BOOK REVIEW: A MOMENT IN TIME-RALPH BRANCA

I know, not another book about the Brooklyn Dodgers, there have been more book about them Bums than tomes on dieting, aging and becoming rich, put together, but “A Moment In Time by Ralph Branca with David Ritz” (published by Scribner) is a bit different, it’s a look at a man who has led a great life both on the baseball field and off but is still haunted by an event that happened 60 years ago.

Branca tells the reader of the great upbringing he had and his love of his family comes through quite clearly. A couple of subjects that Branca talks about that made me pause while reading was that his mother was born Jewish but converted to Catholicism’s and his wife is the granddaughter of Steve McKeever, a part owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Of the two, I wish Branca went into more detail on what it was like dating and then marrying the daughter of one of the team owners and what was their mind set during the upheaval of the team leaving Brooklyn.  Branca does let us know that he puts most of the blame of on Robert Moses than O’Malley for the team’s departure to the West Coast.

The strongest parts of this book are Branca’ frank talk about the managers he played for and of course, October 3, 1951. When Leo Durocher was the Dodger manager Branca was one of Leo’s boys and Branca felt that he was a baseball savant. When Durocher left and went to the hated cross town rivals, New York Giants, Durocher tried to deal for Branca by offering Bobby Thomson in return. WOW! It wasn’t until Branca finds out about the elaborate sign stealing operation the Giants were using did he declare Durocher dead to him. Branca had problems with the field bosses who followed Durocher in Brooklyn. Burt Shotton, sat on the bench in street clothes, with a sharpened #2 pencil and kept a score card. That was the extent of his tactical prowess. Charlie Dressen had a bad case of Durocher envy which Branca doesn’t hold back his disdain for.  Reading between the lines a bit, I got the sense that Branca/Dressen relationship was testy due to Branca’ involvement with the owner’s daughter, as Dressen comes off as a very insecure man, especially down the stretch in 1951.

The final couple of chapters of the book deal with Branca hooking up with Bobby Thomson and hitting the card show circuit. Both men made a very nice piece of change teaming up and signing autographs for a fee, but Branca always had the fact that the Giants were stealing signs and his feeling that Thompson got the sign of the 0-1 fastball he hit out the Polo Grounds for the most famous home run in baseball history, clearly on his mind whenever he and Thompson teamed up. I got a chuckle when Branca writes about not wanting to be a “whiner” about the subject but continues to whine about the subject.     

Branca tells the reader up front that he is an old timer who is very opinionated and that comes through loud and clear. This is the “one more Brooklyn Dodger book” that’s worth a read.

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WELCOME TO THE WILPON EMPLOYMENT AGENCY

Give the Skill Sets some credit here as they are going full bore in the interview process for a new GM. There doesn’t seem to be a bad choice here as the caliber of candidates are quite impressive. As much as I’ve taken a seat on the Sandy Alderson bandwagon, I could just as easily hop of and get on the cross-town  Rick Hahn Express as well.  You also have to feel good as a Mets fan that they are talking to Logan White of the Dodgers, who supposedly has a deal in place with LA but with the Feuding McCourt’s tearing apart the franchise, the Mets, amazingly enough, look like the more stable organization and quite possibly White would join the team as an executive in charge of scouting and player development which along with a hire of either Alderson or Hahn, would push the respect meter to a point we haven’t seen in Flushing since the Frank Cashen days.

Seems an Alderson run team would allow the Skill Sets to hire Wally Backman as long as Backman realizes he’s there to carry out the Alderson Plan. As we’ve seen with Alderson’ run with the A’s and Padres, the manager is more like a shift supervisor who enforces company policy.

No matter who is hired as the new man in charge of baseball ops, it will be no longer be business as usual in Queens.

Adam Rubin has a great preview of Mets farmhands now competing in the Arizona Fall League. Brad Holt who I thought  was going to be a big time pitcher for the Mets when I saw him pitch in Brooklyn a few years back, is trying to redeem himself in the eyes of the organization and CF’er Kirk Nieuwenhuis are two of the players for Mets fans to keep an eye on.

A lot of talk before last night’s Rays-Rangers Game 5 was about the looseness of the Rays players seems the Rangers took advantage of that attitude by going all out aggressive on the base paths against Tampa.

So we have the Highlanders v. Rangers and Phuck Phaces v. Fuck Yeahs in the LCS. The Highlanders own the Rangers so it is with a great sense of urgency, that the Rangers play the same aggressive style in Game 1 against CC and his battery mate the defensively challenged Dumbo Posada. A Game 1 loss will send Highlander fans into a pure panic, and isn’t that we haters of Bronx Bastards live for?

I am going all out to root for the Giants as I’m thinking of making a little shrine with my Jim Ray Hart bat, Will Clark baseball cards, and my photos of John McGraw. Game 1 Saturday is a must watch for all baseball fans with Halliday and The Freak hooking up.

Taryn Cooper has her last post of the season up at her My Summer Family site and she is also stepping away from the everyday grind of Mets blogging, which is a major loss to Metsfandom.  Hopefully we can meet up at MSG Coop, to root for our Broadway Blueshirts.

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