First of all, let me wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving! I truly hope your only reading this if there is a brief moment of downtime in your family's gathering or if you're trying to avoid awkward political discussions with your drunken uncle. Been there - I totally get it. I mean this sincerely, after all, I banged out this post last night so I'd be free to celebrate and I'm currently getting my butt handed to me in a game of football with good friends.
We have a great many things in life to be thankful for, including life itself. We baseball fans have been reminded of that in the past couple days, with the passing of a Dodger heel who yet remained universally revered - hurler Ralph Branca. You know - the guy who gave up the "Shot Heard Round the World." Branca is a fantastic example for today's young athletes (and really people in general) in learning how to deal with defeat. He truly never let that "shot" get the best of him in his 90 years of life. RIP Ralph.
While we have all heard of that famous home run, there was a notable event that occurred just a few days earlier that set up Bobby Thomson's heroics. This incident involved then-future Cub outfielder, Bob Addis.
Just a few days ago, Mr. Addis (shown here on an Archives reprint) also passed away, at the age of 91. Unfortunately, his passing didn't receive nearly the same press coverage because, well, name recognition. That said, had his controversial play not occurred, we might not remember Mr. Branca's name. On that note, this seems like the perfect time to pay our respects to Bob Addis.
But a week earlier, entering the final weekend of play, the Dodgers still held a slim, one game lead on the surging New York Giants, who had been as far back as 13.5 games that summer. The Brooklyn ballclub found themselves in Boston and a single win would require them to "lose out" in order to complete drain their once-impressive lead. It was in the bottom of the eight inning at Borchert Field on September 27th that Addis found himself on center stage.
In a closely-contested game, the score was knotted up at 3 apiece going into that half inning. Addis found himself on third base with none out when Earl Torgeson smacked a sharply struck grounder to Jackie Robinson at 2nd, who then fired a strike to Roy Campanella, who was completely blocking the plate. The throw easily beat Bob to the dish; however, when the dust cleared, umpire Frank Dascoli signaled the runner safe, claiming that Addis had somehow slid under the tag. The go-ahead run scored and all hell broke loose on the field.
There's no video of the play in question; that said, there is this set of photographs. Do you think he was safe?
Images courtesy of Tom Conmy on Photobucket
Campy immediately hopped up and began hootin' and hollerin', which lead to an immediate ejection from the agitated Dascoli. Half of the Brooklyn bench took to the diamond to protest with Campanella and it took a few more ejections (eventually the entire Dodger bench was given the "heave ho") and several minutes to clear the field. However, the damage had already been done and "Dem Bums" went on to lose the game 4-3. The Giants, who were idle that day, found themselves just a 0.5 game back of the NL lead and you know the rest of that bedtime story.
With that, Addis' role in baseball history was sealed, though it's importance was gradually forgotten thanks to Thomson's infinitely more famous blow. However, it's quite possible that "the shot" would never have happened without "the call." The butterfly effect.
Without Addis, perhaps we would have forgotten this gentleman's name
For the large impact he left on baseball history, Bob Addis wasn't in the Major Leagues for very long: 1950-53. Having been originally signed by the Yankees in 1943 and drafted away by the Dodgers four years later (where he was briefly teammates with Campanella in the minors), Bob didn't crack a Big League roster until he was traded to the Boston Braves.
The outfielder eventually found himself as a regular off the bench for Billy Southworth's Braves, though his decent batting average (.273) was belittled by his lack of extra base power and his inability to draw walks. As nothing more than a scrappy, singles-hitter, Boston decided to move on from Addis and swapped him with Chicago for Jack Cusick.
Cusick is repped in my CATRC by this '52 Bowman
After another season with a adequate batting average (.295) and nothing else coming from the bench, Addis got off to a slow start in 1953 and found himself included in the massive and famed 9-player trade that brought Ralph Kiner to the Windy City from Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for Bob, he only received four more hitless at-bats in the Majors for the Pirates before he was given his walking papers.
With his professional baseball career over after a few more seasons in the "bushes," Addis went back to school and finished his education. He eventually earned his degree and became a history teacher, baseball coach and Athletic Director at Euclid High School, near his hometown in Ohio. It's only appropriate that man with a key role in baseball history should go on to teach history himself!
Addis (at right, jacket) during his days as a Euclid Panther
Image courtesy of the Euclid Observer
So, there you have it, the story and significance of Mr. Bob Addis - eventual Cub, sneaky slider and respected educator. I'd say that he certainly made the most of his 91 years!
Not to be forgotten, many thanks go out to Tom Conmy of Behind the Bag and N. Diunte of Baseball Happenings, whose writings proved to be invaluable resources when it came to properly telling the story of "The Call Heard Round the World."
Here's hoping all of you might be reading this are enjoying your Turkey Day and are celebrating properly among close friends, family and whole bunch of tasty, belt-bursting food. Remember to give thanks for all that you have in this world, including life itself, which is ever so fragile.
R.I.P. Bob Addis and Ralph Branca, two major players in one of baseball's best yarns.