Last week marked 60 years since Bobby Thompson hit “the shot heard round the world,” sending the New York Giants to the World Series and sending the Brooklyn Dodgers home for the winter. Ralph Branca is the other half of that equation, having thrown the pitch that Thompson hit out.
In the subsequent 6 decades, Branca’s embraced his role in history with a mix of perspective, good humor and class. Now, he’s written a book, called “A Moment In Time,” which focuses on how that moment shaped his life and how his life helped him deal with that moment.
During our conversation, we also discussed his views on some baseball legends, his quiz show domination and his utter fearlessness in the face of superstition.
SCP: You were part of some of the most important moments in baseball history, from Jackie Robinson’s debut and the Dodgers winning the 1955 World Series to, of course, the shot heard round the world. Can you give us some brief memories from those moments? Are those the highlights for you, or is there another moment that stands out as the best of your career?
RB: Sept.14, 1946: I was supposed to pitch to one man against the Cardinals as a sacrificial lamb. I got the side out on 5 pitches and Leo Durocher, the manager, kept me in the game and I pitched a 5-hit shutout. The turning point in my career.
SCP: Whether or not it was a personal highlight, you are most famous as the pitcher that gave up Bobby Thomson’s homerun. Does that bother you? Do you have relationships with players who have had similar incidents in their careers (Bill Buckner comes to mind.)
RB: I talked to Buckner and tried to convince him it was just a piece of baseball vagaries.
SCP: About a decade ago, it came out that the Giants had actually stolen signs before you gave up the homerun to Thomson. How did that revelation change the way you look back at the pivotal moment in baseball history?
RB: I knew about it since 1954.It is a lot of nonsense. The Giants stole the pennant, period. They are not heroes, but crooks..
SCP: Who was the best hitter you ever faced?
RB: Stan Musial
SCP: Best pitcher you ever saw?
RB: Whitey Ford
SCP: What teammate was most talented?
RB: Duke Snider
SCP: You joined the Dodgers when Branch Rickey ran the team and played for Leo Durocher. Obviously, those are two of the biggest personalities in the history of the game. What were your relationships with them like?
RB: Leo loved me. Rickey was a hypocrite and a phony
SCP: According to the internet, you were a 17 time champ on the tv game show “Concentration” back in 1963. What can you tell us about that experience?
RB: I have a photographic memory and I did not tighten up during a game.
SCP: You were in the headlines recently for something other than baseball, when reporter Joshua Prager uncovered information which showed you are actually Jewish. How did he break that news to you? Do you think it matters? Do you have plans for the high holy days?
RB: Prager told me in June. It did not affect me at all. My mother was Jewish and I’m Jewish did not or will not how I live my life.
SCP: Triskaidekaphobics fear the number 13. You are obviously not one of them, since that’s the number you wore through most of your career. Did you ever give it a second thought?
SCP: Do you have a black cat?
RB: Hate cats, love dogs.
SCP: Do you walk under ladders?
SCP: Do you open umbrellas inside?