“It’s gonna be I believe…”

OCTOBER 3, 1951 | NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK 

“Branca throws.

There’s a long fly. It’s gonna be I believe…

THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!”


Those were the words that blurted out of Russ Hodges‘ mouth as he described, arguably, the most dramatic moment in sports history – Bobby Thomson’s pennant clinching home run for the New York Giants to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers. Hodges was the Giants’ play-by-play man. His description was as much disbelief as excitement.

The drama was the result of a perfect storm; a Giants comeback from 13½ games down in August, a Brooklyn Dodgers‘ collapse, the third game of a best of three playoff to decide the pennant, the Giants’ last chance in the bottom of the 9th down 4-2, two men on, one out.

Bobby Thomson hitting a home run wasn’t so unusual. He hit 32 of them in 1951, 264 in a 15-year career. Thomson also had over a thousand RBI (1,026) in his career, and was a lifetime .270 hitter. Still, what happened at 3:58 p.m. Eastern Time on October 3, 1951 was as dramatic as anything that had ever happened in sports. The discovery of an audio recording of the play-by-play only intensified the drama.

It’s ironic that a recording of the radio broadcast is saved for posterity in that that game was one of the first to be televised nationally, but the TV broadcast was apparently not recorded.

Contributing sources:
NPR Story on Shot heard round the world
October 3, 1951 box score
The Wall Street Journal, Sept 19, 2006
The Echoing Green, by Joshua Prayer, 2006

Did Ruth call his shot? I say no.

OCTOBER 1, 1932 | CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – What did or didn’t happen in Wrigley Field on this date is debated to this day. Some believe Babe Ruth called his shot while batting in game-3 of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Yankees – that is, pointed toward the bleachers, indicating he was going to hit a home run there, and then hitting one there. So did Ruth call his shot? I say no.

Ruth definitely gestured, as film from that day shows, but was he calling his shot? [I don’t have the rights to show a still frame from that film, but you can see it by Google-ing “called shot copyright Kirk Kandle”.]

The Yankees were up 2 games to none against the Cubs in the ’32 series. New York took an early lead in game three on a home run by Ruth, only to be tied by the Cubs.

It was the 5th inning and Ruth came to bat again. He and the Cubs were jawing back and forth at each other. It’s obvious from the film that Ruth was gesturing with the count 2-balls and 2-strikes. On the next pitch, he hit a mammoth home run about 450 feet.

Did Ruth call his shot? Sportswriter Joe Williams of Scripps-Howard newspapers started it with this headline in the next day’s paper:

“Ruth calls shot as he puts home run no. 2 in side pocket”

Cubs pitcher Charlie Root, who gave up the home run, insisted Ruth did not call his shot. “If he had made a gesture like that I’d have put one in his ear and knocked him on his (backside).” Ruth did not initially acknowledge that he called his shot, but embraced the story more and more as time went on.

What may be most definitive is the typed play-by-play from Retrosheet, data gathered by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) for virtually every MLB game ever played.

Below is how Ruth’s 5th inning at-bat appears, including the bold type:

YANKEES 5TH: Sewell grounded out (shortstop to first); the Cubs bench players were riding Babe Ruth mercilessly and Ruth yelled and gestured back; Ruth homered;

Whoever wrote that does not believe he called his shot. And if you look at Ruth’s gesture it appears to be straight ahead. When a left-handed batter stands in the box straight ahead is toward the 3rd base dugout, which is the Cubs dugout. My belief is Ruth was gesturing toward the Cubs, not center-field. Did Ruth call his shot? I say no.

Contributing sources:
October 1, 1932 Box score/play-by-play
Charlie Root quote, USATODAY, September 27, 2007
Sports Illustrated Greatest Teams, by Tim Crothers, 1998