Branca steals the show from Red Sox manager, ex-GM

Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine and former GM Theo

Epstein planned to talk a little baseball and raise a little money

for charity.

Then Valentine’s father-in-law, ex-big leaguer Ralph Branca,

stole the show.

In a discussion about big markets and small markets and how

players respond to being booed, Branca took the microphone and

reminded the crowd that he knew a little bit about the topic.

Branca gave up one of the most famous homers in baseball history,

Bobby Thomson’s three-run shot that gave the New York Giants the

1951 NL pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers.

”Me get booed? Never,” Branca told a few hundred people at

Fenway Park on Monday night. ”I did lose a few.”

Then, alluding to the critically panned performance by Aerosmith

lead singer Steven Tyler before the AFC championship game last

week, Branca said he wants to sing the national anthem before Game

1 ”when the Red Sox are in the World Series this year.”

As his son-in-law threw up his hands in wonder, Branca then led

the crowd in an impromptu singing of ”God Bless America.”

Branca spent most of his 12-year career in New York with the

Dodgers, plus short stints with the Yankees and Detroit Tigers.

”I’ve been a Yankee and Met fan,” he said, alluding to

Valentine’s time as Mets manager from 1996-2002. ”I’m a Red Sox

fan upside down, inside out, I’m part of Red Sox nation. God bless

you all.”

The event was planned as a fundraiser for Theo Epstein’s

charity, Foundation To Be Named Later. The ”Hot Stove, Cool

Music” roundtable and associated benefit concert has raised

$300,000 this year and more than $4 million for local charities

since their inception in 2000.

Also sitting in for the discussion were: Epstein, current Red

Sox GM Ben Cherington, Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington, New

York Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson and MLB network

analyst Sean Casey, who played for five teams – big market and

small – in a 12-year career.

Cherington said he is prepared to go to arbitration hearings

with David Ortiz and Alfredo Aceves; the Red Sox did not have a

single arbitration hearing in Epstein’s tenure as GM. Ortiz has

asked for $16.5 million and the team offered $12.65 million; Aceves

was offered $950,000 and he asked for $1.6 million.

Valentine said he doesn’t know how the shortstop situation will

be resolved. The Red Sox traded Marco Scutaro to Colorado this

month, leaving them with former utilitymen Mike Aviles and Nick

Punto as potential replacements. Also in the mix is 22-year-old

prospect Jose Iglesias, who spent most of last season at

Triple-A.

Scutaro hit a career-high .299 last year. He was traded to the

Rockies for right-hander Clayton Mortensen.

”I’ve never seen any of the guys play except for Punto a little

on television. We’ve got seven weeks together, we’ll practice

together, we’ll play together, that will all work itself out,”

Valentine said. ”I think it’s always good for guys to get a chance

to work and think they have a chance to make the team so they work

a little harder.”

Granderson said he was pleased with the Yankees’ offseason

pitching acquisitions, including the trade with Seattle for

All-Star right-hander Michael Pineda and the signing of free-agent

righty Hiroki Kuroda from the Dodgers.

”It seemed like that was the big question as the season went

on,” Granderson said. ”It looks like the front office addressed

the issue. Now it looks like we have too much (pitching).”

But he isn’t ready to pronounce the Yankees the winner of the

offseason.

”I’d be very shocked and surprised if Boston doesn’t make any

more moves,” he said.