I’d never thought about Branch Rickey as a ball player until I saw this 1915 Cracker Jack card. And it made me wonder about his career as a player.
BaseballReference.com to the rescue, of course. It looks like Branch played a couple of years for the St. Louis Browns, ’05 and ’06, and then was with the Yankees in ’07. In ’05 he only had 3 at bats, and an 0fer. In ’06, his best season, he had 201 at bats and hit .284, with 3 home runs and 24 rbis.
In ’07 with the Yankees, 137 at bats, and .182 average, with no home runs and 15 rbis. Rickey was a marginal player, an outfielder and a catcher, who came down with a sore shoulder in ’06 and that basically was it. On June 28, 1907, the Washington Senators stole 13 consecutive bases against Rickey, and he reportedly stopped even bothering to throw to second by the end of the game, though I didn’t see any note about that in the press report I found.
Seems like the sports writer covering the game was awful generous to the Mahatma; he just needs to see more playing time, is all. “How can one expect anything else?”
There is, of course, a nice bio of Rickey on the SABR website. Rickey was a character. He was very religious and conservative, wouldn’t play ball on Sundays, and was also known as “El Cheapo” after coming to the Dodgers in ’43 and discarding aging players. He invented the farm system with the Cardinals and the spring training complex with the Dodgers.
And of course, he signed Jackie Robinson.