Jackie Robinson on November 24, 2016

With deep sadness, the Jackie Robinson Foundation mourns the loss of Dodger great Ralph Branca, who played a significant role in an important chapter in the history of Major League Baseball.

Debuting with the team in 1944, the New York native and three-time All-Star pitcher won 80 games for the Dodgers with a career-high 21 wins in 1947—the same year Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. When members of the Dodgers signed a petition protesting Robinson’s joining the team, Branca courageously refused to sign the petition. In those early years on the road, Branca, unlike many of his teammates, regularly socialized with Jackie Robinson and proudly stood beside him when Robinson first took the field on opening day, April 15, 1947. Branca proactively nurtured a friendship with Jackie that would last for decades.

Rachel Robinson has often singled out Ralph Branca for his abiding friendship, saying today, “Ralph was a true friend and I loved him. He and Ann were among our dearest Dodger family friends. He was a man of integrity and humility and we felt his sincerity. I will treasure my warm memories of our times together. I was very saddened to receive this news.”

Ralph Branca was also a stalwart supporter and friend of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which Rachel Robinson founded in 1973. Former National League president and Jackie Robinson Foundation board chairman for 18 years, Leonard Coleman, Jr. profusely acknowledged Ralph’s generosity and positive spirit, “We could always rely on Ralph as an advocate for the work of the Foundation and for his gracious praise of Jackie.”

All of us at the Jackie Robinson Foundation send heartfelt condolences to Ralph’s family. We celebrate in Ralph Branca a man of unwavering principles who stood tall and resolute in the face of bigotry. Ralph, may you rest in peace.

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