One of my favorite dates of the year–etched in memory not because of something I witnessed, but because of hearing about it decades after the event itself. Give a minute or so to view the link below and hear the accompanying radio broadcast from 65 years ago today:
The Shot Heard ’round the World. When I hear that phrase, I think of two events: the beginning of the American Revolution in 1775 and a homerun hit on October 3, 1951.
That homerun, which earned the NY Giants the National League pennant (title) over their crosstown rivals the Brooklyn Dodgers, propelled the Giants into the World Series of 1951. They met defeat at the hands of yet another NY team, the Yankees, who were saying farewell to Joe Dimaggio, playing in his final season. Each team had a rookie outfielder in the line up who would become heroes for many a baby boomer–the Yanks with Mickey Mantle, and the Giants with Willie Mays. Niagara Falls native Sal Maglie was the starting pitcher for the Giants. Don Newcombe, who that year became the first African American to win 20 games, started the game for Brooklyn. This game, the third of a tiebreaker series to determine who would face the Yankees, was the first nationally televised baseball game. Fall of 1951: you can almost picture the students in our then three year old building, who experienced the game mostly on radio and perhaps a few on TV, talking about the heroics in our same halls the next day.
It was a decidedly post war time period. World War II was just six years in our rear view mirror, and the Cold War had turned hot in Korea. General Dwight Eisenhower would be elected president a little over a year later and the nation’s eyes were looking west. Following and anticipating that movement, the Yankees would soon be the sole NY team, with both the Dodgers and the Giants pulling up stakes, headed for new riches in California.
The announcer’s call was euphoric, the reaction of the team and the fans something that defies description. It’s like the scene from a movie. One writer (famed sportswriter Red Smith), said it this way, “Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic can ever be plausible again.”
Like so many singular, heroic, epic events, there is much more to the story than the famed call. As late as August 10th, the Dodgers had a 12.5 game lead over the Giants…seemingly insurmountable, except that it wasn’t. Even with 10 days left in the season, the Giants were still down 4.5 games. They then won their last 7 games, while Brooklyn lost 6 of their 10.
Looking deeper at the home run hitter, Bobby Thomson, illustrates something we like to celebrate in ourselves and our nation. Thomson was born in Glasgow, Scotland. His father, a cabinetmaker, took the great risk of moving to New York on his own, sending for his family when his son was 2 years old. It’s an incomprehensible immigrant story; taking a chance, persisting, sacrificing, and the next generation achieving the highest of highs by performing at an elite level in the most pressure filled moment possible in his field of work.
I’m looking for connections. How does that story, which has for whatever reason, resonated with me, connect with our lives at school? My argument is this: while we may not have defined moments (certainly not with the exuberant play-by-play and 35,000 awestruck fans) like that of Bobby Thomson and the Giants, we can, in total, achieve the same. What’s required of us though is the awareness to appreciate it. We are products of the goals we’ve set, the work that we’ve put in, and the passion we bring to our profession. All of those have combined to bring us together, in this place, at this time. There won’t be one, isolated moment of celebration this year, but countless small ones, if we allow ourselves the time to recognize them.
I have witnessed through this short school year examples of teachers and staff members risking their comfort zone in how they’ve taught, how they’ve worked with struggling students, how they’ve placed a primacy on student engagement, and how they’ve handled challenging situations. The impact on our students is what creates the victories we seek. We are united with them (and each other ) in this shared experience. Everyday is October 3, 1951. Every day is important, every day carries with it certain pressures. Our prior efforts and current unity allows the victories and celebrations to occur. We don’t always see it in ourselves; we often don’t see it in others. Recognize the greatness of what you do regardless of your role in our building ; the greatness and small kindnesses of your students, of your colleagues.
I have a picture in my mind. I can us as those players, fans, and coaches from the grainy 1951 footage. I can picture the scene where we hit the homerun, and the kids going crazy in the stands. Even better, I can see us as the manager and coaches, and the kids are on the field celebrating. But there’s a better version still. Sometimes we get to simply witness something so beautiful in our building, so unexpected, so full of grace, that we become that old radio announcer calling the action with wild abandon, so all the world can hear.