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Collection By Popular Demand: Jackie Robinson and Other Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s

Transcript of interview with Branch Rickey by Davis J. Walsh


(Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Branch Rickey Papers)

This excerpt covers Branch Rickey's ideas about his role in breaking the color line in baseball, some of why and how he did it, and his expectation that all leagues will be integrated in 1956. (For additional information on the Branch Rickey Papers, you can leave this site and read a summary catalog record for the collection.)

Davis: Well, now this one day - or two inning strike on the part of Arky Vaughn would you like to go into that at all, the reason behind it -

Rickey: Well, that would be a long story and it involved the manager and involved a temporary upset in which Arky was disaffected and decided he would quit and he changed his mind and was very -

Davis: You feel that going into the details might needlessly -

Rickey: Oh it isn't involved here - I don't think you would want that, Davis - I don't think so -

Davis: I see - well, then let's get to Jackie Robinson - that's one of the high points of your career certainly, if not the highest, you broke the colored line in baseball, how far do you want to discuss that?

Rickey: Well, I have so many angles, I think it is in the course of permanent solution - I am deeply gratified if it has had any effect at all upon solving even in the slightest detail our race problem in this country - it has come out I think agreeably and it's good that it was done - I'm glad I did it - but I don't know how to go into the matter to discuss it with any fairness at all - there were many questions involved there, in the solution of it and its a very long story - I think that the negro in baseball has come into a prominent place in the life of baseball in this country and I don't believe that there will be any League in the United States that will not be willing to employ negro players within the next year or so - I look for a complete break of the color line in the Southern Association in the year 1956 -

Davis: You went into the Robinson thing with me rather briefly earlier in this recording and -

Rickey: I think I did - yes

Davis: Possibly that may be the answer to the entire question that I put to you

Rickey: If it becomes important at any time - any specific questions that you would want to ask - I would try to answer them

Davis: Well, it was a great thing for you that Robinson turned out to be a great player, don't you think?

Rickey: I was very positive about that before I employed him - that I had to be sure about -

Davis: It could have resulted disastrously

Rickey: It was a wild experiment - playing for publicity - I didn't want that - I can not say that deeply down and indirectly I had in mind the overall effect of the employment of a negro - I was not out primarily to solve the race question in America - I felt that it did have a direct impact upon it - and that it would be healthy and particularly so if Robinson vindicated his choice and he did

Davis: Well long before you ever heard of Robinson you had this feeling

Rickey: Yes, I did indeed - very deeply

Davis: If a negro could play Major League baseball - he should play

Rickey: The utter injustice of it always was in my mind - in St. Louis a negro was not permitted to buy his way into the Grandstand - you know that - and it has only been in recent years that he has been permitted to go into the Grandstand and of course there was no negro player in baseball - I felt very deeply about that thing all my life and within a month after I went to Brooklyn I want to Mr. George McLaughlin and had a talk with him about and found he was sympathetic with my views about it

Davis: He was the Vice President of the Brooklyn Trust Co.

Rickey: He was - and we owed him over $800,000 - the Club did - when I went to Brooklyn and he was a man of wide importance in that community as well as a financier of note - he was President of the Brooklyn Trust Co.

Davis: He gave you support on Robinson

Rickey: He did - he certainly did - and then my Board did it - they supported me royally on it and

Davis: Looking back now - it's only - it isn't even 10 years

Rickey: Oh, no

Davis: Looking back now it seems a little absurd that all these maneuvers were necessary

Rickey: No - I wouldn't

Davis: Oh, yes they were necessary - today, as you say, every League in the Country even the Southern Association

Rickey: They will break the colored line this coming year without a question

Davis: So - here we are back

Rickey: I could have so much to say on that point and all of that story has not yet been told - and I don't believe that we can go into that very much at this time