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Ralph Branca

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Ralph Theodore Joseph Branca
(Hawk)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Pitcher Ralph Branca played 12 seasons in the majors, mostly with the Brooklyn Dodgers, appearing in two World Series and three All-Star Games. He is most well known as the man who gave up the "Shot Heard 'Round the World", Bobby Thomson's home run that clinched the 1951 National League pennant for the New York Giants.

Signed by the Dodgers in 1943, Branca made his pro debut that summer with the Olean Oilers. By the following season, he was in the majors as an 18-year-old during World War II, when many older players were serving overseas. He won 21 games in 1947 (second in the NL) and made the All-Star team for the first of three straight years, while his team reached the World Series. He earned the win in Game 6, but the Dodgers fell to the New York Yankees in 7 games. In 1949, he went 13-5 and led the league with a .722 winning percentage. Brooklyn again reached the World Series, again losing to the Yankees.

Starting in 1950, Branca began to be used more often out of the bullpen. In one relief outing on October 3, 1951, in the third game of a three-game playoff, he gave up a home run to Thomson of the New York Giants that cost his team the pennant. The "Shot Heard 'Round the World" completed a monumental collapse by the Dodgers, who were leading the National League by 13 1/2 games on August 11th. Branca and Thomson eventually became friends. In 1991 and 2001, they toured the country together for the 40th and 50th anniversaries of "The Shot".

After giving up 12 earned runs in his first 7 outings for the Dodgers in 1953, Branca was acquired by the Detroit Tigers. He moved on to the New York Yankees in 1954. He pitched for the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association in 1955 and then ended his career in 1956 with one more appearance for the Dodgers.

Branca's daughter Mary is married to former big league skipper Bobby Valentine.

In 2011, a debate erupted in the Jewish sports world over whether Branca qualified as Jewish. He discovered that his mother was Jewish and some of his relatives had died in the Holocaust; by Jewish law, this makes Branca Jewish. Others argued that since Branca considered himself Catholic and had cited his Catholic faith for being able to bounce back from the famous homer, that he should not be considered Jewish.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 3-time NL All-Star (1947-1949)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (1947)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 1 (1947)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 3 (1947, 1948 & 1951)

[edit] Further Reading

  • Jonathan Mayo: "Branca's Jewish lineage not enough to call him MOT", Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh, August 25, 2011, p. 10.
  • Joshua Prager: The Echoing Green: The Untold Story of Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca and the Shot Heard Round the World, Pantheon Books, New York, NY, 2006.
  • Fay Vincent: "Ralph Branca", in We Would Have Played For Nothing, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 2008, pp. 3-36.

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