Did you know that Ralph Branca was Jewish? Until recently, neither did he

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This is only about baseball insofar as it involves a baseball player, but it’s a pretty interesting story anyway.

The New York Times’ Joshua Prager has a story about retired Dodgers’ pitcher Ralph Branca’s family. Seems that even though Branca was baptized and raised Catholic to Catholic parents and remains Catholic to this day, his mother was Jewish and, unbeknownst to Branca until very recently, most of his mother’s family remained in Europe after she emigrated and they were killed in the Holocaust.

It’s neat on the surface for the “hey, he didn’t know it” perspective, but I find it pretty interesting from the “what makes us who we are; how does one define one’s identity” point of view.  I come from a hodgepodge of a background with all manner of wackiness in the branches of my family tree, so it’s the kind of thing I think about often.

Does it matter where we came from?  I often think not, because absent a trust fund or a congenital disease, life is what me make it.  But the fact that we spend so much time thinking about it makes me think that there’s more to it than I typically care to admit.

Phillies considering Chase Utley for bench coach

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Sports radio personality Howard Eskin is hearing a fun rumor that the Philadelphia Phillies are considering Chase Utley to be their bench coach.

Utley hasn’t retired yet, but he is almost 39, is a free agent and is unlikely to find anything beyond a bench role at best at this point. Time for a career change? Who knows, as this popping up over Thanksgiving makes it hard to confirm or deny one way or the other. It’s fun to think about, though. Over the past four or five years, as Utley’s production has declined, he has been widely praised as a good clubhouse presence and mentor, so it would not be hard to imagine him transitioning into a formal coaching role.

Utley, of course, played for the Phillies for thirteen seasons. If he’s going to break into coaching, he’s most likely to do it there.