By: Anthony Elias Dae'jon Wilson
.Rickey was born in Stockdale, Ohio, the son of Jacob Frank Rickey and Emily (nee) Brown. Rickey Wesley Branch Rickey (December 20, 1881 – December 9, 1965) was an innovative Major League Baseball (MLB) executive elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967. He was perhaps best known for breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier by signing African American player Jackie Robinson, for drafting the first Afro-Hispanic superstar, Roberto Clemente, for creating the framework for the modern minor league farm system, for encouraging the Major Leagues to add new teams through his involvement in the proposed Continental League, and for introducing the batting helmet.
Rickey played in MLB for the St. Louis Browns and New York Highlanders from 1905 through 1907. After struggling as a player, Rickey returned to college, where he learned about administration from Philip Bartelme. Returning to MLB in 1913, Rickey embarked on a successful managing and executive career with the St. Louis Browns, the St. Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cardinals elected him to their team Hall of Fame in 2014.
Rickey also had a career in the sport of American football, as a player for the professional Shelby Blues and as a coach at Ohio Wesleyan University and Allegheny College. His many achievements and deep Christian faith earned him the nickname "the Mahātmā.
LIfe and Death
Rickey's most memorable act with the Dodgers involved signing jackie robinson, thus breaking ,baseball's color barrier which had been an unwritten rule since the 1880s. This policy had continued under a succession of baseball leaders, including Landis, who was openly opposed to integrating Major League Baseball for what he regarded as legitimate reasons. Landis died in 1944, but Rickey had already set the process in motion, having sought (and gained) approval from the Dodgers Board of Directors in 1943 to begin the search for "the right man."
On August 28, 1945, Rickey signed Robinson to a minor league contract. Robinson had been playing in the Negro leagues for the Kansas City Monarchs. On October 23, 1945, it was announced that Robinson would join the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers' International League affiliate, for the 1946 season. He would end up as the league's batting champion, and led the Royals to a dominant league championship.
There was no statute officially banning blacks from baseball, only a universally recognized unwritten rule which no club owner was prepared to break that was perpetuated by culturally entrenched racism and a desire by club owners to be perceived as representing the values and beliefs of everyday American white men. The service of black Americans in the Second World War, and the celebrated pre-war achievements of black athletes in American sports, such as Joe Louisin boxing and Jesse Owens in track, paved the way for the cultural shift necessary to break the barrier.
Rickey knew that Robinson would face racism and discrimination. Rickey made it clear in their momentous first meeting that he anticipated wide-scale resistance both inside and outside baseball to opening its doors to Negroes. As predicted by Rickey, right from the start Robinson faced obstacles among his teammates and other teams' players. No matter how harsh the white people were towards Robinson, he could not retaliate. Robinson had agreed with Rickey not to lose his temper and jeopardize the chances of all the blacks who would follow him if he could help break down the barriers.
Red Barber recounted in Ken Burns's documentary Baseball that Rickey's determination to desegregate Major League Baseball was born out of a combination of idealism and astute business sense. The idealism was at least partially rooted in an incident involving a team for which Rickey worked early on. While managing at Ohio Wesleyan University, a black player, Charles Thomas, was extremely upset at being refused accommodation at the hotel where the team stayed because of his race. Though an infuriated Rickey managed to get him into the hotel for the night, he never forgot the incident and later said, "I may not be able to do something about racism in every field, but I can sure do something about it in baseball." The business element was based on the fact that the Negro Leagues had numerous star athletes, and logically, the first Major League team to hire them would get first pick of the players at an attractive price. At the time, Mexican brewery czar Jorge Pasquel was raiding America for black talent (e.g., Satchel Paige), as well as disgruntled white players, for the Mexican League with the idea of creating an integrated league that could compete on a talent level with the U.S. major leagues. However idealistic, Rickey did not compensate Monarchs ownership for the rights to obtain Robinson,:p.37 nor did he pay for rights to Don Newcombe, who would also join the Dodgers from a Negro leagues club. Rickey also attempted to sign Monte Irvin but Newark Eagles business owner Effa Manley refused to allow Irvin to leave her club without compensation. When she threatened to sue him in court, Rickey stopped the pursuit of Irvin, who would later sign with the New York Giants.:p.277
Amid much fanfare, Jackie debuted, and turned out to be a success. Robinson was baseball's first rookie of the year, and while he was often jeered by opposing baseball players, managers, and fans, he became extremely popular with the American public. His success became the crowning achievement of Rickey's illustrious career. His Dodgers would make the World Series that year. Although they lost in seven games to the New York Yankees, Rickey's vision and action had set the stage for the Dodgers to be contenders for decades to come. And it opened the door for other leaders like Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians, who integrated theAmerican League in 1947, as well.A public speaker in his later years, on November 13, 1965, Rickey collapsed in the middle of a speech in Columbia, Missouri, as he was being elected to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. He had told a story of physical courage, and was about to relate an illustration from the Holy Bible, "Now I'm going to tell you a story from the Bible about spiritual courage", he said. Rickey murmured he could not continue, collapsed and never spoke again. He faltered, fell back into his seat and slipped onto the floor. He never regained consciousness. His brain was damaged when his breathing stopped momentarily, though his heart picked up its rhythm again. Through the next 26 days, hospitalized in a coma, there was little change. On December 9, at about 10 p.m. he died of heart failure at Boone County Memorial Hospital in Columbia, Missouri, 11 days before his 84th birthday. Branch Rickey was interred at Rush Township Burial Park in Rushtown, Ohio, near where his parents, his widow Jane (who died in 1971), and three of his children (including his son, Branch Rickey Jr., who died from complications of diabetes in 1961) also rest. Rickey's grave overlooks the Scioto Valley, about three miles from his boyhood home in Lucasville, Ohio.
Honors and legacyn addition to Rickey's election to the Baseball Hall of Fame as a contributor in 1967, in 1997 he was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame, in 2009 he was elected the College Baseball Hall of Fame. In January 2014, the Cardinals announced Rickey among 22 former players and personnel to be inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum for the inaugural class of 2014.
A ballpark in Portsmouth, Ohio, once used by the Portsmouth Explorers, a charter member of the Frontier League before the club folded in 1996, is named in Rickey's honor. The Branch Rickey Arena at Ohio Wesleyan University is also named in his honor.
In 1992, Rotary International of Denver, Colorado, created the Branch Rickey Award, which is given annually to a Major League Baseball player in recognition of exceptional community service. Outside of Coors Field in Denver is a monument to Rickey by the sculptor George Lundeen, dedicated in 2005, with this simple inscription: