Play Ball!

It was on 20 December, 1881, that legendary baseball executive Branch Rickey was born in Ohio.

He earned an L.L.B. at the University of Michigan and served in the First World War as a Major in chemical warfare unit. A devout Christian, he frequently peppered his speech with Biblical references and quotations, which prompted some to jokingly refer to Rickey as “The Mahatma”.

He was responsible for the first full-time spring training facility, and was a pioneer in introducing the standard use of such things as the batting cage, pitching machines, and batting helmets.

Rickey is perhaps best remembered for signing Jackie Robinson, who would make his major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Robinson would be the first African-American to play on a major league baseball team.  There was no statute officially banning blacks from baseball, only a universally recognized unwritten rule which no club owner was prepared to break, until Rickey acted. Rickey took a personal interest in Robinson, telling him that for the plan to succeed, Robinson would have to be prepared to take every manner of abuse and hatred, both publicly and privately and even from his own teammates, but under no circumstances was he to act out or strike back. Robinson agreed.

Rickey died in 1965 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame two years later.