Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thomson's first shot was heard 'round North Carolina

Bobby Thomson, the man whose shot was heard ‘round the world in 1951, died Monday at the age of 86. But few know, or remember, that Thomson played minor league baseball in North Carolina.

Thomson, a Staten Island, NY native, played 29 games at third base for the Rocky Mount Rocks in 1942 at the age of 18. He batted just .241 but he had three key homers and 18 RBI.

When he was signed by the Rocks, the Rocky Mount Telegram newspaper, where I was sports editor years later, ran a story titled “This Bat Is Rocks’ Insurance.” Thomson’s first professional home run came in his first at bat at Rocky Mount’s Municipal Stadium. Not only was it his first home at bat, but it was the first pitch thrown to him.

Plus, he had his first big-time home run in Rocky Mount. Playing the rival Wilson Tobs in a seven-game playoff, the Rocks were down three games to none but managed to pull even at three games a piece. With the deciding seventh game in Rocky Mount, Thomson blasted a six-inning home run over the left field wall to open up a close game and give the Rocks the victory.

It was believed to be only the second time in pro baseball history that a team came from three games down to win a series. After the game, appreciative and ecstatic fans passed a hat and gave Thomson 11 bucks, which he probably needed at the time.

At the end of the season, he enlisted at the height of World War II. He served in the Air Corps from 1943 through 1945.

After the war, he continued his career and became a regular for the New York Giants in 1947. He was a star for years but he’s most remembered for the Oct. 3, 1951 home run in game three of a three-game playoff against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Thomson came to bat in the ninth inning with one out, two on and his Giants down 4-2. On an 0-1 count, Thompson banged “the shot heard ‘round the world” as he homered off Ralph Branca for a three-run, game-and-series winner.

The Giants’ announcer Russ Hodges shouted the famous call, “The Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant.” It was perhaps the biggest home run in major league history… but his first home run came in North Carolina.


  1. Nice story. Good to see he got a little "fence money" for the playoff dinger in RM. Eleven bucks doesn't seem like much. But for a rookie during the War years, it was probably a good take; he probably made less than 100 a month in regular salary. I wonder if he thought of that homer when he came to bat for the Giants that day, years later.

  2. Good point. I bet his baseball life did flash before his eyes.
    In his later years he said, "It was the best thing that ever happened to me. It may have been the best thing that ever happened to anybody. I walked on a stage made in heaven."
    By the way, Webster Lupton has written an excellent book about baseball in North Carolina, particularly in Angier, titled, "A Place to Play."