I used to live in Boston, right behind Fenway Park. I’d hang out in my apartment, watch the first couple of innings Sox games on television, and then stroll to the park to get a ticket from scalpers for about ten bucks. There’s no shot of such a thing happening now since it’s 2016, the Red Sox are the Red Sox, and I live five hours away in New Jersey.
My live baseball fix these days isn’t quite as spectacular. I don’t get to see my favorite team, I can’t walk there, and it’s not even a major league contest. But the ticket is still really cheap. The sun feels the same even when factoring in global warming. And it’s a relaxing and sometimes religious experience just because it’s baseball. I’m close enough to make an easy drive to see the Lakewood Blue Claws though, the A-ball affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Without the first inductee into the Pioneer/Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric, this experience might not be possible. Sure, there would have been minor leagues, but there might not have been farm systems. Are you an Angels fan who loves Mike Trout? A Nationals fan who loves Bryce Harper? Are you a fan of Clayton Kershaw or Joe Mauer or David Wright or Dustin Pedroia? How about Andrew McCutchen or Evan Longoria or Joey Votto or Alex Gordon? These are guys who came to their big league clubs through farm systems. And such systems didn’t exist before Branch Rickey.
Rickey didn’t like competing for minor league talent with each of the other major league teams, so he decided he’d try to develop it himself. After some political struggle, it worked. Rickey’s Cardinals won nine pennants and six World Series from 1926-1946. The Yankees were the first American League team to embrace the idea. And when Rickey moved to the Dodgers in 1943, he brought his ideas to Brooklyn. Not surprisingly, the talent followed.
I could and probably should write about Jackie Robinson and the color line in this post. But you can find that information elsewhere. The contributions of our early inductees into the Pioneer and Executive wing of the HoME will be so great that you’re not going to learn much new reading these posts. So I’ll try to keep them interesting by offering my perspective on the candidates.
Eric thinks Branch Rickey might be the most important person in baseball history. I tuck him right behind Babe Ruth. Either way, he’s our Pioneer/Executive inductee. Next week we’ll reveal our second.