Ralph Theodore Joseph Branca is a New York guy. He was born on January 6, 1926, in Mount Vernon, just outside New York City, as the fifteenth of seventeen children. His middle name was a celebration of the first President Roosevelt, who also hailed from the Empire State.1 His elementary and high school years were spent in Mount Vernon. He attended New York University, where he also played basketball, and was signed by the Dodgers after a local tryout camp.2
Branca’s father, John Branca, came to America from Italy as a child with his family in 1888. Ralph was named after his grandfather, Raffaele, who took the name Ralph in the United States. Ralph’s mother was Katherine Berger, who was born in Hungary. Katherine and John married on October 17, 1902. At various times, John was a trolley conductor, a machinist, and a barber.3
Ralph married Ann Mulvey in 1951. She was a New York girl from a prominent family. Her parents, James and Dearie Mulvey, owned a share of the Dodgers, and her maternal grandfather, Steve McKeever, had been president of the Brooklyn club.4 At the end of his playing career, Branca was offered an opportunity to stay in baseball as a pitching coach for Los Angeles in the Pacific Coast League, but “I just didn’t want to go to California,” he said in a 2008 interview.
Ralph Branca was Brooklyn’s best pitcher, winning twenty-
one games at age twenty-one.
Instead, Branca became a financial executive in and around New York City, work he found satisfying. “When you can hand somebody a check for $300,000 in 1961 based on a life insurance policy her husband had purchased from me, you feel good. You feel like you’ve had a positive effect on that person’s life.” He later combined his baseball prominence, his financial acumen, and his desire to help others when he ran the Manhattan-based Baseball Assistance Team (BAT) for seventeen years, an organization formed to help those who had had careers in baseball but were facing difficult financial circumstances in their postbaseball lives.5 His daughter Mary married former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine in 1977, and his other daughter, Patricia, also made a life in New York.
As a Brooklyn Dodger, the six-foot-three, 220-