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.

Dodgers to retire Fernando Valenzuela’s No. 34 this summer

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Dodgers will retire the No. 34 jersey of pitcher Fernando Valenzuela during a three-day celebration this summer.

Valenzuela was part of two World Series champion teams, winning the 1981 Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards. He was a six-time All-Star during his 11 seasons in Los Angeles from 1980-90.

He will be honored from Aug. 11-13 when the Dodgers host Colorado.

Valenzuela will join Pee Wee Reese, Tommy Lasorda, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Jim Gilliam, Don Sutton, Walter Alston, Sandy Koufax, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson and Don Drysdale with retired numbers.

“To be a part of the group that includes so many legends is a great honor,” Valenzuela said. “But also for the fans, the support they’ve given me as a player and working for the Dodgers, this is also for them.”