Branch Rickey on Washington Nationals' Manager Davey Johnson: Nats' Skipper In Library Of Congress

Win McNamee

Nearly half a century after it was written, Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson learned today that former Brooklyn Dodgers' President and GM Branch Rickey had once recommended to the St. Louis Cardinals, in his role as a special advisor, that the Cards try to trade for Johnson, who was then a 21-year-old minor leaguer.

Best known as the President and GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers who was instrumental in breaking baseball's "color barrier" when he signed Jackie Robinson and brought Robinson up to make his Major League debut on April 15, 1947, Branch Rickey would remain in baseball even after he left his position with the Dodgers. In 1964, Rickey was serving as an advisor with the St. Louis Cardinals when he sent the following scouting report to Cards' GM Robert Lee "Bob" Howsam:

"Johnson, Dave: (Rochester Infielder)

"Tall, slim, right hander now playing second base. 21 years old. First year player. Good looking fielder. Good batting form. A major league possibility. Try to included him in any possible deal with Baltimore.

- Branch Rickey

cc - Mr. Robert L. Howsam

Johnson, then in his second pro season after signing with the Orioles in 1962, was a year away from making his MLB debut and in the process of putting together a .264/.345/.458, 29 double, 14 triple, 19 HR season with the O's Triple-A affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings. Some 49 years later, Johnson, who went on to play 13 season in the majors and manage for 17 more including this year in D.C., found out about the scouting report and told reporters about it today before he led the Washington Nationals into play against the Cincinnati Reds.

"I've got breaking news, boys and girls" Johnson said at the start of his pregame press conference, "[Nats' radio announcer] Charlie [Slowes] through [Special Assistant to the Nats' GM Mike Rizzo] Harolyn [Cardozo] gave me a little thing that made my day. Branch Rickey liked me and he recommended to the Cardinals, I guess, that if they had a trade with the Orioles back in [1964] to include me in it."

"Branch Rickey liked me and he recommended to the Cardinals, I guess, that if they had a trade with the Orioles back in [1964] to include me in it." - Davey Johnson on Branch Rickey scouting report

Mr. Slowes explained that he'd been at the Library of Congress in the nation's capital where he saw the note, which is currently on display. "So," Johnson said jokingly, "Me and Jackie [Robinson] had something in common." Branch Rickey liked them both.

"I'm in high cotton," Johnson said after learning about the report, clearly pleased to learn about this piece of history. A half-century later a scouting report from Branch Rickey made the 70-year-old Nats' manager's day.

Branch Rickey's papers are currently on display in the Library of Congress. Here's a snapshot of the scouting report via @NationalsPR via @BettyLupi on Twitter:

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