December 20 – Happy Birthday, Branch Rickey

Posted on December 20, 2014

A guy with a last name for a first name and a first name for a last name is famous not for the out-in-front starring stuff the public sees but rather the in-the-back stuff the public doesn't see.

Confused? I'll explain.

Branch Rickey when young
Ricky” is a pretty common nickname for a fellow named “Richard,” but “Rickey” is our birthday boy's last name (also called surname). His full name is Wesley Branch Rickey, but he didn't go by “Wesley,” which is another fairly common first name. Instead, he went by his middle name (which was probably a family surname): Branch.

And “Branch” just sounds like a part of a tree, doesn't it?

Rickey, born on this date in 1881, played Major League Baseball, which is something that has made many a fellow famous. But Rickey's fame didn't come from his stint as a player; instead, he made history—and found a place in the prestigious Baseball Hall of Fame—as a baseball executive.

Here's a short list of his biggest accomplishments:
  • Rickey broke the “color barrier” in Major League Baseball by recruiting and signing Jackie Robinson to play with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Before this act, there was an unwritten rule that black people couldn't play MLB, but instead had to stick to the “Negro Leagues.”
  • Rickey also drafted the first Afro-Hispanic superstar, Roberto Clemente.
  • He created the minor league farm system.
  • He encouraged MLB to add more teams.
  • He was an early adopter of the batting helmet, headgear designed to protect batters.

Celebrate Rickey's life by watching the stirring movie “42,” which is mostly about Jackie Robinson—but which features Harrison Ford playing the role of Branch Rickey.

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