Often referred to as “The Father of Modern Baseball,” Branch Rickey was one of FCA’s earliest and most prominent supporters. After a five-minute meeting with founder Don McClanen turned into an intense five-hour discussion, Rickey helped raise funds for the organization and gave the keynote address at the first FCA national conferece at Estes Park, Colo., in 1956. He continued to be a vocal advocate and prominent speaker for the ministry throughout the rest of his life.
After attending Ohio Wesleyan University, Rickey enjoyed a brief sports career as a football player in the Ohio League and a Major League Baseball player with the St. Louis Browns. He also coached football during this time at Allegheny College and his alma mater. Rickey then returned to college where he studied law and coached baseball at the University of Michigan. From 1913 to 1915, he was a front office executive with the Browns and managed the team for the latter two seasons.
Rickey’s baseball career was briefly interrupted from 1917 to 1919 when he served in the U.S. Army and, amongst other duties, commanded a chemical training unit during World War I. After his return, he went to work for the St. Louis Cardinals as team president and manager, but spent most of the next 23 years working in various areas of operations such as scouting, player acquisition and development, and business affairs. It was also during this time that Rickey was credited with inventing and building the first MLB farm system.
As a manager or executive, Rickey led eight teams to the World Series and won four championships (1926, 1931, 1934 and 1942). Along with his time in St. Louis, he also served as the general manager for Brooklyn and Pittsburgh. He most famously broke the color barrier when he signed Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers in 1947. Rickey also helped open the door for Latino players when he signed Roberto Clemente to the Pirates in 1955.
Considered one of the most innovative sports minds of the 20th Century, Rickey was the first general manager to utilize a full-time spring training facility, the first to incorporate air travel, and was an early proponent of equipment advances such as the batting helmet, batting cages, and pitching machines. He was also on the forefront of statistical analysis with the hiring of full-time statistician and analyst Allan Roth for the Dodgers in 1947.
Rickey has received numerous honors including induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, and the College Baseball Hall of Fame. He has often been depicted in television and film including The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), Soul of the Game (1996), and the blockbuster 42 (2013), in which Harrison Ford portrays the role of Rickey.