Saturday, November 26, 2016

Rest in Peace Ralph Branca

Rest in Peace Ralph Branca. The former major league pitched died on November 23 at the age of ninety. Branca compiled 88 wins to 68 loses over a twelve year major league career with the Dodgers, Tigers, and Yankees. His best season was in 1947 when he won 21 games. Yet, Branca will be remembered for only one moment on October 3, 1951 when he surrendered a walk-off home run later to be dubbed "the shot heard around the world" to Giants slugger Bobby Thomson, the Staten Island Scot. The moment will forever be linked in our neuro-associations with Giants announcer Russ Hodges screaming, "The Giants win the pennant!" Although I was not born until nearly twenty years after the event, it is just as much a part of my memory because I have seen and heard the epic replay so many times. Even worse for my father, who was ten years old in 1951 and diehard Brooklyn Dodgers fan, to have to re-live that terrible movement. He never said a word, but he got red. As a Yankees fan who was the same age when the Yankees staged their epic comeback in 1978, I understood that Thomson was the "Bucky F***in Dent" of the 1950s. However, I don't think that Red Sox pitcher Mike Torrez sits in the memory as much as Branca. Perhaps, the Dent home run was such a freak occurrence that Torrez was viewed to be as much a victim as anyone else in Fenway that sunny day. On the other hand, Branca spent the rest of his life in the shadow of that one pitch. His life defined in public memory, quite literally, as the summation of only a couple of seconds during a ninety year life. There is something not fair about that. From an historical perspective, I think he took all the blame for the Dodgers's epic collapse in 1951. They were up by over a dozen games in August when the season was only 154 games. They weren't supposed to lose! Branca took all the heat on that one pitch for all that frustration that built up in Brooklyn, as if he lost the threw away the whole season on that pitch.