Ralph Branca, RIP: Dignity after infamous defeat

Ralph Branca, in his better Dodger days . . .

Ralph Branca, in his better Dodger days . . .

“I lost a ballgame, but I gained a friend.” Thus did former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca describe the aftermath that really mattered when it came to surrendering baseball’s still most famous home run, a sweet friendship with New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson that was compromised by an ugly revelation in 2001.

Thomson died in Georgia at 86 in 2010. Branca died this morning in a Rye, New York nursing home at 90. About a decade before Thomson’s death, Joshua Prager revealed in the Wall Street Journal that there may have been more to the 1951 Giants’ stupefying comeback to force the fabled pennant playoff than met the eye. Or, perhaps more to the point, the eye in the sky.

Monte Irvin, RIP: The nice guy finished first, after all

Monte Irvin taking a swing for the Giants, circa 1951 . . .

Monte Irvin taking a swing for the Giants, circa 1951 . . .

If the decision had been up to the Negro Leagues’ club owners and the Brooklyn Dodgers, Monte Irvin would have been the first African-American to re-break baseball’s unconscionable colour line in the 1940s. Irvin—who died Monday night at 96, following a long and distinguished baseball life—was the one who turned the opportunity down.

Ninety years ago, Senators conquered the field

Joe Judge (right) sliding into third base in Game Seven, 1924 World Series---he'd be stranded and the game went to extra innings and mythology . . .

Joe Judge (right) sliding into third base in Game Seven, 1924 World Series—he’d be stranded and the game went to extra innings and mythology . . .

So you think the Kansas City Royals won a wild card game the weird way? How about a team winning a World Series by way of a Hall of Fame starting pitcher throwing four shutout relief innings into the extra innings and the Series-winning run scoring when an infield grounder took a high bad hop over a third baseman’s head?

Maybe It's Still Getting Our Goats, After All?

On the other hand, maybe we’re not getting our goats as readily as I thought last fall. What the hell is this crap with sending San Francisco 49ers punt returner Kyle Williams death threats?

That was then: Nelson Cruz, designated goat of the 2011 World Series, kept a promise to turn up at a Mesquite, Texas sporting goods establishment the day after the Series ended. The right fielder kept the date despite knowing the eyes of Texas were locked upon him, but good, after the bottom of the ninth in Game Six: Pulled in shallow enough, in manager Ron Washington’s no-doubles defence, and with the Rangers a strike away from the Promised Land, Cruz couldn’t reach far enough to haul down the drive David Freese whacked to the wall, for the first of two final-strike game-tyers the Cardinals would hit, before the night ended with Freese’s Game Seven-guaranteeing walkoff bomb.