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Wesley Branch Rickey was born in 1881 in America and he is recognized for having devised the farm system of training ballplayers. He was president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and in 1945, he made the most outstanding achievement in his life by breaking a race barrier that existed between black and white people. He made this achievement by signing a contract with Jack Robinson, who was the first black major league player. Rickey was the innovative Major League Baseball executive and his intellectual contributions in the field of baseball cannot be ignored. This paper focuses on Rickey’s achievements in breaking the race barrier in the field of baseball and his attempts to create the framework for the minor league farm system. The paper shows the importance of the career of Branch Rickey in the field of baseball.
Rickey’s passion for baseball developed since the high school. In fact, his tutors were amused by his idealism about the role of athletics in a school system. His baseball career grew gradually, and he started it as a catcher on the baseball team at Ohio Wesleyan University. He kept training in the university and later managed to play in the main level leagues. Later, Rickey retired as a player after injuring his throwing arm when he was playing for the New York Highlanders. His experience in baseball as a player was the pillar of his career (Rader, 2008).
The Farm System Innovation
As soon as the new century dawned, Rickey developed an idea to make peace between the American league and the National League. After making peace, they established comfortable competitive relations to see who will be the best one in acquiring talents. Rickey’s idea, concerning the farm system, was the thing that could bind the minor leagues with the major leagues. This agreement allowed major teams to buy players from minor leagues, and it put in place legitimate procedures, following which these people could compensate the minor leagues. The nature in which the system worked was particularly advantageous to baseball, since it enhanced competition. The competition spirit that was begun by Rickey is the same one that exists today. Therefore, his discovery and innovation into the field of baseball deserves to be recognized by all baseball practitioners.
To try the effectiveness of the farm system, Rickey started buying players from various minor clubs and brought them to the St. Louis Cardinals. Rickey took this highly beneficial step since it allowed him to control the assets of each team and move players between these leagues whenever it was necessary. This was beneficial to the Cardinals since they could play comfortably against the teams, which had richer owners, who could easily invest in buying players from smaller teams. Rickey had a supremely intelligent character, and when he was devising the firm system he developed a mechanism in which he could get the right to exchange and recall players at a fee (Peterson, 1970). Sometimes the fee was indirect, since he used to give the clubs money to operate and other basic stabilizing amenities so that they could make him enjoy this privilege. The privilege to recall and return players at will is the first step towards shaping the stability of the players of a team and its performance.
Rickey’s Cardinals had reached the class of the national league by 1930. His Cardinals were known as the Gang House. Having won 101 games in 1931 and the worldwide series in seven games, Rickey’s players exceedingly motivated him and his career at large. In fact, in 1931, the star of the World Series was the crew member of Rickey’s baseball club. He recruited minor leagues into the national league. However, this did not go well with Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was baseball`s first commissioner. His concern was that Rickey’s minor league system would ruin the baseball game. According to him, this would destroy the existing minor league teams.
After being the team’s manager for more than six years, Sam Breadon, a business person in St Louis, bought a controlling interest in the St Louis Cardinals. Breadon and Rickey had opposite opinions in terms of the baseball club priorities. Despite this fact, they managed to devise the farm system, which is the most successful baseball franchise. This system, which was originally introduced by Rickey, was copied by almost every leading league team in the United States. This is a marvelous achievement for Rickey in the field of baseball. His long-term experience in his baseball career made him have undisputable skills and ultimate excellence in the field of baseball as an executive.
This system enhanced the main league teams to forego the working agreements with minor leagues at various levels, without the fear that rival teams would outdo them financially when it comes to bidding. This is because, at that time, the minor league teams` owners could sell their players to the major league club which will offer more money for those players. The farm system enhanced easy and fast training of the players, and it has a direct impact on the players` performance (Tygiel, 2000). The idea of buying players has also been incorporated by other sporting activities today. For example, football clubs today open transfer windows so that they can freely buy the players they want. This shows that, even if Rickey came up with this idea many years ago, it is still used in baseball and other sporting activities.
Breaking the Color Barrier
Rickey always wanted to develop integration in baseball. However, he experienced challenges that came along racial lines. In fact, when he was coaching at the Ohio Wesleyan University, his own black player didn`t get a chance to enter a Hotel in South Bend, Indiana. Being a virtuous man, Rickey got annoyed by this ordeal and he was motivated to revolutionize and fight for the rights of black players to get a chance to play in the major leagues. His dream became real when he signed a contract with Robinson, the first African-American baseball player in major league.
The most memorable achievement of Rickey is breaking the color barrier and ending traces of racism in Major baseball league. This had been an unwritten rule since the 1880s that the blacks should not participate in the Major national baseball league. This policy had become heredity under the succession of baseball leaders, and no one bothered to change it. Rickey realized that black and white people should be equal both before the law, and in sports (Sullivan, 1997). Landis is one of the foremost baseball executives who worked before Rickey, and he argued that blacks did not get permission to play baseball for legitimate reasons. This shows that the baseball leaders did not give black people even a chance to exploit their talents on the baseball field. Landis died in 1944, and Rickey started fighting for the rights of the blacks and against discrimination.
The first activity that marked Rickey’s progress was when he managed to sign Robinson to a minor league contract. Robinson was a former player of the Negro Leagues` Kansas City Monarchs. Rickey drew the ire of Robinson's former team—the Kansas City Monarchs—when they received no compensation for Robinson's signing. On 23rd October, 1945, it was announced that Robinson would join the Montreal Royals, the Dodger’s International League affiliate.
In 1946, Robinson managed to secure a glorious victory for this team. This was a significant motivation to Rickey, and it servers as one of his most outstanding benefits that resulted from his management skills. The club owners had noticed the potential of the black players, but they did not want to violate the unwritten law that existed at those times, banning African Americans from participating in both minor and major baseball leagues. During that time, Rickey talked to Robinson, confessing that he anticipated the whites` resistance and criticism to opening the baseball doors to Negroes. Rickey’s’ prediction was remarkably true, and Robinson faced discrimination from fans, players, and teammates. This was a singularly discouraging beginning for Rickey (Melville, 2001). Rickey advised Robinson to be patient and endure the treatment he was receiving from all ends. This is because Rickey had noticed that Robinson was the person holding the chances and a future dream for blacks to participate in the United States baseball league.
Before 1940, the Black press and other social activists had campaigned terribly for racial integration in baseball. The World War II was also one of the reasons why Americans became prompted to question segregation practices around the world. The case of baseball was not different. Rickey inspired racial intolerance and economic factors around other fields as well. His step to end racial segregation in baseball was a singularly instrumental one in shaping the future of America without racism, especially in the field of sports. When he worked for the Cardinals, Branch Rickey was also not pleased with the fact the blacks were banned from grandstanding to watch baseball leagues. Rickey made an outstanding achievement in changing the irrational thinking patterns which club owners had, concerning the black players. This is because some club owners thought that the whites would lose interest in watching a game, where black players played (Heaphy, 2003).
In 1942, Rickey joined the Dodgers began bringing black players to the team. The first black baseball players suffered extreme public scrutiny from the whites. Therefore, this was a formidable challenge to Rickey. This forced him to choose only the players who had a natural talent and were performing extremely good in baseball. Therefore, Rickey looked for strong individuals who could be tolerant to insults and unfair treatment and at the same time who would avoid open confrontation when discriminated. Robinson suffered from racism, especially at away games, but he continued being aggressive to exploit his talent. Through Robinson, the dream of blacks to play baseball in major leagues was fulfilled. Rickey fought against racism in baseball to a moderate perspective (Frommer, 2003). The achievement of Rickey in ending discrimination in baseball is a prominent landmark in the American baseball today.
Rickey’s Threat to Create the International League and its Effects on Promoting Baseball
Branch Rickey tried to cause a revolution in baseball by starting up a new league. He had an intention of promoting and creating new baseball clubs in cities. His intention was extremely influential on the development of baseball, since the owners of these teams cut him off at the pass, agreeing to expand each league by two teams and increasing the length of the baseball season from 154 games to 162. This threat caused both expansion and shift in the field of baseball. The two existing leagues promised to add more teams, and this caused baseball expansion in America (Melville, 2001). During this time, many teams were formed, and the National League expanded its number of teams. Therefore, Rickey’s threat to form a new league was a very instrumental aspect in beginning a baseball revolution in the United States.
Another contribution of Rickey in the field of baseball is Spring Training. He devised a system, using which his players could train during the spring season. Though spring training was not Rickey’s initial idea, he played a dominant role in revolutionizing this idea. After the World War II, Rickey was working for Brooklyn Dodgers and he bought an old military base in Vero Beach, which he used to train his players during the spring season. This was a highly convenient location since it had favorable weather. The weather conditions in Brooklyn were not particularly conducive for training.
Also, this was an appropriate time of the year to train the players considering that it was before the start of the season. This idea, revolutionized by Rickey, is copied by many baseball clubs today. In fact, most baseball clubs today train during the spring season to equip the players with relevant skills and make them adapt to the pressure they will face once the season begins. The innovation of Branch Rickey in the field of baseball did not end there. He later came up with innovated training techniques for his players (Houck, 2006). These techniques include batting cages, sand pits for practicing slides and pitching contraptions that tested a player’s ability to throw strikes. To make sure that his players retained the required shape and fitness for the game, he applied cutting edge exercises and routines. These techniques and innovations are a potent contribution to the field of baseball today. In fact, baseball today cannot be effective without these training techniques. Most of the techniques used in the field of baseball are techniques that borrow the fundamentals of the techniques introduced by Branch Rickey.
Rickey was tremendously successful in breaking the race problem that existed in America during his time. This contribution was highly critical in developing the freedom of African Americans even in other life facets apart from baseball. This is the most essential contribution of his leadership as a baseball manager in the United States (Covell, 2007). He developed the fundamental role of Negros in the baseball life. His contributions to end racism also got used as a stepping stone in other sporting activities in America at that time. Therefore, he is a powerful founder of the stable basis, on which baseball embeds today.
It is unequivocally vivid and clear that the importance of Branch Rickey in the field of baseball cannot be overlooked. Rickey fought relentlessly against the challenge of racism and he finally managed to enhance the performance of African American players in American Major Baseball leagues. The farm system has appeared to be one of his key innovations in the field of baseball to facilitate stability of baseball leagues. The basics of the farm system are still used today. As it appears in this paper, baseball leaders should be innovative and work hard to fight possible barriers in their career. The leaders of baseball today should emulate the spirit that was set by Branch Rickey, and improve the world’s performance of baseball, eliminating racism in the institution of baseball. The techniques in the field of baseball today should also be improved.