A writer friend of mine once told me that everyone has at least one interesting story to tell. The fun, he said, is finding it. It’s a theory I try to put into practice whenever I indulge in long-distance train travel. And there’s plenty of opportunity because Amtrak dining cars feature community seating. If you’re traveling solo, you will be seated at a table with three of your fellow passengers.
Several years ago, I was aboard the Southwest Chief en route to Kansas City to see three games between the Red Sox and the Kansas City Royals. The night before our morning arrival in Kansas City, I was enjoying a steak in the dining car while chatting with my three table mates. Seated across from me was pleasant woman in her 60s who asked the purpose of my journey and brightened when she learned where I was headed and why. “I have a story for you that I’m sure you’ll find interesting,” she said.
It seems she grew up in New York City and her father was the chief electrician at the Polo Grounds, the stadium where the New York Giants played baseball before moving west in the late 1950’s. One evening in the Fall of 1951, she said, her father remarked that something strange was going on at work. That afternoon, he said, he had been instructed to add some wiring in the old ballpark’s scoreboard. He suspected it could be a signaling system. Someone inside the scoreboard with a pair of powerful binoculars could see what signals the opposing team’s catcher was giving to his pitcher. Then, press a button and a small light somewhere on the front of the scoreboard would blink, telling the Giant hitter that the pitch was going to be a curveball … a huge advantage for the batter.
That year, the Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers finished the regular season in a dead-even tie. To decide who would be the National League champion and go on to face the champs of the American League in the World Series, the Giants hosted the Dodgers in a one-game playoff at the Polo Grounds.
Trailing 4-to-1 in the 9th inning, the Giants scored one run. Then, with two men on base and the count 1-1, Giant’s outfielder Bobby Thomson swung … and hit what has, ever since, been called “the Shot Heard ‘Round the World” . . . a home run down the left field line to win the title for the Giants.
Click here for an account of that game and note, please, the last paragraph. There has always been speculation that there was some kind of skullduggery on the part of the Giants, but no one could say for sure.
But now, thanks to a dinner conversation on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, between table companions seated together at the whim of a dining car steward . . . we know, don’t we!