Tag Archives: Branch Rickey

Roger W. Smith, “Leo Durocher”; “Wesley Branch Rickey”


Leo Durocher – Notable Sports Figures

Branch Rickey – Notable Sports Figures


I am reposting here two articles (downloadable Word files above) I wrote in 2004 for Notable Sports Figures (published by the educational publishing company Gale) about two Hall of Fame baseball figures, Leo (The Lip) Durocher and Branch Rickey.

The word limit was very strict — 3,500 words — and both articles came in at almost exactly that length. Published authors writing for hire (for, say, newspapers or reference books) know how it can be a challenge to cover the topic and write prose that reads well while adhering to such a limit. The amount of research I did was extensive. People don’t usually realize or appreciate how much spade work goes into such a piece.


— Roger W. Smith

   December 2020

“I feel really great.”


“I feel really great,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s going to be a great discussion and, I think, tremendous success. I think it’s going to be really successful, and I think we will have a terrific relationship. I have no doubt.”


Donald Trump: windbag. One in a long line of them.

I was talking recently to someone I met in a Manhattan diner whose native language is not English. I said to her that it was a blustery day and asked if she knew what it meant. She said she didn’t.

It means very windy, I explained. One of those great words in our language for expressing a precise shade of meaning — it was indeed a blustery day.

I went on to explain, which amused my interlocutor, that blustery can also be used with the connotation of a kind of talk. The dictionary definition is as follows:

Bluster (noun): loud, aggressive, or indignant talk with little effect.

And, used as a verb: to talk in such a manner.



Famous blusterers of yore (including fictional characters):

Branch Rickey, the legendary General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. As Fritz Knapp related in his book Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey: Nobility, Rickey’s office was known to sportswriters (was so called by them) as “the cave of winds” because “he was so fond of pontificating on baseball and life.”

George Shinn, the mayor in The Music Man. Played unforgettably by the actor Paul Ford.

Phineas T. Bluster. A puppet character on the children’s television program Howdy Doody, which was required viewing for my friends and me in the 1950’s. Phineas T. Bluster, side-whiskers and all, the orator who never stopped his bluster, was one of my favorite characters.

Can you think of others? Shouldn’t be hard to.


— Roger W. Smith

    June 2018

Branch Rickey, James W. Bashford, Whittredge connection


In 2004, I wrote two fairly long articles for Notable Sports Figures, published by Gale, a reference book publisher based in Michigan.

The reference work focused on, included, articles about sports figures who had an impact on society or culture larger than just sports. My two articles were on Branch Rickey and Leo “The Lip” Durocher.

The article on Branch Rickey included the following paragraphs (italicized):

In March 1901, Rickey enrolled at Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) in Delaware, Ohio, a Methodist school. He had not been expected to go to college and had to talk his father into letting him attend. Rickey played on the OWU football and baseball teams in his freshman year. To help pay school costs, he also played baseball during summer vacation for a local semipro team, earning $25 a game. When he returned to school, Rickey found to his surprise that playing for money had caused him to lose his athletic eligibility. The president of OWU, Dr. James W. Bashford, gave Rickey a way to get back his eligibility by suggesting that he sign a paper denying the charges that he had played for money, but Rickey said he could not do so and attest to something that was false.

In the spring of 1903, the OWU baseball coach resigned and Bashford, who had been impressed by Rickey’s honesty and character in the loss of eligibility incident, asked Rickey, who was in his sophomore year, to take over as the school’s baseball coach. During his first season, Rickey witnessed a couple of notable instances of overt racism against the only black player on the OWU team, first baseman Charles Thomas. These incidents made an “indelible” impression on him.

The incident with Charles Thomas, the black first baseman on the OWU team, is recounted in biographies of Branch Rickey and in Paul Aron’s book, Did Babe Ruth Call His Shot? and Other Unsolved Mysteries of Baseball.

The first paragraph above of mine mentions James W. Bashford, president of Ohio Wesleyan University. Branch Rickey was, throughout his life, a devout Methodist.

It is an established fact that the family of our mother, Elinor Handy Smith (1918-1973) in Danvers, Mass. were Congregationalists. The roots of our father, Alan W. Smith’s 1917-1989), religious ancestry were Methodist.

On November 11, 1877, James Flint Whittredge, salesman, and Camelia Anna Moulton were married at the Harrison Square Methodist Episcopal Church on Parkman Street in Boston by Rev. James W. Bashford, the one and same person who became the president of Ohio Wesleyan University and who is mentioned above in connection with Branch Rickey’s student days there.

James F. Whittredge (1856-1938) and Camelia Moulton Whittredge (18580-1920) were the parents of Esther Whittredge Smith (1886-1970), the mother of our father Alan W. Smith. James F. Whittredge, was, therefore, the grandfather, on our paternal grandmother’s side, of our father, Alan W. Smith.


— Roger W. Smith

   December 2015