“Oy Gevalt!”…The Shout Heard ‘Round The World.

Just about 60 years ago, the Brooklyn Dodgers were involved in a playoff with the NY Giants to determine the winner of the pennant in the National League.  In the three game playoff series, the teams had split the first two. In the last and deciding game at the Polo Grounds in the Bronx, the Dodgers were winning 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth; the Giants had two men on and the Dodger manager called on a relief pitcher, Ralph Branca, to come in and face Bobby Thompson of the Giants.  Branca’s second pitch was poled into the left field stands  by Thompson thereby giving the Giants a miraculous win and immortalizing (for different reasons) Branca and Thompson.   That home run became known as “the shot heard ’round the world” (appropriated from a Ralph Waldo Emerson poem) and proved once again that you could count on the Dodgers to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. (See:http:// http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrI7dVj90zs)

Thompson and Branca would go on to finish their relatively average careers and be forever linked.  Although Branca suffered horribly in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, ultimately he and Thompson would become good friends and both traded on the notoriety of that moment.  As a result of all this, Branca, who would have been a journeyman pitcher lost to obscurity, is known to all true baseball fans.

Now, there’s a reason I’m writing about this at this point.  And no, it’s not because the 60th anniversary of this minor disaster will soon be upon us.  (After all, what’s ironic about that?)  It’s because this past week, there was an article in The Times  regarding Mr. Branca.  It seems that at age 85, he has just learned that his mother was Jewish.  The focus of the article was mostly about whether because of this new revelation,  he should be considered a “Jewish Athlete”. Despite the fact that he has been a practicing Catholic his entire life, it’s only because we Jews are so desperate in this area that he would even be considered.  Believe me, if someone were to discover that the most recent Nobel  laureate had some Jewish blood,  there would no bending of rules or compromises made to somehow include him/her as part of our numbers.  We have plenty of them already.  But, as with all measures of desperation, Jews will turn themselves into pretzels to give some rationale for imbuing any sort of Jewishness to a professional athlete.

What particularly interested me about this article was the fact that for the nearly forty-five years that Mr. Branca and his mother were on this earth together, she never once slipped and mentioned her Jewishness.  In all that time, never an inadvertent mazel tov; or “stop being such a schmuck” or “you’re such a good boychik“. Hard to imagine.  But here’s the kicker: Ralph had 16 siblings.  Assuming that, on average,  they each co-existed with their mother for a period of thirty years, that would mean that over a collective accumulation of 500 Branca Years (BYs) no mention of Jewishness was made by, and no Yiddishism escaped the lips of, their mother.  That really stretches all sense of credibility.

Certainly, when Thompson hit Ralph’s fastball over that left field wall, it’s not hard to imagine his mother shouting a primal wail like, “Oy Gevalt Ralphie, what have you gone and done?!!

Together forever


2 Responses to ““Oy Gevalt!”…The Shout Heard ‘Round The World.”

  1. Jackie Weisberg Says:

    Yeah, this one boggles the mind. And apparently other family members did know they were of the tribe, yet somehow this managed to escape the unfortunate hurler. Being a Giants fan and actually remembering that fateful day …(My age at the time being minus 5, of course), this news adds another wrinkle to the story. I’m sure you know that the Giants stole Branca’s sign, although Thompson said he didn’t get it. Well, now they’re both gone, but more revelations may still be coming.

  2. iron(ic)man triathlon Says:

    hi jackie… good news! only one of them is gone (Thompson). although I don’t have a memory of that game; supposedly several hundred thousand people claim to have been at the game.

    when you say ‘of the tribe’–you’re not talking about the Cleveland Indians are you?

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