Wesley Branch Rickey
Raised On A Farm
Wesley Branch Rickey was born in 1881 in southern Ohio, the son of Jacob Franklin Rickey, a Wesleyite Methodist, and raised on a farm. Rickey was greatly influenced by his mother, Emily, who helped to give him a sense of moral purpose and a strong religious faith. Rickey attended school in a one-room schoolhouse in Rush Township, Ohio and later in the nearby town of Lucasville but was unable to earn a high school diploma
(since the school didn't offer one). After completing his schooling, Rickey, who was then in his late teens, was encouraged by James Finney, a school superintendent and coach, to take an exam to become a schoolteacher. After a course of intensive self-study, Rickey earned a teaching certificate and taught for two years in a school in Scioto County. Rickey learned early that he had to show his command of the class by standing up to rowdy students, which he did on two notable occasions, using his fists to put strong, older boys in their place.
In March 1901, Rickey enrolled at Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) in Delaware, Ohio, a Methodist school. He had not been expected to go to college and had to talk his father into letting him attend. Rickey played on the OWU football and baseball teams in his freshman year. To help pay school costs, he also played baseball during summer vacation for a local semipro team, earning $25 a game. When he returned to school, Rickey found to his surprise that playing for money had caused him to lose his athletic eligibility. The president of OWU, Dr. James W. Bashford, gave Rickey a way to get back his eligibility by suggesting that he sign a paper denying the charges that he had played for money, but Rickey said he could not do so and attest to something that was false. In the spring of 1903, the OWU baseball coach resigned and Bashford, who had been impressed by Rickey's honesty and character in the loss of eligibility incident, asked Rickey, who was in his sophomore year, to take over as the school's baseball coach. During his first season, Rickey witnessed a couple of notable instances of overt racism against the only black player on the OWU team, first baseman Charles Thomas. These incidents made an "indelible" impression on him.