Hodges' call of Thomson's 'Shot' endures
Broadcasters laud radio announcer's take on historic homer
PHILADELPHIA -- As memorable an event as Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" was, the voice that breathed life into that feat has been just as enduring.Russ Hodges' famed call of Thomson's home run on Oct. 3, 1951, that sent the New York Giants to the World Series and ended a three-game playoff against the Brooklyn Dodgers provided seemingly perfect accompaniment to what's widely considered one of baseball's greatest feats. Speaking in the wake of Thomson's death Tuesday, accomplished broadcasters agree that Hodges, who entered the broadcasters' wing of the Hall of Fame by posthumously receiving the Ford C. Frick Award in 1980, not only conveyed the thrill of the home run and New York's ninth-inning rally, but also summarized the drama of the Giants' remarkable comeback from a 13 1/2-game deficit beginning Aug. 11. "The bottom of the ninth inning was like the last six weeks of the season in microcosm," said Jon Miller, the Giants' current lead broadcaster and this year's Frick honoree. Hodges call was surely emotional -- "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" -- but former Giants lead announcer Hank Greenwald pointed out that Hodges' passion enabled him to capture the moment accurately. "That's what a broadcaster tries to do," Greenwald said. Longtime Giants announcer Lon Simmons, the 2004 Frick Award recipient, observed that Hodges unwittingly set himself up for broadcasting immortality with his generosity. The Giants-Dodgers playoff was one of the first sporting events to be telecast nationally. As Simmons related, Hodges gave his partner -- the late Ernie Harwell, another Hall of Famer -- the option of deciding whether he wanted to go on TV or radio. Harwell chose TV, but it's Hodges' account that lives in memory and whenever black-and-white newsreels of Thomson's drive off Ralph Branca are shown. "It's the most famous call in sports history, I think," Simmons said. Simmons also pointed out that Hodges enhanced the dramatics by describing the scene so vividly, particularly after Whitey Lockman doubled to score a run and send Don Mueller to third base, where he broke his ankle with an awkward slide. In came pinch-runner Clint Hartung, and Hodges told the rest: "Hartung down the line at third, not taking any chances. Lockman without too big of a lead at second, but he'll be running like the wind if Thomson hits one. Branca throws. There's a long drive, it's gonna be, I believe -- the Giants win the pennant!" As Simmons said, "He set it up so well, he didn't have to say it was a home run." Dave Niehaus, Seattle's Hall of Fame announcer, is among the many who still hear Hodges' voice in their baseball dreams.
"I don't remember who made the call that ended the 1960 World Series, but I do remember Russ Hodges' call of Bobby Thomson's home run," Niehaus said.Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne rhapsodized about the timelessness of Hodges' call. "Calls like that, plays like that become a part of baseball lore, and that's important because it ties today to yesterday to tomorrow. And there aren't a lot of those," Thorne said. "It's the Jack Buck, 'I don't believe what I just saw.' How many of those can you think of? There really aren't that many. ... It's what the game's about. That's why you come to the ballpark. You come to a ballpark to see those great plays and those great moments and the beauty of those kind of calls reinforce that and make you realize, come to the game, watch the game because this might be the one where something like that happens."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.