Saturday, August 21, 2010

Glasgow born Bobby Thomson, who hit the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" in 1951, died last week at the age of 86.

Bobby Thomson died last week at the age of 86. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the youngest of six children. The father was a cabinet maker and had moved to Staten Island, New York, shortly before Bobby was born. The entire family soon followed.

Bobby Brown Thomson was raised on Staten Island and in 1942 signed with the New York Giants (and a bonus of $100) right out of high school.  That same year,  he joined the Air Force and trained as a bombardier.

His rookie year was 1947 and he hit 29 home runs and had a batting average of .283. He was traded in 1953 to Milwaukee and then back to the Giants, then to the Chicago Cubs in 1958. In 1960, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox and finished his career with the Baltimore Orioles in 1960.

Thomson became famous for hitting a game-winning home run to win the 1951 National League pennant. It is often called the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” and is probably the most famous home run in baseball history. The ball was never recovered. You can get the radio broadcast of that game on the internet.

The Illinois St. Andrews Society declared Bobby Thomson the “Scot of the Year” in 1951and invited him to attend the 106th Annual Dinner at the Conrad Hilton hotel in Chicago. He was presented with a certificate and an engraved watch. The Society said “he not only exemplifies the best traits of the Scottish character, but made the year’s outstanding contribution to the ideals of good sportsmanship.”

John Clasper was president of the Society and the Heather Queen that year was Heather Preston. John M. Jardine of Evanston was the Chairman of the Dinner.

In the 1990s, Thomson received a letter from an ex-Marine who had been stationed in Korea in 1951. “I was in a bunker in the front line with my buddy listening to the radio. It was contrary to orders, but he was a Giants fanatic. He never made it home and I promised him if I ever go back I’d write and tell you about the happiest moment of his life. It has taken me this long to put my feelings into words. On behalf of my buddy, thanks Bobby.”

I once wrote to Bobby Thomson asking if he still possessed the certificate and the watch. There was no reply. His wife Elaine died in 1993 and he is survived by 2 daughters and six grandchildren.

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