In a simpler time, high school coaches conducted gym classes and taught history in addition to their athletic duties. Thus it was that at 2:58 p.m. on Oct. 3, 1951, I was sitting in Mr. Provost’s sixth-hour history class listening to a baseball game over the loud speaker at the front of the room. Down by 13-1/2 games in mid-August, the NY Giants had battled back and were then in the third and final game of their pennant playoff series with cross town rivals, the NY Giants.
The game was played at the old Polo Grounds in upper-Manhattan, home of the Giants from 1883 to 1957. While in NYC for the World’s Fair in 1964, we watched the Giants playing the new NY Mets in the Giant’s new stadium at Flushing Meadows in Queens. (It was later named Shea Stadium.) Casey Stengel was managing the hapless Mets and Willie Mays was playing for the Giants.
It was the bottom of the ninth, Giants down 4-2 with two men on and the count 3-2 on Giant Bobby Thomson. Our room, was quiet as usual but this time not from somnolence and boredom but anticipation of that next pitch. The crack of Bobby’s bat sent him into baseball legend and resurrected an entire history class from the dead.
Bobby Thomson never again rose to such heights — but it didn’t matter. Ever after his hit was called “the shot heard round the world” after the phrase from Emerson’s 1837 poem commemorating the first clash of the Revolutionary War April 19, 1775. The bat is in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
Had Bobby not hit safely, the batter in the on-deck was a new kid named Willie Mays. Thomson was sent to the Milwaukee Braves in 1953, and in Spring training in 1954 broke his ankle — giving rookie Hank Aaron a place in the lineup.
I have no memory of what Mr. Provost taught in American History that October afternoon, but had it been about the first shot of the American Revolution, I’m sure I would not have recalled it as well as that other shot heard round the world. And, on line now, there are no signatures of Paul Revere selling for more than Bobby Thomson’s baseballs.
Sung at the completion of the Concord Monument
April 19, 1836
By Ralph Waldo Emerson
Commemorates first shots in American Revolution
Fired by the Minute Men April 19, 1775
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Page 2 of 2 - Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.*
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone’
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sire, our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.
• By 1836, the wood bridge had disintegrated and was replaced by a concrete structure in the postcard image.