Today former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca passed away at the age of ninety.
Branca played for three teams during his 12-year major league career. He will be best remembered as the pitcher who gave up the homerun to Bobby Thomson (the shot heard around the world) in a 1951 play off game vs the New York Giants.
Branca played for the Brooklyn Dodgers for the bulk of his career but never could celebrate a world series title with the team as he was claimed off waivers by the Detroit Tigers in 1953. He was picked up by the Yankees after the Detroit Tigers released him in 1954. After a year of absence from MLB (he spent the entire 1955 season with the New York Giants’ AAA affiliate in Minneapolis), he returned to Major League Baseball in 1956 as he returned to Brooklyn in the last month of the season as he made one appearance.
Branca had his best season in 1947, posting a 21-12 record with a 2.67 ERA. He became the second-youngest pitcher to win 20 games which earned him the first of his three consecutive All-Star Game selections.
While others refused, Branca lined up next to Jackie Robinson on Opening Day 1947, when Robinson made his MLB debut and broke the color line.
Branca’s daughter Mary married Bobby Valentine. The latter tweeted that Branca had passed away this morning. Branca spent the last couple of years in a nursing home.
Branca was born in 1926, the 15th of 17 children in his family, and was raised in Mount Vernon, NY, just north of New York City, he broke into the majors as an 18-year-old in 1944.
In twelve seasons, Branca, a three-time All Star, posted a career 88-68 record with a 3.79 ERA and 829 strikeouts.
With the passing of Ralph Branca only twenty-four Brooklyn Dodgers remain of which Tommy Lasorda, Sandy Koufax, Carl Erskine and Don Newcombe are the best known.