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Recalling “The Shot Heard ’round the World” with former Brooklyn Dodgers Pitcher Ralph Branca

A Moment In Time, Ralph Branca Jacket Image
Courtesy of Scribner

Former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca joined Steve Monday afternoon to reflect on his career and the 60th anniversary of the “Shot Heard ’round the World.” Branca gave up the famous home run to Bobby Thomson and the New York Giants won the 1951 National League Pennant 5-4 over the Dodgers. Much has been made of that homer, but 10 years ago the Wall Street Journal ran a story about the Giants stealing signs over the last 2 months of the season. The complex scheme involved a  telescope and buzzer system, with the pitches relayed from manager Leo Durocher’s office to the Giants dugout. The team even devised a way to steal signs on the road. Branca actually discovered the plot a few years after giving up the home run to Thomson, but never mentioned it to his former teammates or the media.  Instead, he lived with the grief and humiliation that Dodgers fans gave him for being the “goat” of the 1951 NL Playoffs.

Branca appeared on Sportstalk to promote his new autobiography entitled A Moment in Time. It tells the fascinating story of Branca’s life, growing up as a Giants fan to achieving his dream as a pitcher for the rival Brooklyn Dodgers. Branca played with Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Carl Furillo, and the rest of the Boys of Summer. In his two part interview, he described what it was like coming up as an 18-year old ballplayer during World War II.

I came up in ’44 and it was during the war, and they had guys who were either too young or too old. In my first game, Babe Herman, Dodger legend, was 45, and he got a base hit against the Boston Braves and I won my first game.  

Branca also talked about how baseball lacks the intimacy that it had suring his playing days.

The reason for that is free agency. Guys don’t stay with one team forever.

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Branca also discussed the 60th anniversary of the “Miracle on Coogan’s  Bluff,” to give the Giants the NL Pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was taking all the blame for the loss and then, finds out about the Giants eloborate sign-stealing scheme.

I got traded to Detroit and my teammate, Teddy Gray told me about it. When he told me (about the sign stealing), I was flabbergasted. Here they were, off the field, in Giants manager Leo Durocher’s desk, looking through a telescope and then they had a buzzer system set up. The Giants would buzz the bullpen and the dugout with the sign.

Branca also mentioned that the Giants were not the only team in baseball to steal signs. In fact, three other teams were also known to cheat.

The Cubs, White Sox, and Cleveland all had scoreboards in centerfield. The Cubs and White Sox used a flash light to relay the signs and in Cleveland, a guy sat with white socks in the lower left field corner. He put one foot up for a fastball and two feet for a curve. If it was a different pitch, he would just wiggle his feet. So, the Indians players could look over the opposing pitcher’s head and pick up the white feet. 

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