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Friends of the Sacramento Library were given a piece of baseball history in a Bible, once owned by Branch Rickey, when he was the general manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1953. "Rickey's Bible" will be on public display next month in honor of Black History Month, at the central branch of the Sacramento Public Library downtown, 828 I Street.
31 different signatures, including manager Fred Haney, Hall of Fame member Ralph Kiner, and broadcaster Joe Garagiola, are inscribed on the first page, along with "Pirates 1953" written across the top in blue ink.
Branch Rickey is best known for breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson in 1945. Two years later, Robinson played with the Dodgers, ending segregation in Major League Baseball. "All his peers opposed him, every one of them," Branch Rickey said. "But he had a conviction to do this."
Branch Rickey also managed the St. Louis Cardinals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and did have a number of connections to Sacramento earlier in his career, according to local baseball historian Alan O'Connor. Rickey purchased the Sacramento Solons – the precursor to the River Cats – in 1935.
"He was on Riverside and Broadway all the time, watching players and talking to people," O'Connor said.
Sportswriter Jim Murray said that he could recognize a great player from the window of a moving train.
Wesley Branch Rickey was born December 20, 1881 in Lucasville, Ohio, and died December 9, 1965, in Columbia, Missouri.
In his younger days he played for the St. Louis Browns (1905-1906, 1914), and New York Highlanders (1907). Rickey invented the modern farm system with the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1920's and '30's, promoting a new way of training and developing players. Later with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he pioneered the utilization of baseball statistics. Branch Rickey also introduced batting helmets to big league baseball, helping develop and promote the protective headgear. Rickey's many achievements and deep Christian faith earned him the nickname "the Mahātmā."
Two years after his death he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in1967.
Editor's Note: The headline and first paragraph have been edited to reflect the accurate spelling of Pittsburgh.