Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Sunday Funnies

Branch Rickey is known today for inventing the farm system, for his role in breaking the color barrier, for being a driving force behind expansion.

In his day, he was also known as a difficult man for players to pry a raise from.

Here's Preacher Roe of Arkansas, one of his Brooklyn players, describing contract talks with Rickey, as written in Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer:


You know about Mr. Rickey's dogs after I had mah first good year? 1949, I believe it was, I won 15 and lost only six. Led the league in winning percentage, I do believe.

Well, that winter I got back home and told myself, "Preach, you sure are a pretty good pitcher. Now it's time you made some pretty good money." So I set there, awaitin' for Mr. Rickey to send me my contract. And each day I waited, I thought I ought to have a little more. When that ol' contract finally came, I was gonna look for a comfortable sum.

Contract never did arrive in the mail. 'Sted, down the road one sunny winter day come Mr. Rickey himself, driving a station wagon and makin' a lot of dust. He pulled up and climbed out and joined me on the porch. The two of us set there a while, just rockin'.

Then Mr. Rickey says, "Preacher, you're a fine pitcher. You're a wonderful pitcher." I thank him, and we're still rockin'.

"Now Preacher," Mr. Rickey says, "I don't know what to do. I'm so proud of you, it's like you were my own son." I thank him again. "Preacher," he says, "what should I pay you? It's like paying my own son. But look, I brought you a present."

Just then a couple of hunting dogs jump out of the back of the wagon. "They're for you, Preacher," Mr. Rickey says. I sets to admirin' them, and Mr. Rickey gets up, and reaches in a pocket and hands me a paper. "By the way," he says, "here's your contract. The figure's blank. Fill in what you think is right, son."

After he'd gone, I commenced thinkin' what a fine thing he'd done and how much trust he put in me and I took that original figure I had and knocked a thousand dollars off it. Day or so later I go hunting. I run the dogs up and down the hills and bagged me a mess o' quail. Got back, thought some more. Knocked off another $2,500.

Went hunting again. Had the best day ever. Brought the dogs back into the yard, locked the gate and went out on the porch and commenced more thinkin'. All the great huntin' an' the great dogs and Mr. Rickey's trust made me ashamed to be greedy. I took that contract and filled in a number $10,000 below my original figure. I got up offa the porch and walked down to the corner and put the signed contract in the mail.

When I got home, those two huntin' dogs had jumped the fence and taken off. They didn't stop running till they got back to Mr. Rickey's house in Brooklyn.

1 comment:

  1. I love this segment of the blog! It's the first thing I look up each Sunday morning!