Like a lottery winner, Bobby Thomson was happy he had been the guy. Who wouldn’t be? After all, how many kids, whacking Wiffleballs and providing the play-by-play in their minds, have dreamed of hitting the most dramatic home run in baseball history?
Thomson enjoyed the fame that came with his historic three-run blast that lifted the New York Giants over the Brooklyn Dodgers in a 1951 playoff series, but part of him didn’t understand what the fuss was about, no matter how breathless the radio call by Russ Hodges.
“It’s just a home run,” Thomson once said.
Thomson died Monday, still as big a celebrity as he was 59 years ago — his name immortalized in books by John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac and Don DeLillo, not to mention a Simpson’s episode. A character in a Woody Allen movie says Thomson’s home run “was the first time I ever believed there was a God.”
But Thomson was humble enough to realize his success meant someone else’s failure. So he put his arm around Ralph Branca, the victimized pitcher, and together they made a mint at card shows and banquets.
“He never lorded it over me,” Branca said.
Thomson never turned down the chance to reminisce — often asking interviewers, “Am I talking too much?” — but he never set out to cash in on his fame. For years, he was a paper bag salesman who lived in a modest house in Watchung. “A working stiff,” he called himself.
Today, superstars like Tiger Woods and Lebron James wear their destinies like a hellish yoke, while others chase stardom with outlandish behavior on sophomoric reality shows. It’s refreshing when fame finds someone who wasn’t really looking for it.
I was lucky enough to have been able to write to Mr. Thomson last April….. I asked him if he could go back and do it all over again would have he changed anything?? He said, no…. And he was nice enough to autograph two cards for me. Thanks for the great times Bobby, you will be missed!! RIP