On Oct. 3, 1951, Bobby Thomson, the former New York Giants third baseman who died on Aug. 16 at 86, stepped into the batter's box. It was the bottom of the ninth, and the Giants trailed the Brooklyn Dodgers, 4-2, with runners on second and third. The winner would face the Yankees in the World Series. Thomson offered himself a simple instruction: Give yourself a chance to hit, you SOB.
Pitcher Ralph Branca threw a fastball and with the sport's first coast-to-coast TV audience tuned in Thomson smacked it into the left-field stands. "The Giants win the pennant!" shouted announcer Russ Hodges five times. That night, Thomson, who simply wanted to go home and celebrate with his family (he still lived with his mother on Staten Island), got a taste of the fame that was to come, with an appearance on The Perry Como Show.
The Scottish-born Thomson said he received mail almost daily from people sharing their sentiments about the Shot Heard Round the World. He and Branca became baseball's buddy act, signing autographs together until their relationship became strained after a 2001 Wall Street Journal article revealed that the Giants had been stealing signs from opponents all season. Thomson denied that he cheated in his famous at-bat. Fans may never stop arguing about it, but Thomson's hit will forever remain the sport's most famous home run.
This text originally appeared in the Aug. 30, 2010 issue of TIME Magazine.
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