The Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves failed to make baseball's playoffs this week, succumbing to late-season collapses. To some, the swoons brought echoes of 60 years ago, when the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants were vying for the postseason.
As that season ended, the Dodgers lost their hold on first place, forcing them to play their crosstown rivals in a three-game series that would send the winner to the World Series.
As Brooklyn Dodgers fan Harvey Sherman, 75, recalls, "In 1951, we blew a 13 1/2-game lead, and we had the playoff against the Giants. I think a guy by the name of Thomson hit a home run off a guy by the name of Branca. Still hurts to talk about it."
But people do talk about it, because the Dodgers lost in spectacular fashion, losing the decisive third game after pitcher Ralph Branca yielded a ninth-inning home run to Bobby Thomson — the hit that quickly became known as The Shot Heard 'Round the World.
Like just about everyone else who lived in Brooklyn at the time, Sherman remembers every detail about that day. At StoryCorps, he describes the scene for his friend Alex Reisner, 31.
"Many of our fathers were Giant fans," Sherman says. "But all of the sons and daughters were Dodger fans, because Ebbets Field was a neighborhood place."
The one-game playoff, like most other baseball games of that era, was played around midday.
"So in 1951, when Thomson hit the home run, my pals and I were in school," Sherman says. "The teacher, Mrs. McPherson, lovely old Irish lady, stopped teaching."
Sherman says their teacher told the class, "Put your radios on. Let's listen to the Dodger game."
As teachers and students tuned in, the entire high school seemed to be listening to the game, Sherman recalls.
"Well, my friend Bobby had his maroon portable radio on," he says. "And again, we didn't have a lot of money in those days. But when Thomson hit the home run, class was dismissed. Bobby took his radio — and he threw it down the staircase."
The sting of that loss hasn't gone away for Sherman and other longtime fans.
"How can you forget it? Sort of like Pearl Harbor, and stuff like that," he says. "We remember it very, very well."
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher and Michael Garofalo.
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