Allen: Branch Rickey scouting reports now available in digital form

From Scott Allen at the Washington Post on April 3, 2018:

Branch Rickey is most famous for helping break Major League Baseball’s color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to a minor league contract while he was general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945, but he was also partly responsible for bringing fellow future Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente to Pittsburgh.

Rickey was working as the general manager for the Pirates, who were coming off their third consecutive 100-loss season, in 1954, when Pittsburgh used the first pick in the annual rookie draft to select Clemente. (The Dodgers had signed Clemente earlier in the year, but he was left unprotected in the draft because Brooklyn hadn’t kept him on its major league roster all season.) Rickey wasn’t overly impressed with Clemente the first time he saw him play after the draft, and recommended the outfielder spend the 1955 season in the minor leagues.

“I have been told very often from many sources about his running speed. I was sorely disappointed in it,” Rickey wrote in January 1955 after watching Clemente play a winter league game in Puerto Rico. “His running form is bad, definitely bad, and based upon what I saw tonight, he has only a bit above average major league running speed. He has a beautiful throwing arm. He throws the ball down and it really goes places. … His form at the plate is perfect.”

Clemente played 124 games with the Pirates in 1955, the first of his remarkable 18-season career. The scouting report on Clemente is one of about 1,750 written by Rickey in the 1950s and 1960s that were recently digitized by the Library of Congress. The collection, which is not yet fully searchable, reveals how blunt Rickey often was in his assessment of minor leaguers in the 1950s.

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Originally published: April 3, 2018. Last Updated: April 3, 2018.