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About Bobby Thomson
Written by SABR UK Chapter   
Thursday, 02 April 2009 20:46

 In common with almost all the regional chapters of SABR scattered around the world, the UK chapter takes for its name a notable baseball personage of days gone by. Given that we're located in Britain, it seemed only natural that we should choose to honour someone born in this country. And the player we chose will be known to baseball fans the world over.

Glasgow-born Bobby Thomson hit what is perhaps the most famous home run in baseball history. His dramatic "Shot Heard 'Round the World" on October 3, 1951, a game-winning, ninth-inning, three-run homer off Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca capped the New York Giants' historic comeback to win the National League pennant in an unusual play-off series. Thomson also hit a sixth-inning homer off Branca in the opening game of the play-offs which, as Yogi Berra would say, made Thomson's second, more dramatic shot "deja vu all over again". Click here and then follow the link on the page to see archive video footage of the "Shot Heard 'Round The World".
Bobby Thomson played and excelled among the greatest names in baseball history. While at the New York Giants, Bobby moved from outfield to third base to make way for a rookie named Willie Mays. Later, while playing for Milwaukee, he broke his ankle, making room on the roster for a rookie outfielder named Hank Aaron. Later still, in Chicago, Bobby battled out the third base and outfield positions with Ron Santo and Billy Williams. Boston was Bobby's next stamping ground, where he joined Ted Williams in the Sox line-up. And he ended his career with the Baltimore Orioles, leaving them safe in the knowledge that third base, a position he played at various points throughout his career, would be just fine in the hands of Brooks Robinson.
Bobby Thomson is known among his peers in baseball for his famous home run and his statistics. However, he's also known as being one of the most decent players ever to pull on a baseball uniform. As one of his former teammates says, "A nicer man you will never meet." Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" has been voted as the most memorable event in baseball's history, and Bobby himself has been honoured by being voted onto the all-time New York Giants outfield, alongside Hall-of-Famers Mel Ott and Willie Mays. And, of course, by lending his name to the UK chapter of SABR; known, simply, the Bobby Thomson chapter.

A potted biography of Bobby Thomson

  • Bobby Thomson moved to the United States at the age of two, with his mother Elizabeth and his five elder brothers and sisters, in order to join his father James in New York (he had emigrated a year earlier).
  • Bobby grew up more interested in soccer than football, and was an outstanding soccer player at Curtis High School in New York.
  • Bobby's first taste of baseball came when he was seven or eight years old, when his father took him to see his favourite team: ironically, given later events, the Brooklyn Dodgers.
  • Bobby's interest in baseball didn't get serious until his older brother Jimmy bought him his first baseball glove. Jimmy taught Bobby to catch, throw and hit in the backyard of their Staten Island home, with Bobby's father an enthusiastic participant.
  • Bobby excelled in sport and became a superb athlete at high school in both baseball and soccer, which was still his first love at the time.
  • In 1941 and 1942, the Brooklyn Dodgers showed great interest in Bobby. In fact, in 1942 Bobby played in a team of "Dodger Rookies" (as they were called), a team was made up of potential Dodgers signings. As much as anything, it was a way for the club to have a good look at the prospects prior to signing them.
  • The Dodgers hesitated in signing Bobby, explaining that: "Bobby's father is a big Dodger fan and we know he will sign with us." They were proved incorrect: Bobby signed a contract to play baseball with the Dodgers' arch-enemy, the New York Giants, in 1942, his first contract netting him $700 a month.
  • Bobby started his career playing for the Giants' minor league clubs in Bristol, Virginia, playing in five games and batting .250 (three hits in 12 at-bats). He soon moved onto Rocky Mount, North Carolina, of the Bi-State league. In a foreshadowing of the future, he replaced the incumbent third baseman who was called up to active military service.
  • Bobby played in 29 games, hitting .241 (21 hits in 87 at-bats). It was in Rocky Mount that Bobby hit his first professional home run. Before the season ended, Bobby himself was called up for active service and served as a bombardier in the US Air Corps from 1943 to 1945.
  • Upon returning from the wa, Bobby was invited to the New York Giants' spring training camp in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1946. The Giants assigned Bobby to their triple A farm team at Jersey City, New Jersey.
  • Bobby's first game with Jersey City was a significant event in baseball history: the team played the Montreal Royals, who had a debutant of their own. This game was the first in organised baseball for the Dodgers' newest signing, one Jackie Robinson.
  • Bobby played in 151 games for Jersey City in 1946 and sent a message throughout baseball that he could hit the long ball, finishing the season with 26 home runs to go with his .280 batting average (149 hits in 533 at-bats).
  • Suitably impressed, the Giants brought up Bobby late in the season. Playing in 18 games, Thomson hit .315 (17 hits in 54 at-bats) with three home runs. The coaches and manager Mel Ott liked what they saw, and Bobby was brought up full time to play for the Giants in 1947.
  • 1947 was the rookie year of both Bobby Thomson and Dodger Jackie Robinson. It was Robinson who won the coveted Rookie of the Year award in the National League, though the young Giants outfielder also had a fine year with 29 home runs, 85 RBIs and an average of .283. And, as Bobby is fond of reminding interested parties, "I also had one stolen base."
  • From 1947 to 1953, Bobby was a regular for the Giants and one of their standout stars. In 1949, he had one of his best seasons, hitting 27 home runs with 109 RBIs and a .309 batting average. And, Bobby adds proudly, "I also had 10 stolen bases that year!" (Bobby was not blessed with great speed, and stolen bases were few and far between for the big man: he ended his 14-year career with a grand total of 38 steals...)
  • Although 1949 was a fabulous year for Bobby, it pales in comparison with the day that capped an outstanding season (he finished in the top five in home runs and slugging average, and in the top ten in batting average, on-base average, total bases and RBIs). and catapulted him into history: October 3 1951. People who know little or nothing about baseball can recall Bobby Thomson's three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca.]
  • Bobby played with the Giants until 1953, after which he was traded to the Milwaukee Braves. However, he broke his ankle in an exhibition game on March 3 1954, and only played in 43 games for Milwaukee. "It was a bad break," says Bobby. "I ended that season with not a single stolen base... "
  • After four years at Milwaukee, Bobby Thomson made a return to New York and the Giants in 1957. But, as the saying goes, you can never go back, and by 1958, Bobby was with the Chicago Cubs.
  • Chicago welcomed Bobby with open arms, and he rewarded them with another fine year, batting a respectable .283 with 21 home runs and 82 RBIs. "Yeah," says Bobby, "but not one stolen base!"
  • Bobby stayed in Chicago for another year, before moving to Boston in 1960. He played only 40 games at Boston, hitting five home runs in the process (including his last homer in the majors, the 264th of his illustrious career). Bobby moved on to play three games for the Baltimore Orioles, but, as he explains, "I had lost the feeling, the enthusiasm for the game. I loved baseball and I loved the feeling of playing the game. But now it was over and I knew it."

Exclusive - Bobby Thomson's ham and cheese souffle

...which he eats every Sunday morning and which comes from a recipe by his mother...
16 slices of white bread
16 thin slices of ham (not too salty)
8 ounces of grated Swiss cheese
8 ounces of grated Cheddar cheese
6 beaten eggs
3 cups milk
half-teaspoon onion salt
half-teaspoon dry mustard
3 cups crushed cornflakes
half-cup melted butter
In a 9 x 13 inch greased casserole, arrange the ingredients as follows:
Layer of bread, layer of ham
Layer of half of each Swiss and Cheddar cheese
Another layer of bread and layer of the remaining cheese
Combine beaten eggs, milk and dry ingredients. Pour over casserole and refrigerate overnight.
Sprinkle cornflakes and butter just before baking. Then, bake in a 325-degree pre-heated oven for about 35-40 minutes. Let rest for five minutes before slicing into squares.
Note - this dish is always served in the Thomson household with chilled fruit compote...


Last Updated on Thursday, 02 April 2009 20:51