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Seventy years after Bobby Thomson ripped the famed “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” — and nearly 65 after the beloved Dodgers and Giants bolted New York together for the West Coast in 1957 — they will meet Thursday night in another highly anticipated elimination game.
And that’s as cool of a connection – both nationally and locally — as it gets.
Game 5 of the National League Division Series between Los Angeles and San Francisco won’t be the first win-or-go-home contest staged between the longtime and bicoastal rivals since Thomson vaulted the streaking (and sign-stealing!) Giants into the 1951 World Series with a ninth-inning home run off Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca in the finale of a three-game playoff to determine the National League champion.
After all, the relocated California clubs also met in a three-game tiebreaker in 1962. The Giants advanced again to face — and lose to — the Yankees in the World Series, just as they’d done 11 years earlier.
But coming barely a week after the 70th anniversary of Thomson’s blast – still one of the most famous moments in baseball history – provides the potential for a new hero or goat to etch his name into the game’s history, says Joshua Prager, the author of the 2008 book, “The Echoing Green: The Untold Story of Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca and the Shot Heard Round the World.”
“What is for sure, is that someone’s life will never be the same after [Thursday] night,” Prager told Post Sports+. “Someone will drive in the winning run. Someone will give up the winning run. And when you are a part of a game like this, not only an elimination game but one between two great rivals, the odds are good that they’ll never forget it and, in fact, they’ll be reminded of it every day for the rest of their lives. For all of us fans, we’ll move forward, but there probably will be a few players who remember Oct. 14, 2021 forever.
“So I think it’s great. Obviously, it used to be an even more intense rivalry than it is now, occupying the same city along with the Yankees. But it’s going to be great. Bobby would have loved this, and so would Ralph. They … became friends over the years and they never lost that intensity. They knew that they were part of something historic and became kind of ambassadors of the game off of that one moment. They would be very excited about [Thursday night].”
Prager interviewed both Thomson and Branca for his book, which broke down the entire 1951 season, including the Giants’ 50-12 closing run to make up a 13 ½-game deficit to tie the Dodgers for the regular-season crown, forcing the best-of-three playoffs.
Prager also does plenty of in-depth reporting on the sign-stealing scandal that the Giants finally admitted to at the turn of the century. Giants coach Herman Franks would use a military field scope to spy on the catcher from the home clubhouse in center field at the Polo Grounds, and relayed the signs to the batters via a buzzer system in the dugout, predating the Astros’ 2017 cheating scandal by 66 years.
“As I mentioned in my book, this went back to the 19th century,” Prager said. “But they had the perfect setup because most parks don’t have their clubhouse in center field. It’s always impossible to know how they would have performed without doing X, Y or Z, but one thing I do know is they wouldn’t have done it if they didn’t think it helped them.”
Beyond the historical significance and the local resonance here in New York, Game 5 at Oracle Park in San Francisco will cap what already has been a terrific series between the teams with the two best records in baseball.
Both NL West squads now have posted 109 wins in 2021, with the Dodgers also capturing the wild-card game over the Cardinals last week on Chris Taylor’s walk-off home run.
The Giants have blanked the Dodgers’ high-powered offense twice – in Game 1 and Game 3 of the NLDS – and they will send emerging ace Logan Webb to the hill after he tossed 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball in the series opener. The defending World Series champions will counter with Game 2 starter Julio Urias, the lone 20-game winner in baseball during the regular season. The survivor will face the Braves in the NLCS.
“It should be an incredible game,” said Gary Mintz, the curator of the New York Giants Preservation Society. “I’m 60, so I wasn’t here when the Giants played in New York. I became a Giants fan in the ’60s because of my dad, Lou, who was heartbroken when they left town. That being said, the rivalry has been an integral part of our organization and is always discussed.
“[There is] an incredible rivalry between the teams, I’ve seen first-hand for over 50 years. We’re all looking forward to it, nervously.”
Mintz, a retired teacher who lives in Huntington, says his organization boasts more than 2,500 members on its Facebook page – many in their 80s — spread out across the United States. They used to hold a few in-person meetings a year in Manhattan, with featured guests including the great Willie Mays, but now they hold weekly Zoom chats due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re hoping to do a happy one [Thursday] night,” Mintz said.
As a diehard fan in the days before the internet and other technological advances made it easier to follow his favorite team from across the country, Mintz joked that he felt like he “was wandering in the desert for 40 years” until the Giants finally copped their first World Series title since the relocation from New York under manager Bruce Bochy in 2010.
Then came another title two years later. And one more in 2014.
“It honestly was the greatest feeling. The only bad thing was my dad had passed away and wasn’t around to see it,” Mintz said. “But then they go and win three in five years, which was more than I could ever ask for.
“This year, I didn’t think the team was going to be any good. I figured maybe 75 wins, and they win 107 games. The threat of losing tomorrow, it would not be a choke job, in my opinion.
“The Dodgers are just relentless. But I’m cautiously optimistic, I’m very happy the game’s at home. Logan Webb has been fantastic…
“[To say I’m] pleasantly surprised about this season would be a massive understatement. They are not the Dodgers, who have an All-Star at every position and won it all last year. But [the Giants] are the definition of a team. We have to slay the dragon.”
From Thomson to Branca, from Jackie Robinson to Mays to Sandy Koufax, from Tommy Lasorda to Bochy, there already is so much shared history between the two franchises since the Giants were founded as the New York Gothams in 1883 and the Dodgers joined them in the National League in 1884.
The most important chapter in decades will be written Thursday night.
“These kinds of opportunities don’t come along very often, as evidenced by how many years it has been,” Prager said. “This promises to be something really special. And it’s the way it should be in an elimination game, especially with such great rivals.”
Kyrie vs. the bucks
In our daily Kyrie Irving update, Post beat writer Brian Lewis reported Wednesday that the Nets have scuttled all contract extension talks with the unvaccinated All-Star guard (who later took to Instagram Live to discuss his personal COVID-19 vaccine stance).
This always can change if Kyrie gets the jab, but it seems like common sense for owner Joe Tsai and GM Sean Marks not to commit long-term mega-millions to a player who has been excluded from all team activities over his vaccination status.
A few years ago, Kyrie relented eventually on his belief that the Earth is flat. I don’t remember who first came up with it, but World B Flat could have been the greatest nickname in the history of sports.
About the Rangers … the pre-game show!
The best thing we can say about the Rangers’ season opener in Washington was that the pregame crossover bit on TNT, the NHL’s new national broadcast partner, featuring Wayne Gretzky taking shots on NBA legend Charles Barkley was a hoot.
Otherwise, the Blueshirts were smoked, 5-1, by Alex Ovechkin (two goals) and the Capitals in the first game under new coach Gerard Gallant. It’s one game, so they have to move on quickly with the home opener slated for Thursday against the Stars. But surely a disappointing start after the sweeping changes made late last season.
That’s more like it
Sunday’s ugly 1-0 loss in Panama marked the USMNT’s first during the 2022 World Cup qualifying, but the Americans remain on target for their first berth since 2014 following a much-needed 2-1 decision Wednesday night over Costa Rica in Columbus, Ohio.
I attended the national team’s costly 2-0 home loss to Costa Rica in qualifying play in 2017 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, and quite frankly, it felt like a road game the entire night with all of the visiting fans in attendance.
Gregg Berhalter shook up his lineup after the Panama debacle, and the U.S. conceded a first-minute goal Wednesday night. But the crowd stayed engaged, and young Americans (thanks, David Bowie) rebounded for the win on a first-class rip by rising star outside back Sergiño Dest and an own goal that initially was struck by Timothy Weah.
Another loss would have been a crusher for the U.S. squad, possibly dropping it into fifth position among the eight CONCACAF teams in the 14-game round-robin Octagonal (so named for the eight teams). They instead improved to 3-1-2 (11 points) through six games, in second place, with home-and-home matches looming against rival (and first-place) Mexico on Nov. 12 and March 24. The top three teams automatically qualify to go to Qatar next summer; the fourth-place team must compete in an additional playoff round.
This Day in History
Oct. 14, 1979: Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, later a star for the New York Rangers, scores the first of his NHL-record 894 goals in a 4-4 tie between his Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks.
(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)