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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ON AUGUST 30TH 1964 THE METS PLAYED THE CUBS AT WRIGLEY FIELD JUST LIKE TODAY BUT WHICH METS LINEUP WAS BETTER ?

Here is the lineup Jerry Manuel wil send out against the Cubs today:

Pagan, cf
Castillo, 2b
Murphy, 1b
Francoeur, rf
Reed, lf
Tatis, 3b
Schneider, c
Hernandez, ss
Figueroa, rhp

Here is the lineup that Casey Stengel used on this date in 1964:

Bobby Klaus 3B

Ron Hunt 2B

Ed Kranepool 1B

George Altman LF

Joe Christopher RF

Chris Cannizaro C

Roy McMillian SS

Denis Ribant P

At 1B Murphy or Krane? I’m a big Murphy fan but really who where my alliances lies here,

2B-Ron Hunt was THE MAN back then. The first Mets All Star when All Star meant something his numbers in ’64 .303/.357/.406  and was as tough as they come

3B- Tatis big over Klauss

SS-Roy McMillan couldn’t hit but had a great glove. AHern can’t hit and used to have a great glove. Roy Mac for me.

LF Jeremy Reed get a rare start from Manuel why this guy got burried with all the injuries is a story that should be told. I know the guy is no ball of fire but who  did he piss off to get burried as he has on this team. George Altman spent one year with the Mets. He was traded to the Mets from the Cardinals for Roger (Hum Baby) Graig. I’ll take Reed as a pity pick

CF Jim Hickman had some very good season with the Cubs once he left the Mets. Angel Pagan seems to have gotten the message that he needs to play ball to the wall baseball everyday if he wants to stick around that’s a credit to Jerry Manuel . I’ll take Pagan as this is Jim Hickman 1964 not Hickman 1970

RF-Joe Christopher and Frenchy Francouer. Believe it or not Christopher hit .300/.360/.466 with 16 HR and 76 RBI for the Mets in ’64. This was tough but I’ll take Christopher

C-Not even close Chris Cannazaro BIG over Schneider

P-Nelly Figs has done well and Dennis Ribant was just a rookie with a 1-5 W/L and a 5.15 ERA Go with Figgy

So my score card reads 5-4 1964 Mets

what do you think?


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HOT CHILD IN THE $ITI

Oh those gritty, gutsy Mets. Did you ever think those words would be used to describe our favorite baseball team? Me either but yesterday’s 3-2 win over Cardinals a game Tony LaRussa managed the 8th inning like it was Game 7 of the NLCS (but it paid off for the stinking genius) was close to baseball as it ought to be. A few observations from the day at $iti Field:

 

Johan Santana had a very difficult time in the first three innings finding the strike zone as he had neither command of his fastball or change up in the first three innings whether this was due to his mechanics or the ineptitude of home plate ump Ron Kulpa  I’m not sure but after giving up a walk to Chris Carpenter in the 4th Santana all of a sudden got locked in and took control of the game. The mark of a great pitcher is when he can’t get his best pitches over for strikes he still finds a way to stay on top of his game and work his way through until he figures out how to get those pitches working or has a plan B and gets that to work. No panic, no fear that’s Johan Santana.

 

Ryan Church is lucky J-Man didn’t take out his blade and cut his ass after yesterday’s game. Manuel has put the challenge to Church by putting him the clean up spot while Sheffield recoups from his cortisone shot to his knee. So far the challenge not met by Church. With Daniel Murphy on second and Luis Castillo on first, D-Wright had an outstanding at bat. After looking at two called strikes, Wright bared down and then let two balls go out of the strike zone to even the count 2-2, the next pitch Wright just missed (a fastball I believe from Kyle McClellan) and then took the two more pitches for a base on balls. Outstanding at bat. Of course after that Tony LaRussa made yet another trip to the bullpen (and had me make a mess out of my score card) lefty Trever Miller to face Church.

 

Now here was Church’s time for redemption in the game as he misplayed a ball hit by Rick Ankiel in 6th as he broke in the tried to get back and the ball sailed over his head for a double and Ankiel eventually scored the Cards second run so with the bags drunk it was Ryan Church in the spotlight (“Church bells may ring, ding –dong-ding, church bells may ring, ding-dong-ding”)  time to show the manager, the fans and his teammates the he is ready to step up.

 

Miller seems to have a bit of the yips as he can’t find the strike zone and falls behind 3-0 to Church. Ok now Ryan take a strike here, atta boy. Ok now it’s on a platter for you 3-1 and the pitch………..A CALLED STRIKE!!!!!!!!! Ryan, you are batting in the coveted clean up spot, the bases are loaded, it’s the bot of the 8th and a 1 run game WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU TAKING ON 3 AND 1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

 

Now realizing he’s not up there to leave it up to Tatis, Church swings at the next pitch and fouls it off. Now Church is digging that back foot in the batters box determined to get a hit here but Miller just rears back and blows one by Church who took a huge swing and missed but at that point it didn’t matter this at bat was done at 3 balls 1 strike. Want to bet that Church sits tonight against Sabathia ? If he got a hit there lefty or no lefty he would have earned the start but after that at bat and the play in the 6th inning Church will sit tonight and it’s deserved.

 

The more I go to $iti Field the more I love the place (don’t worry we old timers will always have Shea in our hearts) how can you not. I know it has its faults (see Mets Police for those as he is the Elliot Ness of Mets fandom) and management (are you ready for this) seems to be listening to it’s fan base (S-H-O-C-K-I-N-G I know!) First thing I saw walking in I looked at the scoreboard in right/center and guess what? The lineups were posted ! YA-HOO!. Then in the 8th inning no Sweet Caroline (HURAYY!!) but Meet The Mets (HURRAH!) now I do have a little bone to pick, how about playing the whole Meet The Mets song? Why do the butcher and the baker and the people on the street always get the short end of the stick all the time?

 

I was no fan of Michael Jackson’ when he was alive so I’m not mourning his death today but I was shocked that he died just for the fact that he is the same age as me. I know it’s not polite to speak ill of the dead but the guy was a walking freak show which was not the worst of his sins, those he will pay for it he hasn’t already. I do feel sorry for him in that he didn’t really have much of a life which again proves my mother theory that even if you have a lot of money that doesn’t mean you’re rich and if that’s the case Jackson died broke in more ways than one.

 

Now someone I was a fan of was Farrah Fawsett as were many young men back in the 70’s. Show of hands how many of you fella’s had this poster in your room (my hand is up) and how many of us looked to date girls with that blonde hair in a flip (hand still up)

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