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Wesley Branch Rickey

Signs Robinson

In October 1942, in the midst of a deteriorating relationship with Breadon, Rickey resigned from the Cardinals and shortly thereafter was named general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The stands at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, where the Cardinals played, were segregated, but in New York City, the chances for successfully integrating a major league team seemed much better. In 1943, while reporting to the Dodgers board of directors on his plan to set up a mass scouting system, Rickey mentioned that he "might include a Negro player or two"; the idea met with tacit approval. Rickey then engaged his scouts in a mission to find the "right man" to break baseball's color line. Rickey announced publicly in 1945 that he intended to establish a new Negro league called the United States League, which would include a Brooklyn franchise called the Brown Dodgers. Rickey then had Dodger scouts intensively scout players in the existing Negro Leagues, including Robinson, who were presumably being scouted to play for the Brown Dodgers. The new Negro league team was actually a smokescreen, Rickey later conceded, invented as a ruse to mask his real intentions.


1881 Born December 20 in Little California (later renamed Stockdale), Ohio
1901 Enrolls at Ohio Wesleyan University
1903 Becomes baseball coach at Ohio Wesleyan. Plays minor league baseball during summer at Terre Haute, Indiana and Le Mars, Iowa
1904 Earns B.Litt. from Ohio Wesleyan
1904-05 Plays for Dallas of Texas League. Signs contact with Cincinnati Reds; dismissed for refusing to play Sundays. Contract returned to Dallas. Traded to Chicago White Sox and, subsequently, to St. Louis Browns. Plays part of 1905 season with Browns
1904-06 Coaches football and baseball at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, plus teaching
1906 Earns B.A. from Ohio Wesleyan. Marries Jane Moulton in June. Plays 65 games for Browns and has his best year as a player, batting .284, third highest on team. Sold to New York Highlanders in December
1907 Plays 52 games for Highlanders. On June 28, Washington Nationals (later known as Senators) steal a record 13 bases on Highlanders catcher Rickey (who had been pressed into service despite a bad shoulder), setting a record. Enters law school at University of Michigan in fall
1909 Diagnosed with tuberculosis; spends time at sanatorium in Saranac Lake, New York
1910-13 Coaches baseball at University of Michigan. Earns J.D. degree in 1911
1913-16 Serves in executive capacity for St. Louis Browns, with responsibility for acquiring players and making trades. Also serves as team's field manager from September 1913 to end of 1915 season
1916 Hired as president by St. Louis Cardinals
1918 Serves in Chemical Warfare Unit of U.S. Army
1919 Becomes field manager of Cardinals (retaining title of president)
1920 Sam Breadon buys a controlling interest in Cardinals, takes over as president, and demotes Rickey to vice-president
1925 Rogers Hornsby is named player-manager of Cardinals, replacing Rickey, who remains as vice-president and business manager
1942 Resigns as Cardinals GM and becomes president of Brooklyn Dodgers
1944-45 Rickey and associates Walter O'Malley and John Smith acquire controlling interest in Dodgers
1945 Rickey announces plan (later acknowledged to be a ruse to obscure his real intentions) to form Brown Dodgers team as Brooklyn's entry in proposed new Black United States Baseball League
1945 Signs Kansas City Monarchs shortstop Jackie Robinson to minor league contract
1947 Announces that Dodgers have purchased Robinson's contract from Montreal farm team
1950 Resigns as president of Dodgers. Named executive vice-president and general manager of Pittsburgh Pirates
1955 Steps down as Pirates GM and moves into advisory role with team
1959 Resigns as CEO of Pirates and becomes president of proposed Continental League (which disbands in 1960 without playing a game)
1962 Rejoins Cardinals as senior consultant for player development
1964 Fired from consulting job with Cardinals
1965 Collapses on November 13 while giving speech in Columbia, Missouri and dies on December 9

On August 18, 1945, Rickey met with Robinson, who had been scouted by a Dodger scout, Clyde Sukeforth, and was immediately impressed with Robinson's intelligence, character, and demeanor. Rickey delivered to Robinson an impassioned discourse on the abuse Robinson would face as baseball's first black player and why he believed Robinson had to take the abuse without retaliation. "You will symbolize a crucial cause," Rickey said. "One incident, just one incident, can set it back twenty years.… I'm looking for a ballplayer with enough guts not to fight back." On October 23, 1945, Rickey signed Robinson to a contract with the Dodgers' minor league affiliate in Montreal. On April 10, 1947, he made the epochal announcement that Robinson, after an outstanding year at Montreal, was being promoted to the Dodgers roster.

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Famous Sports StarsBaseballWesley Branch Rickey Biography - Raised On A Farm, Tentative Steps In The Big Leagues, Becomes Major League Executive, Develops Farm System - SELECTED WRITINGS BY RICKEY: