Some of the Bobby Thomson remembrances I’ve seen over the past 24 hours have made references to baseball’s “Golden Age.” Forbes’ Tom Van Riper ain’t havin’ it, though:
Nostalgia holds that the 1950s represented baseball’s golden era. They
didn’t. Thomson’s famous ninth-inning, final-game homer off Ralph
Branca to give the New York Giants the 1951 National League pennant over
the Brooklyn Dodgers occurred in front of 34,000 fans in the
55,000-seat Polo Grounds. These days, can anyone imagine a post season
game played in front of 19,000 empty seats?
I’ve always focused so much on those left field seats in the film of the homer that I’ve never realized that there were that many empty seats that day. Worth noting that, given the park’s configuration, there were a ton of bad seats in the Polo Grounds, but I think the point still holds.
Baseball certainly held greater sway in the public consciousness than the other sports did in the 1950s, but sports didn’t hold as much sway as a whole like they do now. In some ways that was a bad thing. In some ways it was a good thing. Times were just different. I think the most we can say about it is that applying the term “Golden Age” to any age at the expense of others is an exercise in comparing apples to oranges.