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Aug. 1, 1953

Ralph Branca’s presence in baseball lore focuses on one pitch, thrown at the worst possible moment on the biggest possible stage. The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants ended the 1951 season tied atop the National League standings. Unlike the American League, which settled ties with a one-game, winner-take-all showdown, the NL had a best-of-three series,

After two games the Dodgers and Giants remained tied. Brooklyn led 4-1 going into the ninth but starter Don Newcombe began to falter. Branca came on to inherit a 4-2 lead, with two on and one out.

Branca got ahead of Bobby Thomson with strike one. Thomson lined Branca’s second pitch into the lower deck of the Polo Grounds stands.

Cue Giants announcer Russ Hodges: “The Giants win the pennant! The GIants win the pennant.”

Branca’s career went south fairly quickly, but that was more due to the back injury he endured at spring training in 1952.

The Dodgers released Branca in July, 1953, and the Detroit Tigers plucked him off the waiver wire. Visiting Fenway Park for the first time, Branca took a 5-3 win over the stumbling Red Sox who were on a five-game losing streak and fading fast in the American League race.

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