Watching Harrison Ford, longtime exec thought: 'That is Branch Rickey'

Harrison Ford may well win awards for his portrayal of Branch Rickey in the movie 42.

He's already won words of praise from someone who knew Rickey.

"That was Branch Rickey," Art Stewart said Friday, a day after attending the premiere of 42. "He had him to a T. He had him, down to the way he chewed the cigar out of the side of his mouth. He imitated him to perfection.

"I thought Rickey was reincarnated."

Stewart, the longtime Royals executive, was just getting started in his baseball career when Rickey was finishing his. Stewart never worked for Rickey, but the two crossed paths a few times, including at the 1960 World Series, when the Yankees (Stewart's team then) played Rickey's former team, the Pirates.

Stewart remembers well gathering around Rickey's table at the pre-Series gala, listening in as Rickey talked about baseball.

"He was 60-70 years ahead of his time," Stewart said. "A lot of people don't know it, but he started using video back in the '50s. He said back then that someday there would be 30 teams. And, of course, he started the farm system.

"I remember someone asking him how you can go to school to learn how to scout. He said, 'That's a God-gifted talent.' He said the toughest thing in baseball is to put on paper what a boy at 17 is going to be like when he's 22."

Stewart, now in his 61st year in baseball, also remembers going to Wrigley Field to watch Jackie Robinson play as a rookie in 1947. He remembers seeing fights in the stands that day, and a tense atmosphere among the fans.

He would see Robinson play many more times.

"He was electrifying to watch," Stewart said. "Rickey Henderson was a great leadoff hitter, but the way Jackie played, he could electrify an entire ballpark."

But Stewart didn't know Robinson. He did know Branch Rickey.

And when he watched 42, he felt like he had just seen Rickey again.

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