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Remembering Ralph Branca

November 25, 2016

Three time All-Star pitcher, Ralph Branca, who died this week at the age of 90, may not have pitched well in myriad post-season games, but as a direct, strong human being, performed to “rave notices” on and in, some rather important “stages” in life.

Surely the man’s faith famously revitalized by his cousin, a Jesuit Priest, Father Pat Cowley, after Ralph had yielded the 1951 pennant winning home run to the rival New York Giants’ player, Bobby Thomson, an eventual long time friend, and inner strength served him well.

The horrible wild card presence as well as extra tiers of playoffs baseball, makes the most famous moment in Branca’s life, one so rich in drama and emotional diversity, impossible to happen again. His bravery regarding his being on the quite sour part of that diversity, is another reason it going the way of the dinosaurs, is such a great loss.

In 1951 National League baseball,  The New York Giants had come from 13 and a half games behind as late as August, in a true, “one of two,” pennant race with their great rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and were in a best of three playoff with them for a spot in the World Series opposite the vaunted, 2 time defending champion, New York Yankees.

The teams split the first two games, Thomson homering off Branca, in a (3-1) Giants’ win in game 1, Brooklyn behind Clem Labine, easing (10-0) in #2.

Brooklyn led (4-2) in the bottom of the ninth inning of the 157th game/deciding third game of the playoff, when with runners at second and third and one out, Branca was summoned from the bullpen to relieve Don Newcombe, whose “iron man” excellent pitching deserves much historical acclaim.

On the second pitch from Branca, Bobby Thomson who died in 2010, hit the ball into “the lower deck of the left field stands” as intoned by the great broadcaster Russ Hodges on WMCA in New York.

It is not so arguably the greatest sports broadcasting “call” in history and it pains me exponentially, that Howie Rose’s behind the play (the Devils’ broadcaster Mike Miller was ahead of Rose) call of the New York Rangers’ winning goal in the second overtime of game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup semis, is even mentioned in the same stratosphere.

After the deciding game, Branca lay on his stomach across the steps of the visiting club house at the Polo Grounds, asking why me?!!

Later that day, Father Cowley replied to that very good question saying ” Ralph, God chose you because He knew you’d be strong enough to bear this cross.”  Did he ever!

In future posts, I will recall moments of my meetings with Mr. Branca over the years.



I could not quite hear the conversation Ralph Branca, pictured and now ABOVE, was having that day. However, from my “vantage point” I could see Ralph’s mobile phone. The “contacts list” brightly displayed GOD or since Ralph, a devout and great Catholic, probably had a mother born Jewish, “G-d”

The conversation may have gone as below (the last word previous, not one you want to hear regarding God/G-d and the “last word.” (Ralph need not, nor did worry.)

God/G-d:  You know I do not know how to use those mobile phones and do not care to learn.”

Ralph:  Respectfully, that is what you say, not “how did you get my number.”

God/G-d   Surely, you know that you have always “had my number.”

God/G-d continues  Ralph, the connection is fading, additionally, these type calls are rare and costly in a “heaven type way” (no money up here as many with it on earth, will one day learn) but did I ever tell you, I “lost” “some heavenly currency” on the ’51 season.

Somehow the connection got stronger and I “thought” I heard God (I made my point writing G-d, as Rabbi Harry Goder, a Dodgers’ fan devastated by their decisive game loss, that first day after Rosh Hashanah in 1951, taught us to write) tell a great story.

God:  You know of Goliath. Not surprisingly, he was a Giants’ fan and also knew something about a “lost battle.” As was the case with you and Bobby, (Thomson) he and “rival” David are long time friends, even residing most of the year on the same cloud. (David is above Florida in the winter).

Goliath had been hoping to get a better location on his cloud. (you know as a pitcher and those realtors have something with that “location/location” stuff).

God continues:  Anyway with the Dodgers’ lead 8 games or so, Goliath said the Giants would win the pennant. He got me to agree to his gaining a better location on his cloud if they did. I figured the odds were in my favor (what some of you thought I control this stuff. No, as Gary Carter, a truly good man, who thought differently while on earth, found out up here, I do not.)

God:  You know the rest and some time in the future, I will introduce you to both David and Goliath and invite Bobby Thomson as well. You are headed here, but as always, be kind and do as much as possible to help others.

From my “vantage point,” and admittedly I could not see all that clearly, Ralph never looked surprised, he was having such a conversation and with whom.





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