Want to know how poetry used to be a part of American popular culture? On October 3, 1951, at the Polo Grounds in New York, the Giants were playing the Dodgers for the National League pennant. They were down 4-1 going into the ninth inning. After a couple of outs and three hits, the score was 4-2, with men on second and third. That was when the Dodger manager decided to take his ace, Don Newcombe, out of the game, and send in Ralph Branca in relief, to face slugger Bobby Thomson. The first pitch was a strike. The next pitch? Thomson sent it flying into the left field bleachers, and the Giants were on their way to the World Series. Sportswriters started calling it “The Shot Heard Round the World,” and so it is known to this day.
They got the phrase from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn.” Emerson meant his poem to be sung to the melody OLD HUNDREDTH, which you may know as “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow.” The date was July 4, 1837, and the place was Concord, Massachusetts. A monument had been erected to the memory of the Battle of Concord, one of the first of the Revolutionary War. The poem was read, and then sung by a choir. And for more than a hundred years after that, American school children learned this poem and often got it by heart.