10 Plausible Sports Conspiracy Theories

The 'Shot Heard 'Round the World' Was a Cheat
Bobby Thomson (center top) is mobbed by happy teammates after he hit the 'shot heard 'round the world' home run which won the game and the National League pennant for the New York Giants over the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951. Bruce Bennett Studio/Getty Images

It's the most famous homerun in baseball history. In the 9th inning of the final playoff game between the 1951 New York Giants and their archrival Brooklyn Dodgers, Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson cracked a three-run homer, clinching the championship title in front of a national TV audience.

"The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" screamed radio announcer Russ Hodges as Thomson rounded the bases into a throng of ecstatic teammates.

But was Thomson's historic blast — dubbed the "shot heard 'round the world" — the result of epic athletic skill or something far less heroic? According to several noted sports journalists, the 1951 Giants were experts in the art of sign-stealing, intercepting the opposing catcher's signs — fastball, curve ball, slider — and tipping off the batter [source: Goldstein].

In Joshua Prager's book "The Echoing Green," the Wall Street Journal sports reporter confirmed that Giants' coach Herman Franks would use a telescope to steal the signs from a centerfield clubhouse, then relay the info via a buzzer system to the bullpen, where another player would give a signal to the hitter [source: Miller].

The practice of sign-stealing — widespread throughout the major leagues, then and now — is not officially illegal, but it's underhanded at best. Thomson admitted that the Giants routinely stole signs, but denies being tipped off to the fastball that became the "shot heard round the world" [source: Goldstein].