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Branch Rickey: Forever Changing the Face of Baseball

Branch Rickey: Forever Changing the Face of Baseball

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Published by Ed Williams
This was a term paper for a history of sport class at Towson University.
This was a term paper for a history of sport class at Towson University.

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Published by: Ed Williams on Apr 30, 2010
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04/30/2010

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Edward B. Williams Monday, 14 May 2007KNES 451.001 Term Paper 
 
Williams2There is one man who was arguably the most important behind-the-scenes figurein the history of baseball, and whose actions played a tremendous role in the Civil RightsMovement in the United States. This man led several baseball teams to victory, createdthe so-called “farm system”, strived to create a third major league in Organized Baseball,and perhaps most importantly, broke through the color barrier that prevented African-American athletes from playing major league baseball. This man, who also helped tocreate the general manager position within Organized Baseball (Behn, 1997), was knownas Branch Rickey. Additionally, Branch Rickey’s intensely analytical methods led him tohire the first statistician in baseball.What follows will thoroughly examine the life and accomplishments of BranchRickey. Emphasis will be put on his many contributions to baseball, while making use of Behn’s “Eight Responsibilities of Public Managers” to show Rickey’s careful usage of Jackie Robinson to integrate the sport. Simply put, what follows will argue that BranchRickey was the most influential and important person in sporting history.Branch Rickey accomplished more in his lifetime than what would seem possibleto the average person. According to an article by Stuart Knee, Rickey attended OhioWesleyan University and University of Michigan Law School while managing their  baseball teams. Although Rickey was known as a mediocre ball player, he played baseball on multiple professional levels, both in the minor and major leagues; in fact,Rickey played major league baseball with the St. Louis Browns and the New York Highlanders while he was attending law school (Knee, 2003, pg. 72).Once Rickey got into the “front-office” side of baseball, he eventually helped to better organize the sport by assisting in the creation of his own position, which was the
 
Williams3 position of general manager. As a general manager, Branch Rickey helped to lead the St.Louis Cardinals (formerly the Browns), the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Pittsburgh Piratesto glory. Although much of the success was not seen until after he moved on, each of these teams won pennants in their leagues and World Series’. Each of these instances can be attributed to the guidance and management of Branch Rickey (Behn, 1997).As an organizer of professional baseball, Branch Rickey also helped in thecreation of what is known as the “farm system”, in which major league teams would buyand sponsor minor league teams for cultivating new talent. According to Rubinstein(2003), these teams were originally independent teams, but were eventuallycommandeered by major league teams. Although the minor league had been in existence prior to this, a large part of Rickey’s fame in the baseball world comes from “theanalytical way he invented and perfected the farm system” (Behn, 1997). Prior toRickey, it was not thought of to use the minor leagues to help ball players hone their skills to prepare for the majors.Rickey was originally opposed to the expansion of baseball, but by the late 1950sand early 1960s, he embraced the idea and put much work into having the ContinentalLeague accepted into the major leagues (Buhite, 2004, pg. 247). The Continental Leagueused both a new minor league started by Rickey and the existing Western CarolinaLeague to find new talent. According to Buhite, “North Carolina had been a hotbed of minor league baseball for many years; indeed, at various times in its history the state had possessed more minor league teams than any other in the nation” (2004, pg. 247). Inearlier expansion attempts around 1915, Rickey and others felt that the sixteen teams thatmade up the existing American and National leagues were sufficient, and that there was

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