Any list of the greatest moments in New York sports history has to include Bobby Thomson and Stephane Matteau. And sometimes moments collide to provide some extraordinary stories. One of those happened in 1994.
Some context: in the fall of 1994 there was a baseball strike and a hockey lockout. So, with no live games on the weeknights in October, WFAN aired classic game rebroadcasts. Sound familiar?
On one of the nights we aired the famous 1951 Giants-Dodgers playoff game that featured Thomson’s pennant-winning home run, “The Shot Heard Round The World.” The ninth-inning walk-off home run off Brooklyn’s Ralph Branca was made even more famous by the great radio call by Russ Hodges (“The Giants Win The Pennant! The Giants Win The Pennant! The Giants Win The Pennant!”).
To lead up to the rebroadcast we created a pregame show that featured in-studio guests Thomson and Branca. The two had become great friends in the decades since.
Thomson arrived at our old Astoria studios extremely early, so our producer for the evening, Lisa Johnson, took him up the street for dinner before the show.
Lisa was a big New York Rangers fan and while making small talk she soon discovered Thomson was too. It had only been four months since the Rangers won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 54 years.
Their run to the Cup was one of the biggest sporting events the city has ever seen, and the game that clinched their trip to the Finals one of the most memorable in New York sports history. Matteau’s game-winning goal in double-overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals was made even more famous by the great radio call by Howie Rose (Matteau!! Matteau!! Matteau!!).
So while sitting at dinner Lisa asked Thomson quite innocently what he thought when Matteau scored that goal. He told her that he was so happy he began jumping up and down in his living room in celebration. And, Thomson said, as he leaped for joy, that’s when it struck him—that was the feeling. The same feeling he had on October 3, 1951 when he slammed his famous home run at The Polo Grounds. It was happening again, only this time he was a spectator.
Many of us can recall games from our favorite teams, and as we’ve found out recently, watching them again can conjure up some of the same emotions we felt during a different part of our lives when we watched them unfold in real time.
But isn’t it amazing that one man could be such a passionate fan that he could feel the same emotion through his TV set that he did on the athletic field decades earlier?
Only in New York.