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    by Randy Ooney     

My Nickel’s Worth                        by Randy Ooney


My Nickel’s Worth                      by Randy Ooney


Coogan’s Bluff


“The Whiz Kids had won it, Bobby Thompson had done it….”  Famous words by Terry Cashman in his 1981 hit, “Talkin’ Baseball”.  It was a musical history dating back to the fifties exalting the heroics of “Willie, Mickey, and the Duke”.  You need to be a little older than I to have first hand memories of our famous Minneapolis Miller, Willie Howard Mays.  He made his debut with our Minneapolis Millers at Nicollet Park in 1951 and hit about .477 that first month.  Manager Bill Rigney of the New York Giants was anxious to have Willie play center field in the Polo Grounds and other National League ball parks.


Willie got off to a terrible start, something like hitless in his first 24 at bats but recovered to a .274 average, with 20 home runs and was named National League rookie of the year.  But the Giants pulled off an upset that year that kept people talkin’ baseball for decades.  The Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff.


The Giants were more than 13 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1951 pennant race, but came back to tie “Dem Bums” at the end of the regular season and force a 3 game playoff.  In the deciding game, in the ninth inning, the Giants trailed the Dodgers 4-1.  With two men on, Whitey Lockman doubled, scoring Al Dark and putting runners on second and third. Dodger skipper Chuck Dressen summoned Ralph Branca to face Bobby Thompson.  Thompson hit Branca’s second pitch over the left field fence for a three run walk off homer.  Fans listening to the play by play on the radio heard Russ Hodges shout “The Giants win the pennant!” (about 20 times).


Ralph Branca’s reputation was scarred for life – Dodger fans never forgave him for yielding “The shot heard ‘round the world”.  Although this happened when I was four years old, I remember hearing about it over and over throughout the 1950’s.  And we pause to remember it one more time in November as news came that Ralph Branca passed away at the age of 90.  Rest in peace Mr. Branca.         



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