In Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman, author Lee Lowenfish paints the definitive portrait of the Hall of Fame executive.
Image credit: Nebraska Press
For a definitive biography on the longtime St. Louis Cardinals executive, it is a very long book–one that took me a few weeks to read and then a few more to digest it and type out my thoughts.
While Rickey was not much of a player or manager, he excelled at running teams from the executive office. While most will remember him for breaking the color barrier and signing Jackie Robinson, it was while he was running the Cardinals from 1917 until the end of his contract in 1942 that The Mahatma developed the minor league system that all teams use today.
While I have not read biographies of Dizzy Dean or Rogers Hornsby yet, the Rickey biography goes into detail on how both players ended up being traded. It was not because of Rickey’s rule of trading a player one year early so as to get the maximum value in return but because of their behavior.
In the case of Johnny Mize, Rickey traded him way too early!
Rickey grew up in Ohio and eventually found his way to the University of Michigan, where he pursued a degree at law school. While there, he would become the coach of the Michigan Wolverines baseball team and start a long-term friendship with future Hall of Famer George Sisler, who he would sign for the St. Louis Browns. With the Browns, Rickey would meet Bill DeWitt, Sr.
One thing I did not know about Rickey until I read the book was that he would not play, manage, or attend any games played on Sunday due to his religious convictions.
I would absolutely recommend this book to those wanting to learn more about Rickey or the Cardinals.