Among the great moments in baseball, the 1951 playoff series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants is near the top of the list. The last game of that series was probably the most dramatic in the history of the game.
The two teams were tied at the end of the regular season, so a three-game playoff series was scheduled to decide which team would go on to the World Series. The Giants won the first game, 3-1. The Dodgers won the second, 10-0. In the deciding game, the Giants were behind, 4-1, when they came to bat in the ninth inning. They scored one run and had two men on base with one out when Bobby Thompson came up. He hit a home run to win the game and the playoffs for the Giants. Sportswriters called the homer “The shot heard round the world.”
Kneeling in the on-deck circle was a great young rookie named Willie Mays. Later, reporters asked Mays what he would have done if Thompson had not hit the homer, and the responsibility for the game had fallen on his shoulders.
“I don’t know,” Mays replied honestly. “I was just a kid then. There was a lot of pressure. Maybe I’d have struck out.”
Such a dramatic event seemed unlikely ever to repeat itself, and Willie Mays probably thought he’d never get a second chance to win a pennant with one swing of the bat. But he did. Eleven years later the whole situation repeated itself!
In 1958 the New York Giants moved to San Francisco and the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.
Then in 1962, eleven years after that memorable playoff series in New York City, the Giants and Dodgers ended the season in a tie for first place. A three-game series was scheduled to determine a pennant-winner.
In the 1951 series, the Giants had won the first playoff game. In 1962, the won the first playoff game.
In the 1951 series, the Dodgers had won the second playoff game. In 1962, they won the second playoff game.
In the 1951 series, the Giants had come into the ninth inning trailing the Dodgers. In 1962, the Giants came into the ninth inning trailing the Dodgers.
The time the Giants loaded the bases in the ninth. Then up came Willie Mays. Eleven years earlier, he might have struck out because of the pressure. Now he had a second chance–a real one.
He hit a drive off the foot of pitcher Ed Roebuck. It went for a single, scoring a run. Then a wild pitch and an error gave the Giants the ball game and the pennant. They won the playoffs just as they had in 1951.
Only one man saw the playoffs from both sides. In 1951, when the Giants won, their manager had been Leo Durocher. In 1962, Durocher learned about losing–he was a coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
From Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.