BRANCH RICKEY: A Biography by Murray Polner


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The life (1881-1965) of the front-office mahatma who brought you the farm system, tryout camps, two great teams (the 1930s Cards and the '40s Dodgers), and Jackie Robinson--in a reverential pop bio that overworks Rickey's deep religious fundamentalism and underplays his canniness. A Methodist farm boy from Ohio, Rickey worked his way through school as a coach and a player--until his arm gave out and he contracted TB (a time ""of troubles and testing""). After flirting with the law, he went to the St. Louis Browns as second-in-command and field manager. Success came quickly; but a rift with the owner sent him over to the lackluster Cards, in 1916, as president. ""It was as an executive that he blossomed, his imagination stirred and his dreams proved fruitful."" There he created tryouts, the farm system, and the legendary 1934 Gas House Gang of Dean, Durocher, Martin, and Frisch--the first darlings of the media. Again he fell out with the powers-that-be, and in '42 wound up with the Dodgers where, among other things (like winning), he carefully orchestrated the debut of the first black major league player. ""For Branch Rickey, the simplest of truths was that God had indeed created all men and women equal."" For a third time he ran afoul of an owner--cagey Walter O'Malley, who didn't share Rickey's vision of the sport. Then, after five years with the Pirates, he retired to a consultancy--to reappear in 1959 as president of a new, third league: an ill-fated enterprise which did result in the creation of the 1960 expansion clubs. Fuller (especially on those later years) than Harvey Frommer's dual biography, Rickey and Robinson (p. 251)--but not as down-to-earth.

Pub Date: June 24th, 1982
ISBN: 0786426438
Publisher: Atheneum