Franciscan Coach Recalls Iconic Baseball Moment

Not too many regular season baseball moments can rival Derek Jeter’s walk-off RBI single in his last-ever at-bat in Yankee Stadium.

It was almost as if the script was written before the hit even happened.

New York City has served as the stage for countless clutch sports moments, and to any die-hard New York baseball fan, the date Oct. 3, 1951 should ring a bell.

On this day, the New York Giants capped off an improbable late-season comeback to capture the National League pennant right out of the hands of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who had held a 12.5-game lead in the standings in mid-August.

The two teams finished the regular season tied, which forced a three-game playoff series. After splitting the first two games, the Polo Grounds in Manhattan would be the site for the decisive Game 3.

Bobby Thomson (Public Domain Photo)
Bobby Thomson (Public Domain Photo)

Trailing 4-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, the Giants began mounting a rally off Dodgers’ starter Don Newcombe. Singles by Alvin Dark and Don Mueller and a one-out double by Whitey Lockman cut the Giants’ deficit to two runs with slugger Bobby Thomson, who had clubbed 31 home runs in 1951 prior to that at-bat, coming to the plate.

Meanwhile, outside Farrell’s Bar & Grill on Prospect Park West in Windsor Terrace, a 9-year-old Brother Robert Kent, O.S.F. – who has coached the varsity baseball team at St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows, for 46 seasons and recorded his 600th career win this past spring – stared intently through the window at a black-and-white television showing the ballgame.

Brother Robert developed a love for baseball playing as a center fielder and shortstop for the Holy Name of Jesus, Park Slope, Catholic Youth Organization program. He vividly remembers standing outside Farrell’s, which was packed with avid baseball fans – many of whom took the day off work to catch the afternoon game.

“It was a Wednesday,” he said. “At Holy Name, we used to get out at 1:30 (on Wednesdays) because they had confraternity when the kids from the public schools would come in and take religious ed.”

Ralph Branca (Public Domain Photo)
Ralph Branca (Public Domain Photo)

Being a Brooklyn boy, Brother Robert was – and still is – a huge Dodgers’ fan, so he hoped Ralph Branca, who was brought on to relieve Newcombe, could record the final two outs and send the Dodgers to the World Series. However, he knew that there was a reason the Dodgers were referred to as “Dem Bums.”

“If you were a Dodger fan, you knew what was going to happen,” he said. “You knew something was going to go wrong.”

What happened next has gone down as one of the most memorable moments in baseball history. At exactly 3:58 p.m., Thomson lined Branca’s second pitch just over the left field wall for a pennant-clinching three-run home run. Of course, this homer is referred to as the “Shot Heard ’Round the World,” and it was a fitting end to the Giants’ playoff push that became known as the “Miracle at Coogan’s Bluff.”

“We were kids; we were crying,” said Brother Robert as the Giants celebrated and the Dodgers took the long, dejecting walk out of the deep center field gates at the Polo Grounds.

It might be an iconic baseball moment for many, but for Dodgers’ fans like Brother Robert, the “Shot Heard ’Round the World” still stings, even now 63 years later.[hr]Contact Jim Mancari via email at