Prior to Branch Rickey and the Dodgers signing Jackie Robinson they had to lay some groundwork. This included doing some scouting, and in order to disguise their intentions they got involved in the short-lived United States Baseball League.
What's that, you say?
In 1945, legendary and often controversial Negro League pioneer, William A. "Gus" Greenlee, started up the league in order to compete with the much more established Negro National and American Leagues. By this time he had been pushed out of those organizations, and he was looking for an avenue to get back in the game.
Now here's where the Dodgers get involved. Branch Rickey, no doubt recognizing an opportunity, immediately and publicly lent the Dodgers support to the effort in May of that year. Soon, the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers were born (well... moved from Hilldale to Brooklyn), and they would play their first season at Ebbets Field later that year.
Having a team right at home allowed them to scout players under the guise of the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers. In fact, some three months later the Dodgers would create history by signing Jackie Robinson in August of 1945. Soon thereafter, they would sign other players like Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe. (I should probably state that the Dodgers didn't actually own the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers, but that didn't stop them from sending scouts under their name)
As for the impetus for the aforementioned history lesson, check out an fantastic relic from the United States Baseball League above, as seen recently in an eBay auction. It is dated to May 28, 1946, and it is from league founder Gus Greenlee (then the VP) to the fans of the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers. In the body it celebrates the upcoming opening of the 1946 Baseball season. Check out the fantastic content below; including references to several recently signed Dodger players:
Brooklyn will see the dawn of a new day in Negro baseball when the United States Baseball League presents in its local league opening game at historic Ebbets Field, Sunday, June 9, 1946 the colorful Brooklyn Brown Dodgers versus the hustling Boston Blues. The first game of a double-header will start at 2:30 PM.Unfortunately, the United States Baseball League would fold up after the 1946 season, but its importance to the game should not be understated.
In addition to being the only authentic Negro League that follows the rules and regulations of organized major league baseball, the US Baseball league has a progressive and definite program for the development of the youths of your community. In this worthwhile effort we have been assured of the support of the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League, who gave history making opportunities to Jackie Robinson, John Wright, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, Roy Partlow and who have noe opened the same door of opportunity to the Brown Dodgers and your sons.
No doubt you will remember me as the originator of the four-club double headers in Yankee Stadium ('35); the East-West game in Chicago ('33) -- which outdrew the National and American All Star games on several occasions. So therefore, it is my desire, with your support and cooperation to make Brooklyn second to none in "Drawing power".
As Brooklyn holds an enviable spot in National Baseball circles, it is our desire that Brown Dodgers fans will likewise uphold the Brooklyn tradition of loyalty.
Yours in Sports,
W. A. Greenlee
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