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Taken For Granted: Great Scots

September 14, 2010|By Pat Grant

The man departs, but the childhood memory remains vivid.

Bobby Thomson passed away last month, little more than a year shy of the 60th anniversary of baseball's most dramatic moment — the walk-off home run that gave the 1951 New York Giants the National League pennant. Thirteen-and-a-half games back on Aug. 11, the Giants had caught the Brooklyn Dodgers on the last day of the season, forcing a playoff.

My dad was a native of Bobby Thomson's birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland. Both arrived in America in 1925, Bobby at age 2 and my father at age 24. During World War I, Dad had worked in the Port Glasgow shipyards as a teenager building warships and ocean liners. He actually crossed the Atlantic on a ship he had helped to build.

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In my fondest imaginings, I fancied the Thomson family also coming to America on a passenger liner he had a hand in building. The Thomsons settled in Staten Island and the Grants in Queens. My father became a motorman, regularly driving subway trains past the Polo Grounds — site of the miracle of '51. As a concession to his three sons, he made a valiant effort to understand the complexities of American baseball, ultimately becoming an avid Giant fan.

On that fateful October day, I ran all the way home from PS 45 hoping to catch the end of the game. Dad was working a swing shift, and my brothers were far from home, Bill in Korea with the Marines and Tom in Germany with the Air Force.

My neighborhood's loyalties were equally divided between the Dodgers, Giants and Yankees. Living in the Idlewild Airport (JFK) flight path, reception on our 12-inch black-and-white television was an iffy proposition. But on that day, there was no air traffic, and the rabbit-eared picture quality was excellent.

The importance of the game had obviously caused the grounding of all flights. It didn't cross my 9-year-old mind that perhaps a change in wind direction had mercifully diverted flights away from our row house in South Queens.

Arriving home, I was dismayed to find the Giants three runs behind in the ninth inning. If nothing dramatic happened, "dem bums" would be taking on the Yankees in our annual New York ritual — the subway series. But a run-scoring double closed the gap to two runs, and Giant fans sensed the possibility of a miracle as Thomson came to bat with two men on base, one out and reliever Ralph Branca on the mound.

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