Branca passing stirs memories

Ralph Branca, the Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher who died last week at 90 years old, will always be remembered as the pitcher who threw the pitch to Bobby Thomson of the hated New York Giants.

Thomson hit a “bloop” home run (285-footer) into the left-field stands in the old Polo Grounds in New York City. It was a three-run shot that gave the Giants a 5-4 win and put them in the World Series that they lost to the perennial champion Yankees.

The cheap homer became known as “the shot heard round the world.”

At that exact excruciating moment I, a diehard Dodger fan, was a draftee in the Army doing MP duty at a New Jersey Army post on that day of infamy.

I had the radio on in the command post and while checking GI passes, I heard the shocking and devastating call of that moment by announcer Russ Hodges — a call that would wake me up in nightmares for years to come.

At the top of his voice, Hodges screamed over and over, “The Giants won the pennant.”

He yelled it at least a dozen times, ad nauseam. If Thomson struck out, future Hall of Famer Willie Mays would have a shot next.

If he failed, it would be game over, and the Dodgers would have won the pennant.

Now to Bill Mazeroski, whose Game 7 home run beat the Yankees in the 1960 World Series.

If Maz struck out, the game was still tied and would simply have continued.

There’s a big difference.

John K. Coyle