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A STORY FROM JAN 31 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – DID THE GIANTS STEAL 1951 PENNANT?

TODAY’S STORY RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT THE DRAMATIC ‘SHOT HEARD ROUND THE WORLD’ IN 1951. The Wall Street Journal came out with a story on this date in 2001 that the comeback by the New York Giants over the Brooklyn Dodgers, culminated by Bobby Thomson’s walk-off home run, was aided by espionage. It begs the question, did the Giants steal the 1951 pennant?

Wall Street Journal reporter Joshua Prager, author of The Echoing Green, reported that Giants players Monte Irvin, Sal Yvars and Al Gettel admitted stealing opposing catcher’s signs for about the last ten weeks of the regular season.

An electrician sitting next to the spy activated a buzzer in the Giants bullpen before each pitch; one buzz meant fastball, two buzzes meant curve.

The Giants clubhouse in the old Polo Grounds was in centerfield. The story goes that manager Leo Durocher had a player peer at the opposing catcher’s signals almost 500 feet away with a telescope through an opening in the clubhouse wall. An electrician sitting next to the spy activated a buzzer in the Giants bullpen before each pitch; one buzz meant fastball, two buzzes meant curve.

Giant utility player Sal Yvars is quoted in Dave Anderson’s book, Pennant Racesas telling Giant batters, “Watch me in the bullpen. I’ll have a baseball in my hand. If I hold on to the ball, it’s a fastball. If I toss the ball in the air, it’s a breaking ball.” The Associated Press quoted Gettel as saying “Every hitter knew what was coming, made a big difference.”

The Giants made a miraculous comeback in 1951 from 13½ games back on August 11th. They tied the Dodgers on the last day of the regular season, forcing a best of three playoff. Each team won a game, bringing the season down to Game 3 at the Polo Grounds on October 3rd. Bobby Thomson’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth won game three. It sent the Giants to the World Series and the Dodgers home. But did the Giants steal the 1951 pennant?

Contributing Sources/More information:
Wall Street Journal, Joshua Prager, January 31, 2001
The Echoing Green, by Joshua Prager, Vintage Books, 2001
Historic Baseball, AP, February 2, 2002
New York Times