Baseball scouting reports of one of the most famous baseball executives and scouts in history, Branch Rickey, who was also responsible for helping Jackie Robinson successfully break Major League Baseball’s color line, have been digitized and are now available online for the first time from the Library of Congress. The archive was digitized in time for Major League Baseball’s new season and for the Library’s new exhibition “Baseball Americana” opening June 29.
The collection includes about 1,750 baseball scouting reports from the 1950s and 1960s, documenting Rickey’s skill in analyzing various aspects of a player’s game and identifying some of the greats. The Rickey Papers are now online.
“I am really excited to connect fans of the game with this extraordinary history. The Library’s Branch Rickey Collection reveals on how he discovered some of baseball’s greatest players. His spot-on assessment of players will take fans and historians into the mind of a sports genius,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “This is a little preview of what is to come in our upcoming exhibition opening this summer, ‘Baseball Americana.’”
Some of the better-known players featured in the collection include Hank Aaron, Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays and Frank Robinson, among others. In addition to future Hall of Famers, Rickey also evaluated hundreds of players who had varying degrees of success.
Highlights of the Rickey Papers include:
- Rickey’s 1963 scouting report on Hank Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth’s long-standing home run record of 714 in 1974. Rickey wrote that Aaron was “surely one of the greatest hitters in baseball today” but also noted Aaron “is frequently a guess hitter.”
- A 1955 scouting report on Roberto Clemente, who amassed 3,000 hits in his Hall of Fame career for the Pittsburgh Pirates
- A report dated March 30-31, 1964, on future National Basketball Association great Dave DeBusschere, where Rickey predicted that DeBusschere “should become a corking good major league pitcher.”
- For Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, Rickey noted on March 14, 1964, “when trying out young p
layers… scouts and coaches would keep in mind Bob Gibson as a model for comparison and rate the prospect’s stuff accordingly.”
Rickey’s career earned him a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he defied easy categorization. One biographer concluded that “his writings revealed a man of tremendous intellect and indomitable drive,” but “appeared to be the man of ultimate paradoxes, a capitalist/moralist/competitor/do-gooder/visionary/reactionary.”
The scouting reports only make up a small portion of “The Rickey Papers”, a collection that consists of 29,400 items organized into dozens of containers. There are sections for family papers, general correspondence, baseball files, subject files, speeches and writings and miscellaneous.
The digitization of the Rickey Papers is part of a larger effort to make historical materials available online. Other newly digitized collections include the papers of U.S. Presidents James Buchanan, Ulysses S. Grant, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James K. Polk, and the papers of Alexander Hamilton, Margaret Bayard Smith, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.