Brook­lyn pitcher gave up ‘Shot Heard Round the World’

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Keith Thursby

Ralph Branca, the Brook­lyn Dodgers pitcher who gave up one of base­ball’s most dra­matic home runs — “the Shot Heard Round the World” hit by the New York Giants’ Bobby Thomson in 1951 — died Wed­nes­day. He was 90.

Branca’s son-in-law, for­mer Los An­ge­les Dodger Bobby Valen­tine, an­nounced the death on Twit­ter. No cause was given.

“One of the great­est guys to ever throw a pitch or sing a song is longer with us,” Valen­tine tweeted. “Ralph Branca passed this morn­ing.”

A three-time All-Star, Branca won 88 games dur­ing his 12-year ma­jor league ca­reer, in­clud­ing 21 for the Dodgers in 1947. But the right-han­der’s ac­com­plish­ments were over­shad­owed by a game he lost — the third and de­cid­ing game of a play­off for the Na­tional League pen­nant and a World Se­ries berth in 1951.

Thomson’s ninth-in­ning home run gave the Giants a 5-4 vic­tory and made him a leg­endary fig­ure. Branca went back to the Dodgers’ club­house and wept.

“Bobby was the hero, but the fel­low who came out of that in­ci­dent 10 feet tall was Ralph Branca,” Dodgers broad­caster Vin Scully said af­ter Thomson died in 2010. “Ralph to me car­ried the cross ex­cep­tion­ally well. Af­ter a while it had to be ex­cru­ci­at­ing.”

There was no es­cap­ing the mo­ment. “The Giants win the pen­nant! The Giants win the pen­nant! The Giants win the pen­nant! The Giants win the pen­nant!” screamed the team’s broad­caster, Russ Hodges, in a ra­dio call that would be re­played re­lent­lessly over the years.

Pub­lished re­ports decades later that the 1951 Giants were steal­ing signs from the op­pos­ing catcher — and thus bat­ters knew what kind of pitch was com­ing — seemed to pro­vide Branca with a mea­sure of vin­di­ca­tion.

“My tongue has loos­ened be­cause the

Sch­muck’s take

Go to bal­ti­more­sun.com /schmuck­stop to read Peter Sch­muck’s thoughts about the late Ralph Branca truth has set me free,” Branca told the Jour­nal News of Westch­ester County, N.Y., in 2001. “I don’t think Bobby un­der­stands the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of what steal­ing signs did. They stole the pen­nant from the Dodger fans, still the great­est fans who ever lived. They stole the op­por­tu­nity of Dodger play­ers to go to the World Se­ries and maybe beat the Yan­kees. They stole the glory and money from the Dodger own­ers.”

Thomson main­tained that although he knew which pitches were com­ing the first three times he hit in the de­ci­sive play­off game, he chose not to know what Branca was go­ing to throw when he came to the plate that fi­nal time.

“We did steal signs, and I did take some, and I don’t feel good about it. But I didn’t get the sign on that pitch,” Thomson told the Jour­nal News in 2001.

Branca told The Times in 2010: “I think [Thomson] didn’t want to de­mean what he did, but in my mind, I think he would have been a big­ger man if he ad­mit­ted it.”

De­spite the con­tro­versy, Branca and Thomson be­came friendly over the years, linked by the home run and fre­quent ap­pear­ances for char­i­ties and mem­o­ra­bilia shows.

Ralph Theodore Joseph Branca was born Jan. 6, 1926, in Mount Ver­non, N.Y., the 15th of 17 chil­dren of Kather­ine and John Branca. Branca de­buted with the Dodgers in 1944 and had his best sea­son in 1947 when he won 21 games and led the team to the World Se­ries.

Branca won only 12 games af­ter Thomson’s home run. He was out of base­ball at age 30.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Giants’ Bobby Thomson, left, and the Dodgers’ Ralph Branca en­gage in horse­play be­fore the 1951 World Se­ries. Thomson’s homer off Branca won the NL pen­nant.

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