The Giants' revitalization under Durocher comes to fruition in a storybook finish. After trailing the Dodgers by 13 1/2 games on Aug. 11, the Giants end up forcing a three-game playoff, culminated by the most famous home run in history.
After trailing the Dodgers by 13 1/2 games on Aug. 11, manager Leo Durocher's troops rattled off 16 straight victories and won 37 of their final 44 regular-season contests to force a tie with Brooklyn.
New York won the first game and Brooklyn captured the second before they met for a decisive contest at the Polo Grounds.
With the Giants trailing 4-2 with one out and two on in the bottom of the ninth, Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe removed himself from the game in favor of reliever Ralph Branca. Thomson drilled an 0-1 pitch to left field and jumped onto home plate to put an exclamation on "The Miracle of Coogan's Bluff," as called by legendary Giants announcer Russ Hodges.
"Brooklyn leads it, 4-2. 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! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! Bobby Thomson hits into the lower deck of the left-field stands! The Giants win the pennant! And they're going crazy! They're going crazy! Oh-ho!"
The momentum seemed to carry over to the next day for the opener of the World Series as Monte Irvin stole home in the first inning to register the first swipe of home since the Yankees' Bob Meusel did it in 1928. The Giants' left fielder finished the contest 4-for-5 and spearheaded a 5-1 victory.
Irvin would once again lead the National Leaguers' offense in Game 2, but his three hits weren't enough to overcome the Yankees in a 3-1 defeat.
Shortstop Eddie Stanky inspired a five-run, fifth-inning rally in Game 3 when he kicked the ball out of Phil Rizzuto's glove on a failed stolen-base attempt and scrambled to third. The Giants would move on to a 6-2 triumph at the Polo Grounds.
Despite holding a two-games-to-one Series lead, the Giants couldn't finish off the Yankees as the American Leaguers ran off three straight victories to claim the title.
1951 also marked the beginning of a legendary career, as Willie Mays made his debut. He was called up from the minors batting .477 but went 0-for-12 to start his inaugural Major League season. He then crushed a Warren Spahn pitch completely out of the Polo Grounds, the first of 20 longballs he would stroke in his Rookie of the Year campaign.
After a season without Monte Irvin (who broke his leg in a 1952 preseason games) and two campaigns without Willie Mays (who entered the Army), the Giants are back at full strength and capture the world championship.
Willie Mays got the National League champion Giants off to a great start in the 1954 World Series when he made perhaps the greatest defensive play in baseball history.
With New York and Cleveland tied, 2-2, in the eighth inning of Game 1 at the Polo Grounds and two Indians runners on base, the Hall of Fame center fielder made an over-the-shoulder catch of a 460-foot smash off the bat of the Indians' Vic Wertz.
The Giants went on to win, 5-2, when pinch-hitter Dusty Rhodes hit a three-run, 10th-inning home run off Indians starter Bob Lemon. Ironically, the game-winning clout went only 260 feet.
The Giants would go on to sweep the Indians in four games to register their last world championship in an upset over the highly touted American League champs, winners of 111 games.
Rhodes, who hit .341 in part-time duty and as a pinch-hitter deluxe during the regular season, also delivered the game-winning hits in both Games 2 and 3. However, his services weren't needed in the fourth and final contest as New York jumped out to a 7-0 advantage and coasted to the 7-4 championship-clinching victory.
New York was the surprise National League champion. After finishing fifth in 1953, the Giants were led by Mays, who won the NL batting title with a .345 mark that included 41 home runs and 110 RBI. The center fielder, named Most Valuable Player and The Sporting News' Player of the Year, had returned to the Giants after missing two campaigns due to military service.
Another "newcomer" Johnny Antonelli, who was acquired from Milwaukee in exchange for Bobby Thomson in the offseason, won 21 games and recorded a league-best 2.29 ERA to help New York to the NL flag.
Following two disappointing seasons and increasing dissatisfaction with his tenure in New York, owner Horace Stoneham considers moving his club to Minnesota before being convinced to join the rival Dodgers in a historic move to the West Coast.
The 1955 Giants slipped to third place despite 51 homers from Willie Mays and down to sixth in '56 under new manager Bill Rigney. With the Polo Grounds slated to be demolished and replaced by a housing development, Giants owner Horace Stoneham began looking for a site to which to relocate. Giants attendance had fallen from 1.2 million in 1954 to less than 633,000 in 1956.
In the meantime, San Francisco mayor George Christopher had designs on luring a Major League Baseball team to his city. He heard about Stoneham's unhappiness and Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley's threats to move, and through conversations with O'Malley and the mayor of Los Angeles, Christopher discovered the Dodgers were considering a move to L.A.
O'Malley and Christopher convinced Stoneham that the two clubs should move West together, and on Aug. 19, 1957, Stoneham announced that the Giants would be moving to the Bay Area for the 1958 season.
When asked how he felt about taking the Giants away from New York's children, Stoneham replied, "I feel bad about the kids, but I haven't seen many of their fathers lately."
San Francisco greets its new baseball team with a huge parade and a raucous opener at cozy Seals Stadium.
Fans packed Seals Stadium from the first day of big league ball on the West Coast. On April 15, in that historic opener, Ruben Gomez shut out the Dodgers, 8-0, and a rookie first baseman from Puerto Rico hit a home run in his second Major League at-bat.
Orlando Cepeda, "the Baby Bull," went on to win Rookie of the Year honors and overshadowed the astounding Willie Mays, whom many fans viewed as New York's star, not their own.
Mays still turned in a brilliant season, batting a career-best .347 and hitting 29 homers. But without the spacious outfield of the Polo Grounds, the "Say Hey Kid" had few chances to show off the unbelievable catches for which he had been known. Fans voted Cepeda as team MVP over Mays.
Although the Giants finished 12 games out in third place, they still tallied a respectable 80-74 record. More importantly, they beat the transplanted Dodgers 16 out of 22 times, keeping alive a 75-year-old rivalry.
April 30: Future Hall of Famer Willie McCovey goes 4-for-4 in his Major League debut en route to Rookie of the Year honors.
Sam Jones and Mike McCormick both toss rain-shortened no-hitters.