When Bobby Thompson smacked the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" in 1951, the homer that lifted the New York Giants over the Brooklyn Dodgers at the Polo Grounds, it was the first time in major league history that a playoff berth was clinched on a walk-off home run in a team's final game of the regular season. The "Staten Island Scot" passed away last August and never saw his feat matched.
Fast forward sixty years from "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" to the final day of the 2011 regular season. With both American and National League wild-card spots hanging in the balance, September 29, 2011 became "the greatest day of regular season baseball in Major League history," according to ESPN's Buster Olney. No team in 108 years of modern baseball had ever rallied for a playoff berth after trailing by 8 1/2 games or more with so few games to play. On Wednesday, it happened twice in 25 minutes. And one of Chatham's most glorified alums provided the dramatics.
As the clock struck midnight in St. Petersburg, the Rays' Evan Longoria, Chatham's All-League second baseman in 2005, batted in the 12th inning of a 7-7 tie with the Yankees, scarcely aware the door to history had been opened. The night's chaos had played out in the National League, with Atlanta relinquishing the wild card to St. Louis. Could the unthinkable happen in the American League, too' The crowd's roar at Tropicana Field signaled the news from Baltimore: the Red Sox had lost. Boston's once nine-game wild-card lead had vanished.
Three minutes later, at 12:05 a.m., the Downey, CA native delivered the Shot Heard 'Round the World Redux to claim the American League wild card for Tampa. A margin of nine games had been erased in the season's final 22 contests. Baseball lore cemented. Longoria's name etched in history books alongside Thompson's.
The Rays had rallied from seven runs down for the 8-7 win; Thompson's Giants had come back from three down in the ninth. Longoria's game-winning blast, which narrowly snuck over the left field fense and inside the foul pole, was his second homer of the game and 31st of the season; Thompson's memorable 1951 blast was his 32nd.
But Longoria has the chance to one-up Thompson. The '51 Giants, who overcame an August 11, 13 1/2-game deficit to the Dodgers, lost to the Yankees in the World Series, four games to two. Longoria and the Rays embark on their hunt for a World Championship with a best-of-five American League Division Series against Texas beginning Friday at 5:07 p.m.
AP Story: Evan Longoria homers in 12th as Rays storm into postseason
Longoria in Chatham
As the A's second baseman in 2005, Evan Longoria received Chatham's Willard Nicholas Most Outstanding Player Award
and the Cape Cod Baseball League's Pat Sorenti Award
as the Most Valuable Player on Cape Cod. The Downey, CA native out of Long Beach State hit .299 for Chatham while leading the CCBL in home runs (8), runs batted in (35) and slugging percentage (.500). He was one of eight Chatham players selected to the East Division All-Star Team and one of seven All-League selections from the Chatham roster. Baseball America
listed Longoria third on its list of top Cape Cod League prospects nine months before Tampa selected him third overall in the 2006 Amateur Draft. Longoria was one of seven 2005 Chatham A's to play in a Major League Baseball game during the 2011 regular season.
While Longoria and the Rays get ready for the ALDS, listen back to an interview from 2005 as Evan discusses receiving the CCBL MVP and battling Orleans in the posteseason. Evan Longoria in D'Uva's Dugout, August 11, 2005