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Nationals Top 5 Stories Of 2013: Branch Rickey On Davey Johnson

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

Patrick McDermott

In this year-ending Top 5 list, we look back at five stories that for one reason or another were our favorites from the 2013 season. They aren't necessarily the biggest stories of the year for the 2013 Washington Nationals, but more stories that we were happy to be there to cover or stories that were fun to write, were unique or for some other reason stuck with us when the season was over. No.1 on the list is from late April.

Before the second game of a four-game set with the Cincinnati Reds, Nats' skipper Davey Johnson arrived for the day's press conference with what he said was breaking news for the reporters gathered in Nationals Park. Johnson learned that day that included in an exhibit of Branch Rickey's papers at the Library of Congress, was a scouting report in which the one-time Brooklyn Dodgers' President and General Manager, in his role as a special advisor for St. Louis, had recommended the Cardinals try to trade for Johnson if they had the chance.

I'll include the audio below so you can hear the genuine excitement and enthusiasm in Johnson's voice when he shared the news, which is really why this story stuck out from a year's worth of writing. Here's the story we wrote on the quick, pre-press conference news he shared:

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 with a laugh, "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:

• AUDIO: Davey Johnson On Branch Rickey