There was a post yesterday on Branch Rickey, the baseball general manager who masterminded the integration of baseball and signed Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and others to his Brooklyn Dodgers roster. Rickey was an enigmatic figure, occupying some uncanny valley of reality in search of a Paradise Lost. The wavy cigar, the piercing eyes of a lawyer, and a puritanical, evangelical quality where he could give members of the famous “Gashouse” gang in St. Louis a lecture on sex. A bizarre American figure who perhaps changed America on a less than noble pretext. Money.
St.Louis was apparently a corrupt and backward city in the 1930′s and 40′s- Some think its still run sleazily today- and there was no chance the Cardinals were going to bring in Black ballplayers, a pie in the sky idea. Besides, they were worried fans would burn down the stadium. Besides, besides, Rickey had created a great farm system, somewhat inspired on the Slave Plantation model and he made a cut, a healthy commission on any body sold to another team.
Rickey was always apparently at the heart of disputes over money. As a lawyer, he was ripping off the players who were without agents, and could barely read or write. What Jimmy Breslin called basically “hillbillies with good eyesight.” White trash worried they’d be pumping gas in the deep south if Blacks were allowed to compete for their jobs. I take the analogy with of all people, Werner Fassbinder, and his “fear its the soul” quote in his film with the black, “exotic” other. Ali or in Maria Braun shows the conflict and trauma that arises when integration, in this case erotic happens.
…Leo Durocher ( from his autobiography).Its kind of a weird that Rickey would have this ability to be shocked by what he considered to be moral transgressions when he was constantly involved with ballplayers who universally drank, smoked and visited whorehouses at home and on the road:
Branch Rickey once said of me that I was a man with an infinite capacity for immediately making a bad thing worse.
Carve it on my gravestone, Branch. I have to admit it’s sometimes true.
As far as Rickey was concerned, I was sometimes able to make a bad situation worse even when I’d have sworn I was making it better. During the last year of the war, when the Dodgers were playing anybody who could fit our uniforms, one of the fittees was Tom Seats, a left-handed pitcher who had labored through the years in the minors, not wholly without success. A year earlier, he had been doing his bit by working in an airplane factory in San Diego. Pitching only over the weekend, he had won 25 games in the Pacific Coast League.