Jackie Robinson deserves a ton of credit for breaking the color barrier in baseball, but credit is also deserved elsewhere including the man who signed him - Branch Rickey. Rickey's contribution to the game does not start and end with Jackie Robinson. He was one of the great innovators of the game.
Rickey started out as a ball player for the St. Louis Browns with very little success. He decided to go back to school and get his law degree at the University of Michigan. Upon graduation, he returned to the St. Louis Browns, this time as a manager and a role in the front office. During his time with the Browns, he signed future hall of famer George Sisler.
After just two years, he moved on to the crosstown Cardinals in 1919 in the same role. There he made investments in several minor league teams in order sign and develop future players, thus creating the farm system. Players he signed and became integral members of four World Series championships include: Pepper Martin, Dizzy Dean, Joe Medwick, Enos Slaughter, Stan Musial and Marty Marion. His management of players among the parent club, Cardinals, and the minor league teams is now known as a general manager's role.
In 1943, the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Rickey as a general manager. Of course here is where is best known for signing Jackie Robinson. Helping break the color barrier was not his only contribution to the game during his stay in Brooklyn. He created a spring training camp for his players and also invented batting cages and helmets. Rickey was also first person to use statistical analysis to scout players. As a result, he discovered that a player's on base percentage is more important than his batting average. Rickey also started use the platoon role for his players to maximize his talent and team's success.
The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Rickey away from the Dodgers in 1950. While with Pittsburgh, he signed future hall of famer Roberto Clemente from Brooklyn and layed down the foundation that led to the 1960 World Series championship.
As you can see, Branch Rickey's impact did not only affect individual teams but the game itself. Many things we take for granted nowadays, was an idea of Branch Rickey.