Most of the self-proclaimed “experts” have already conceded the 2011 American League pennant to the Boston Red Sox. Some more conservative pundits have held back, predicting that the Red Sox will win only the Eastern Division crown, but cautioning their audience that, as Joe Torre was fond of saying, the playoffs are a crap shoot, meaning that a pennant cannot ever be predicted.

This season, the Red Sox have gotten off to their worst start since 1945, by losing three games to the Texas Rangers and three more to the Cleveland Indians. Many fans who lack perspective and who either don’t know or don’t learn from history could certainly learn from the 1951 New York Giants.

The “experts” picked the Giants to win the 1951 National League pennant. They also picked the Red Sox to win the American League pennant that year, while the 13-time defending World Champion New York Yankees finished a distant second in the voting.

As we all should know, the Yankees squeaked by the Cleveland Indians to win the pennant. The Red Sox finished third; 11 games behind the Yankees, who would go on to win their third consecutive World Championship.

But this is about the 1951 Giants. They won two of their first three games in Boston against the Braves.

They then lost 11 games in a row.

Panic was rampant among the players and fans after that 11th consecutive defeat. Larry Jansen, considered the Giants’ ace, had just been rocked for five runs, 11 hits, and three home runs as the Brooklyn Dodgers coasted to a 6-3 victory.

The Giants were in last place, seven and one-half games behind the first place Boston Braves.

But the “experts” were right in the end. Of course, it took the greatest miracle in sports history for their prediction to come true, but the then 2-12 Giants, who trailed the Dodgers by 13 and one half games on Aug. 13, ended up finishing in a first place tie with Brooklyn.  

During the deciding game, and with the great Willie Mays in the on-deck circle, Bobby Thomson hit a three-run home run off Ralph Branca, as Giants’ radio announcer kept telling us, “The Giants Win the Pennant!”

An interesting side note is that Willie was a bit confused as he walked toward the batters’ box after Thomson hit his home run. He later told reporters that he hadn’t realized that Thomson’s shot had really won the pennant.

The point is, that to draw too many conclusions after six games is ridiculous. If a losing streak starts on Opening Day, its importance is exaggerated compared to a losing streak in June or July.

The Red Sox are a good team. The “experts” may have overrated them, but they should win at least 90 games this season, which will put them in the playoffs.

On the other side of the ledger, the 1982 Atlanta Braves won their first 13 games in a row and barely edged the Los Angeles Dodgers by a single game to win the Western Division title. They were swept in the playoffs by the St. Louis Cardinals.

One week into the season is much too early to evaluate anything. But, going out on a limb that is about to be cut off—how good are the Baltimore Orioles?


“Giants, Red Sox Picked.” New York Times. 13 Apr. 1951. p.37.

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