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. . . the name Jackie Robinson likely comes up in response. One of the most famous pictures in American history is that of the proud and handsome Robinson signing a Brooklyn Dodgers contract with the avuncular bushy-browed Branch Rickey beaming alongside. Robinson has become such a rightful icon in American culture that his likeness appeared in a Gatorade commercial recently alongside such recognizable figures as Michael Jordan and everyone knew who he was – the man who broke the baseball’s color line, made American baseball open to everyone and really started the civil rights movement.

The story of the courage of Branch Rickey in signing Robinson and Robinson’s forbearance and great play on the field is a story that always is fresh and needs re-telling. Though one was black and the other white and one was a player and the other an owner, theirs was a unique partnership about adventure and example. It is one of the stories I tell in my biography Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman.

Yet there is so much more to tell about Rickey’s life. He could have been a top-notch lawyer – graduated University of Michigan law school in two years while serving as the baseball coach - or a renowned minister – his full name was Wesley Branch Rickey and he followed the John Wesley Rule of doing good as much as he good whenever he could. He was good friends with Norman Vincent Peale and believed in the message of “The Power of Positive Thinking” author. Another friend Billy Graham called him a “rarity – a man’s man and a Christian.”

Yet he fell in love with baseball at an early age growing up in the pretty but barren hills of southern Ohio. Even before he came to Brooklyn to run the Dodgers after the 1942 season, Branch Rickey had become a household name as the creator of the farm system that helped the St Louis Cardinals become a dominant National League team from 1926 through World War II. Developing their own from an early and inexpensive age, Rickey’s Cardinals won 6 pennants and four World Series with Rickey running the show. Only team in that period to beat the Yankees in the World Series too, 1926 and 1942. The Gashouse Gang of the mid-1930s was his most famous team – such colorful characters like Pepper Martin, Dizzy Dean and his brother Daffy, Ducky Medwick, Leo Durocher, to name a few. Rickey scouted them all, prodded them all and paid them all, not too much but in those days players didn’t know what each other made and getting a World Series share meant a lot.

I will be talking in the days ahead about Rickey’s three revolutions, the farm system, the integration of baseball, and his last revolution that didn’t succeed, his leadership of a third major league, the Continental League in the late 1950s. Its failure did lead to expansion of major league baseball for the first time in over a half-century. Because of Rickey’s presence such teams as the New York Mets, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins and California Angels came into a being.

If you love baseball as I do and Rickey did, check in this blog for my observations on how the three Rickey revolutions of the farm system, racial integration and expansion still resonate in today’s baseball. What would Rickey think of today’s game? “My greatest thrill in baseball hasn’t happened yet,” is what he said at the start of the Continental League. I think he would stay the same thing today. --Lee Lowenfish, author of BRANCH RICKEY: Baseball's Ferocious Gentleman

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