Posnanski: Branch Rickey’s uproarious, revealing scouting reports

From SABR member Joe Posnanski at MLB.com on April 12, 2018:

“Definite prospect. … If this fellow had been in the Confederate Army on July 3, 1863, he would have led Pickett’s Charge up Cemetery Hill — 40 yards in front of anybody, completely unarmed, but carrying the flag, and he would not have heeded the general’s order to retreat.” — Branch Rickey’s scouting report of a pitcher named Ken Barbao, 1952

As the years have gone by, Rickey has mostly been reduced to the man who signed Jackie Robinson and told him, “I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back.” Oh, it’s an extraordinary thing signing Robinson, the most extraordinary thing Rickey (or any other baseball executive) ever did.

But that one towering achievement makes it easy to overlook the simple truth that if Rickey had never signed Jackie Robinson, he would still be one of the five most influential people in baseball history. Rickey basically invented the Minor Leagues and Spring Training as we know them. He was the first to have batters hit off tees, and to have pitchers throw through wire strike zones. Rickey more or less started the modern baseball search for data and advanced analytics.

People have often gone on absurd goose chases to find a single person who invented baseball — the twin mythologies of Abner Doubleday and Alexander Cartwright have filled countless baseball history books.

But Major League Baseball in 2018 is essentially pulled from the mind of Rickey.

Read the full article here: https://www.mlb.com/news/branch-rickey-scouting-reports-key-in-history/c-271894752

Originally published: April 13, 2018. Last Updated: April 13, 2018.