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.

Quiet anniversary: The sober end of the Original Mets

Joe Pignatano, warming up at Wrigley Field, where . . .

At a Baseball Assistance Team dinner over a decade ago, Joe Pignatano—once a reserve major league catcher whose career began with the Brooklyn Dodgers and ended with the New York Mets; later a respected Mets bullpen coach—eased himself into a stool behind a table. His old Brooklyn Dodgers teammate, Sandy Koufax, was stationed behind the same table, signing assorted memorabilia and bric-a-brac.

“Hey,” a voice hollered, “how come he gets to sit there?” Koufax flashed a grin and replied, “Roomie seat.”