Ralph Branca will forever be remembered for one pitch he threw to Bobby Thomson in the penultimate game of the 1951 National League pennant race. It was Game Three of a three-game playoff for the NL flag at the Polo Grounds in New York. Branca entered the game in relief †for the Brooklyn Dodgers and surrendered a three-run homer that became known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”
Several years later, thanks in part to the research of author Josh Prager and his book†The Echoing Green: The Untold Story of Bobby Thomson, Ralph Branca and The Shot Heard Round the World, it was learned that Thomson and the Giants were stealing signs during that season by using a sophisticated (for that era) electronic surveillance system. By the time of the revelation, Branca and Thomson had become close friends due to the famous moment. Branca did not accept Thomson’s assertion that he did not get the signs during the at-bat.
Branca was a fine pitcher, a hard thrower. He won 21 games for the Dodgers in 1947, and 88 games in all during a 12-year career.
He was pressed into big league duty in 1944 at the ripe age of 18 due to all the major leaguers who were off fighting in the war. Branca received a deferment because he was the sole supporter of his family.
A three-time All-Star, Branca wore #13 for much of his career, though he was never superstitious about it and he was wearing that number when he allowed the home run to Thomson.