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John Branca, at 86; brother of Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher

By Linda Deutsch
Associated Press / July 31, 2010

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LOS ANGELES — John R. Branca, brother of famed Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca and father of prominent entertainment lawyer John Branca, who is co-executor of Michael Jackson’s estate, has died, his family said Thursday.

Mr. Branca was a former New York state assemblyman and retired New York Athletic Commission chairman. He dedicated most of his life to teaching and coaching high school sports teams.

He died July 17 of vascular disease in Boca Raton, Fla., where he retired in the late 1980s, his family said. He was 86.

Mr. Branca spent most of his life in Mount Vernon, N.Y. He was one of 17 children in an Italian-American family and was 18 months older than brother Ralph.

Family members said John was his brother’s most vocal defender when Ralph was called out for giving up the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World’’ to Bobby Thomson to put the New York Giants in the 1951 World Series.

Mr. Branca was a great brother and friend and was “always on my side,’’ Ralph Branca said in a statement.

He aspired to be a baseball player, too, but his dreams were interrupted by World War II.

After he returned home, he received undergraduate and master’s degrees from New York University and turned to teaching and coaching at Mount Vernon Edison High School. As Mount Vernon recreation commissioner, he developed programs for the disabled and elderly that were cited by President Kennedy as a model for other communities.

Mr. Branca served as a state assemblyman from 1980 to 1984, and was later appointed chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission. In that role, he brought championship boxing back to Madison Square Garden and instituted national changes in the sport.

His son, John G. Branca, became a top entertainment attorney and represented Michael Jackson throughout Jackson’s life.

He is now coadministering the Jackson estate. He has also represented the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys and currently represents Carlos Santana.