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Happy 88th birthday to former Dodgers pitcher and game-show champ Ralph Branca

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To say Ralph Branca has led an interesting life would be an understatement.

The former Dodgers pitcher, who turns 88 today, gave up one of the most famous home runs in baseball history -- a ninth-inning walk-off blast from Bobby Thompson, winning the National League pennant for the New York Giants. You probably know it better as "The Shot Heard 'Round the World."

But that's not the only historic moment in which Branca took part.

In 1947, a few members of the Dodgers circulated an infamous petition vowing not to play if Jackie Robinson joined the team. Branca refused to sign it, and he stood right at Robinson's side during player introductions on Opening Day -- Robinson's debut in the Majors:

"My older brother John said… 'Are you crazy?' I said 'What are you talking about?' He said 'You stood next to Jackie.' I said 'So what?' He said 'Suppose a guy tried to shoot him and was a lousy marksman and missed by three feet.' I said 'I would've died a hero."

When his playing career was over, Branca took his talents to a new venue: game shows.

Specifically, Concentration -- a show based on the popular children's puzzle, airing from 1958 to 1991. Branca won an impressive 17 games in a row, earning him a spot in the show's 1963 Challenge of Champions:

Although he played his final baseball game in 1956, Branca remains tied to MLB through his son-in-law:

Bobby Valentine.

Happy 88th birthday, Ralph!


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