Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Branch Rickey Baseball Book Review

Lee Lowenfish nailed the title perfectly. "Baseball's Ferocious Gentleman" is the perfect name for Branch Rickey.

I finished reading this book after the Lee Lowenfish author event at my local book story. I really enjoyed the event and the book. The Branch Rickey story weaves through the three pillars of Rickey's life: Religion, Family, and baseball. You have to know all three in order to understand Rickey.

The book begins with Rickey learning Latin in order to gain entrance into Ohio Wesleyan University. During his OWU days he witnessed an event that fueled his passion to bring Jackie Robinson to the majors. As passionate as Rickey was about baseball, it always took a backseat to religion. Rickey, to the dismay sometimes of his superiors, never worked on Sundays. This included his time as a St. Louis Browns manager, Cardinals team president, Dodgers GM, and Pirates executive.

Rickey's baseball achievements are legendary. Obviously he brought Jackie Robinson to the majors but he also developed the modern day farm system, and laid the foundation for some of baseball's most legendary teams: Cardinals, Dodgers, and Pirates.

In an odd "6 degrees of separation" game, Rickey employed Fred Wilpon's wife as his secretary when he was working on the Continental League. It is the threat of this league, and the working with William Shea that helped bring the NY Mets in 1962.

Out of 600 pages, my only complaint with the book is the ending. Rickey's life ends while speaking at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and so does the book and so does the book. I wanted to know more about Rickey's legacy. I would have like to have read about the success of farm systems, Jackie Robinson foundations, the Branch Rickey sports facilities at OWU, where he's buried, and how the press and his teams reacted to his passing.

Otherwise I recommend it. It's a great book and a fascinating read for any baseball history fan. Be sure to set aside time!

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