Branch Rickey, Overqualified Scout

Stephen Dunn

Earlier this week I visited the Library of Congress, hunting for information about a certain figure within the Branch Rickey Papers. I didn't find a scrap of the information I sought, but the search was no less fascinating. Among the more interesting batches of material were hundreds of scouting reports that Rickey wrote while working as a sort of minister-without-portfolio for the Cardinals in the early 1960s.

And I wish I could have read every single one of them, because of things like this:

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A few other gems ...

Rickey on Mike Shannon in 1962:

I think SHANNON should be put out for a year. If he hits a fly ball he loafs to first. And on the bases, he assumes that the player whatever it is is going against him and is nonchalance to play.

Oddly, just the day before, Rickey wrote this about Shannon:

I don't know how this boy can handle the fast ball on the outside. Only one other boy in this camp stands as far away as Shannon, and he's a pitcher.

This boy has power, very ample, and a corking arm. He ought to have an outstanding year with Atlanta in 1963 and I will not be surprised if he is not ready for the Cardinals in 1964 and the same thing goes for outfielder Clemens.

In the event, Shannon played very little in 1963 because his wife was ill and couldn't care for their three young children. But he established himself with the big club in '64 -- just as Rickey expected -- playing key roles for the Cardinals' pennant-winning club that season, and also in 1967 and '68. His career ended prematurely by a significant health issue, Shannon moved into the broadcast booth in 1972 and he's been there ever since.*

* Outfielder (Doug) Clemens didn't fare quite as well.

Rickey on Earl Battey in 1963:

A big colored catcher. Looks overweight, but has remarkable action. Quick and has power at the plate, plenty of it. Looks like he likes to play. I can imagine him in a World Series.

An odd tag, but prescient; in 1965, Battey started all seven games for the Twins in the World Series. Then again, this report's not exactly an example of Rickey's famous brilliance. When he wrote this one, Battey had already won three Gold Gloves and twice been an all-star.

That Sparky Anderson report was my favorite. Here's my second-favorite, on two-time (at the time) author Jim Brosnan:

Tall right hand pitcher. Let him write.

... and I just realized that when I hear those words in my head, they're spoken by Harrison Ford.

Stupid movies. Taking over my brain and stuff.

The scouting reports are fantastic, though, and I'm hoping to go back soon and copy all of them. Unless the Hall of Fame beats me to it. Which they really should, because of this.

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