A couple days ago, I received an email from Dorian (thanks, Dorian!) linking me to the infographic you see below. With it, he asks, “Do you think Branch Rickey deserves his place here?”
Yes, I do.
As a player, his career never amounted to much. Nevertheless, the name Branch Rickey resonates far and wide, especially in association with the name Jackie Robinson. And while the breaking of the color barrier blazed the trail to integration, both in baseball and throughout America, Rickey’s contributions do not stop there. We can also thank Rickey for drafting Roberto Clemente in the 1950s. Clemente went on to become Major League Baseball’s first Latino player to win a World Series as a starting player, to win the World Series MVP award, and to win the National League MVP award. Clemente also became the first Latino player inducted into the Hall of Fame.
In addition to these integral changes, Branch Rickey also created baseball’s minor league farm system while serving as president of the St. Louis Cardinals. This innovation allowed him to develop players within the organization to get them ready for Major League competition. St. Louis became one of baseball’s best teams during this period, and before long, teams throughout Major League Baseball adopted his system. It revolutionized the game as people knew it.
When he moved on to Brooklyn, Rickey also created the first full-time spring training facility, which allowed the Dodgers to train and analyze prospective players in one place. This system also went on to get adopted by teams throughout baseball.
One could argue that all these changes would have occurred in baseball eventually, with or without Rickey. And yes, I agree that they were all bound to happen. But change always has to start somewhere, and in the world of baseball, Branch Rickey served as the catalyst for these revolutionary developments.