sport in America, and the biggest rivalry in that sport was the Giants versus the Dodgers. On August 11, 1951 the Giants were 13 games back, before making the greatest comeback in the history of the sport by winning 37 of their final 44 games.
After splitting the first two playoff games with their archrivals, Bobby Thompson went to bat in the bottom of the 9th in the deciding game, with his Giants trailing 4 to 1. “Dramatic” is an understatement of an understatement when it comes to describing Bobby Thompson’s pennant winning homerun, a homerun that came to be known as “The shot hit round the world.” (If you’ve ever seen the grainy black and white highlights of it, you’ll recall the announcer’s frantic, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”)
Thompson’s homerun is considered the greatest hit in the history of baseball, but what’s also impressive is fact that Bobby Thompson had lost his starting job earlier in the season to a 20 year-old kid, and instead of pouting or demanding a trade as many of today’s players are fond of doing, he actually mentored the youngster who had taken his job.
Bobby Thompson passed away yesterday, and he went to his Maker knowing that, not only had he hit the greatest homerun in history, but he had also mentored someone who was arguably its greatest player. That 20 year old kid turned out to be the “Say Hey Kid,” Willie Mays.