1. Branch Rickey (Dodgers)
Without Branch Rickey, the world of baseball would be a very different looking place. Of course, most famously, Rickey signed Jackie Robinson, breaking baseball’s long-standing color barrier, but that’s just one of many contributions and integral changes Rickey brought to baseball. In addition to signing Robinson, Rickey drafted Roberto Clemente, baseball’s first Hispanic superstar.
Perhaps his biggest innovation was the creation of the farm system. As general manager of the Cardinals in the early 1920s, Rickey invested in several minor-league teams and used them to develop talent for St. Louis. Under his watch, the Cardinals became one of the best clubs in baseball and soon every team was using his minor-league farm system idea. Rickey’s Cardinals won four World Series titles before he left to become president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, where he also became part owner.
While in Brooklyn, Rickey continued to come up with innovations that shaped the game into what it is today. He created the first full-time spring training facility and even pioneered sabermetrics when he hired a statistician as a full-time analyst for the Dodgers in 1947. He was onto the value of on-base percentage long before Bill James came along.
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