Monday, August 15, 2011

Ralph Branca, Jew

We Knew It All Along: This October will be 60 years since Ralph Branca, the Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, threw Bobby Thomson, the New York Giants slugger, the pitch that became "the shot heard round the world."  And yesterday, we learned something new about Ralph Branca, the man.

Ralph Branca with his parents in 1947

As Joshua Prager of The New York Times reported in For Branca, an Asterisk of a Different Kind, Ralph Branca is a Jew.  And he never knew.

A Hungarian genealogical group researched Branca's mother, Kati, and discovered:
  • The 1884 marriage of Ignatz Berger and Antonia Gipsz, a ceremony at which Jakob Friedman, a rabbi in Sandorf, had officiated.
  • The births of the couple’s eight children over the next 12 years: Kati, the eldest, and Miksa, Sandor, Irma, Fanni, Sandor, Moricz and Jozsef. (The first Sandor died as a toddler.)
  • The mohels and sandeks who performed each bris and held each boy during the circumcisions.
  • The arrival of Kati in the United States. On Nov. 17, 1901, a gatekeeper at Ellis Island categorized her as single, Hungarian, a seamstress, white, literate and “Isr”— Israelite, signifying a Jew. 
Several of Branca's relatives were murdered during the Holocaust.  And he never knew.  But when Prager told him, Branca uncharacteristically responded:
“Maybe that’s why God’s mad at me — that I didn’t practice my mother’s religion,” he said. He was smiling but sincere, a Job wondering about the root of his suffering. “He made me throw that home run pitch. He made me get injured the next year. Remember, Jesus was a Jew.”
Prager points out that
In 1951, one of every three Brooklynites was a Jew, and many held as fast to their chosen team as to their inherited religion.
and wonders how his landsmen will react when they learn that
... the great goat was doubly  chosen — that the baseballer most identified with victimhood was born to a Jewish mother ....
And how has Branca reacted?
Branca had to find room for his Jewishness in his life story, and quite literally. His autobiography, A Moment in Time, was due out in September. He inserted two sentences.  
Abq Jew was one year old, and remembers exactly where in the Polo Grounds (seating capacity: 56,000) he and 56 million others stood at 3:58 p.m. EST on October 3, 1951, when Bobby Thomson broke our hearts.

Here is Abq Jew's reaction to Ralph Branca's Jewishness:  We knew it all along.


Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Indeed, some may have known it all along. No doubt, the suggestion he was fasting on Tzom Gedalya was tongue-in-cheek.

See the link there to the previous post from '07.

Abq Jew said...

What a great link! Thank you!

Stan Schneider said...

Interesting; I was born and raised in Mt. Vernon, NY where he is from. Each year in the fall, the West side of Mt. Vernon (many Italians lived there) had a well known street celebration of food stalls and entertainment. Everyone went there (I am talking of the late 40's and 50's); he was always there talking to everyone. Very personable. Stan Schneider