Branch Rickey as Student at OWU. Courtesy of the Ohio Wesleyan University Historical Collection
Branch Rickey was a prominent player, coach and manager of collegiate and professional baseball in America.
Wesley Branch Rickey was born in Flat, Ohio, on December 20, 1881. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1904. Although Rickey played professional baseball for a number of years, he is best known for his contributions to the sport in his executive roles. He left professional baseball in the 1910s. He coached baseball at the University of Michigan and earned a law degree. Rickey served as General Manager of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1917 to 1942. He later served as General Manager and President of the Brooklyn Dodgers and finished his career as General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Rickey is credited with developing the farm system that still exists today in professional baseball. Players who were not ready to play for a major league team played for farm teams, perfected their skills, and proved that they were prepared to play for a major league team. He also introduced protective helmets for batters, pitching machines, and batting cages.
In 1947, Rickey made history when he signed African-American Jackie Robinson to play in the major leagues. Prior to the integration of professional baseball, African-American players played in their own separate league. Rickey opened the door to change.
Rickey died on December 9, 1965, in Columbia, Missouri. Two years later, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.