Ralph Branca, former MLB pitcher who gave up famous HR, dies at 90
I have noted before many times that Branca should never have been in that situation. In our day, every single manager would be savvy enough to avoid Branca's match-up with Bobby Thomson.
* Branca had not been able to get anyone out for two months. He was 1-7 in September-October, with an ERA of 5.71, including a loss in game one of the same playoffs, when he gave up a homer to ... (wait for it) ... Bobby Thomson. That's right. Branca not only lost that famous final game, but also accounted for Brooklyn's other loss in the three-game playoff.
* Meanwhile, Bobby Thomson was, at that moment, the best hitter in the National League. From July 22nd on, he batted .356 with an OPS of 1.104. (During the same period, the great Stan Musial had batted .336 with an OPS of 1.048.) And Thomson saved his best days for the Dodgers. He had hit eight homers against the Dodgers that year in 89 at-bats. Moreover, Thomson was still getting hotter by the week. He had been totally "in the zone" from August 22nd on, having batted .427 with power and walks in that stretch. In the final 15 games, Thompson had at least one hit in every one and batted .449 with a .542 OBP and a .980 slugging average! In Thomson's previous plate appearances in that very game, he had two hits and a long run-scoring flyball. (That was 2-for-2 modern style, but 2-for-3 at the time. From 1940 to 1953, as well as in other periods, a sacrifice fly was counted as a time at bat.)
* Furthermore, Brooklyn's manager, Charlie Dressen made all kinds of other mistakes:
(1) He never warmed up any other pitcher, although Preacher Rowe was available and rested. Rowe was 22-3 that year and led the team in ERA. Rowe had pitched in four games against the Giants that year, and the Dodgers had won three of the four, losing only in a game in which they were shut out by Sal Maglie, which was hardly Rowe's fault.
(2) First base was open with one out and runners on second and third. Even if Branca had been left in, Dressen should have walked the red-hot Thomson intentionally to preserve the double play and/or the force at any base. That would have left Branca facing Willie Mays, but this was not the Willie you remember. He was only 20 years old at the time, and had struggled against Branca all year (.105 with no RBI). Moreover, Mays was in an October slump (one-for-ten). In that very game he had been zero-for-three and had struck out and grounded into a double play in his two previous at bats.