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A Moment in Time: An American Story of Baseball, Heartbreak, and Grace Hardcover – September 20, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“Traber Burns has the perfect voice (crusty) and delivery (seen-it-all) for an octogenarian’s first-person story. A Moment in Time will delight not only baseball fans but those interested in the changing culture of mid-20th-century America.”
       —Library Journal [starred review]

“Branca offers a fascinating tale of a golden age of baseball dominated by the three New York teams that included the breaking of the color barrier by Jackie Robinson. Acclaimed author Ritz maintains focus and pace without subduing Branca’s voice or personality to render a story with appeal to all sports fans.”
       —Publishers Weekly

“Traber Burns is perfect as narrator; his breezy, conversational style fits Branca’s tone and writing style. Burns comes across as passionately telling a story, not merely reading one. Fans of the era especially will appreciate Burns’s narration of the tarnished secrets of the fateful game.”
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Ralph Branca was born in 1926 in Mount Vernon, New York. He was 18 years old when he signed his professional contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1947, Branca won 21 games and lost 12 with an ERA of 2.67. He appeared in three All-Star games, and was the starting pitcher in the 1947 All-Star Game at the age of 21. Branca made two post-Season Appearances in the 1947 and 1949 World Series. He played professional baseball for twelve seasons, from 1944 to 1956, during which he won 88 games and lost 68, with a career ERA is 3.79 in 1,484 innings pitched. Branca, still active as a Chartered Life Underwriter, is a successful businessman living in Rye, New York, with his wife Ann.

David Ritz is the only four-time winner of the Gleason Music Book Award.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451636873
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451636871
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,207,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Barry Sparks VINE VOICE on September 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This slim book, barely 200 pages, is a breezy account of Ralph Branca's career and the 1951 playoff game vs. the Giants when he surrendered perhaps baseball's most famous home run to Bobby Thomson, costing the Brooklyn Dodgers the pennant.

Branca, now in his mid-80s, says writing the book led to the resolution of resentment and the dissolution of rage. Branca wore the goat horns for more than 50 years, even though he wanted to yell "fraud" and expose the Giants' tactics of stealing signs with a telescope. Branca didn't find out about the Giants cheating and Thomson knowing what pitch was coming until three years later when a teammate on the Detroit Tigers told him about it.

Only 25 in 1951, Branca had won 76 games, including 21 in 1947. He also became the youngest pitcher to start Game 1 of the World Series in 1947. Yet, he was unfairly forever known for one unfortunate pitch.

Branca's pitch to Thomson left him feeling like he wanted to die. He kept reliving the pitch, unable to forget about it. Yet, when he found out the Giants had cheated, he kept quiet, not wanting to whine or complain. He was the goat and Thomson was the untainted hero.

Branca carried a chip on his shoulder for decades, and he had a cool and distant relationship with Thomson. In the 1980's, however, he and Thomson signed together at several card shows and became close. The chip on Branca's shoulder fell off. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the famous home run, Branca and Thomson agreed to do joint signings at card shows. The pair received $220,000 each for doing so, far more than they had ever made as players.

In 2001, Josh Prager of the Wall Street Journal, published an article detailing how the Giants stole signs with a telescope in 1951.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Shawn Weaver on October 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Branca is most famous as the Brooklyn Dodger who gave up Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard Around the World" home run to win the 1951 pennant for the New York Giants. The book spends a good deal of its just-over-200 pages on that event.

The parts I liked best were the bits we haven't heard so much before: Branca's youth as a boy of Italian-Hungarian descent in a multicultural neighborhood in New York City, then in Mount Vernon, NY, near the Big Apple. The Brancas didn't have much money but were a big, close-knit family. I would have enjoyed more tales of this youth spent in a rich background.

Branca soon moves on to his playing career, being signed as a teenager by the Dodgers after a tryout, pitching for a while as a collegian even after signing (a no-no stopped by his coach after he finds out), and all-too-brief stories of minor league life. Of course, contrary to many reports of players in that period, Branca did not spend much time in the minors. Part of that was due to wartime player shortages, but he continued in the majors after the war as well.

Branca had a strong year in 1947, winning 21 games as the Dodgers won the pennant, at the tender age of 21. He suffered from early overuse, continuing to pitch regularly the next two years but with diminishing effectiveness. Branca remembers the days fondly, with Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Don Newcombe, and other famous teammates. He struggled in 1950, but bounced back the next year until that fateful final playoff game. Branca recounts the 1951 season in some detail: it is the centerpiece of the book.

The story wraps up fairly quickly after that. Branca spends limited time on the rest of his career, injury-marred as it was, and just a bit on his post-baseball exploits as an insurance executive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By CJA VINE VOICE on February 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Branca was a great pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, hitting his prime in 1947 when he won 20 games and was, according to Baseballreference.com "wins above replacement" statistics, the best player on the team. Of course, what he's known for is giving up Bobby Thomson's playoff-winning walk-off homerun in 1951. He is also a personal hero of mine for the grace with which he handled the misfortune of being remembered for a losing effort.

Although this is an autobiography, it does have an "as-told-to" coauthor, David Ritz. I don't think that Ritz does justice to Branca. The book stresses Branca's bitterness over the Thomson episode and the Giants' use of a telescope to steal signs. While Branca was silent about the cheating scandal for 50 years, despite learning of it just 3 years afterwards, the book has him vent at length. And we hear lots of pent-up frustrations with how managers Dressen and Shotten handled him. As a result, Branca comes off as a bit whiney -- an amazing injustice given how well he kept his mouth shut for a half century. Also, Ritz plays up Branca's "tough guy" persona. I'm sure Branca was tough, but he was also a man of faith, forgiveness, and grace, and those qualities should have been emphasized more.

I am reminded of the story about a player who, when confronted with some controversial quotes in his autobiography, defended himself by saying "I was misquoted." Branca did put his name on the book, so he is responsible for some of its flaws.

Still, it's hard not to like and admire Branca. He was an early supporter of Robinson and Campanella, and he was an integral part of a great team. I was suprised by Branca's criticism that Dressen was spooked by his rivalry with Durocher and by his inferiority complex regarding Durocher.
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