SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) – He was always the quietest one at the table, the guy with all the stories was content to sit back and listen to what everyone else had to say.
Bobby Thomson was a star. He just never acted like one.
Not on the night of his historic home run when rather than basking in the lights of New York City, he took the ferry home to Staten Island and celebrated with neighborhood friends. And not since moving to Savannah four years ago, where he made new friends, but always had a way of seeming as excited to meet people as they were to meet him.
"Bobby Thomson, not only a great ballplayer, not only the greatest hit in professional baseball, but just a wonderful man,'' General Donald Rosenblum said of Thomson, who passed away at the age of 86 earlier this week.
"He might not have been in baseball's Hall of Fame, but he was in the hall of fame of niceness,'' added Tommy Stacy, who like Rosenblum was a friend of Thomson's. "You couldn't beat him.''
That's what separates old-time sports stars from the new ones.
And it's what defined Thomson to those who knew him as much as his home run defined him to the world. Especially to those who were lucky enough to know him as one of the guys.
Rosenblum, Stacy and I were in a lunch group with Thomson, the 1-2-3 Club that meets on Wednesdays and mostly discussed sports. But the unique thing about our newest member is he lived the life we all talked about, he was one of the true sports icons we get together to critique.
"The thing that impressed me most is he was such a gentleman,'' said Tom Coffey, one of the 1-2-3 Club's founders, who was also befriended by Thomson. "He never pushed himself or anything like that.
"If there were more like him,'' added Rosenblum, "people would think more of professional athletes.''
There may never be another moment for baseball like October 3, 1951, when the game held the world in its hand and Bobby turned it upside down with one swing of the bat that gave the New York Giants the National League pennant.
But what remains from that day is a model for the many more who will achieve instant sports fame to follow in the enduring grace, class and humility with which bobby carried himself for the next six decades.
"It was just a great moment,'' 1-2-3 Club member Al Jennings said of Bobby's Shot Heard 'Round the World, generally considered the most famous home run in baseball history. "And I'm glad that it is being remembered so well because it was such a great person who did it. He was a pleasure to be around any time. We'll miss him, I guarantee you.''
We will all miss Bobby Thomson, in baseball circles and at our table.