A Moment in Time, A Book Review
- Updated: October 4, 2011
It’s amazing how fast one’s life can change. In one split second on October 3,1951 aveteran pitcher with multiple All Star appearances went from being one of the most respected players in baseball to forever being known as a goat.
When Brooklyn Dodger right hander Ralph Branca gave up the homerun to New York Giants hitter Bobby Thomson, his life was never the same. The play instantly became known as the “shot heard ‘round the world,” which was great for Thomson, but not so wonderful for Branca.
It probably didn’t help that the radio announcer’s exuberance in yelling, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” helped to make it even more of a lasting picture in baseball history and ensured it would be played on highlight reels for years to come.
In his new book, A Moment in Time: An American Story of Baseball, Heartbreak, and Grace
the former pitcher finally tells the story of his life, which he has since that time in 1951 been trying to make sure wouldn’t be defined by a single moment.
For almost exactly 60 years, Branca has been almost completely silent when asked to talk about that pitch, that game or even that year, but in this memoir, the right-hander’s story is finally told.
Branca’s silence, as he points out in the book, was two sided. He has spent much of his life getting reminders of that fateful day. Whether it’s in the form of hate letters or phone calls from upset Dodger fans threatening his life or the livelihood or his family, or the constant thanks he received from Giants fans through standing ovations in completely random settings, for many decades, finding a way to forget, was almost impossible.
Many thought Branca may have found some justice in 2001 when it was revealed and confirmed that the Giants were stealing signs from the Dodgers during that game and that Thomson almost certainly knew Branca was throwing a fastball. Even so, Branca stayed quiet on all fronts when discussing this facet of the day as well. As Branca points out, this wasn’t news to him in 2001 as he had been told way back in 1954 that Thomson had been tipped off on his pitch. Branca’s response is typical of his character: that’s’ still no excuse.
The story of the rest of Branca’s career has been lost not because his career wasn’t public record, but more because the public made a choice to define him on one play. Very few remember Branca as being a rock on a Dodger team that accepted the first African American into the Major Leagues. When Jackie Robinson entered the league in 1947, Branca quickly became one of his friends and someone who he could rely on when times were tough. In fact, their friendship was turned on its head after Braca’s pitch in ’51 when he started receiving similar threats to what Robinson had been hearing throughout his career, albeit for a different reason.
Branca’s perspective is something the baseball world was missing and didn’t even know they needed, but now that it is out there, it sheds an entirely different light not just on the play that became to define his career, but on the life head led which was filled with relationships with many people who had a large hand in changing the game.
The 210 page work is a relatively fast and very interesting read. While there are many details shared in the book that fans probably weren’t aware of, the work isn’t bogged down with too many specifics or unneeded stories as some baseball memoirs tend to be.
Overall Grade: 3.25/5