McMurray: Branch Rickey revolutionized baseball in more ways than one

From SABR member John McMurray at Investor’s Business Daily on April 12, 2017, with mention of SABR members Lee Lowenfish and Dan Levitt:

In October 1945, as he prepared to announce the signing of Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Branch Rickey visited his friend, the well-known broadcaster Lowell Thomas.

“Branch, all hell will break loose!” Thomas told Rickey, as recounted by Lee Lowenfish in “Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman.” “No, Lowell,” Rickey replied. “All heaven will rejoice.”

Rickey, then the Brooklyn Dodgers’ president and general manager, is remembered for his courage and foresight in breaking baseball’s color line, the unofficial racial barrier which had stood firmly since the late 1800s. Robinson played his first game as a major leaguer 70 years ago this week.

Rickey often said that he was drawn to the cause of racial equality when, in 1903, he observed Charles Thomas, the only black member of the Ohio Wesleyan University baseball team, being denied a hotel room in South Bend, Ind. “I never felt so helpless in my life,” said Rickey.

A 1949 Newsweek profile noted that Rickey spent “two intensely secretive years” considering the implications of breaking baseball’s color barrier, not even informing the Dodgers’ scouting department of his potential move.

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Originally published: April 13, 2017. Last Updated: April 13, 2017.