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On this Date in Cardinals History, June 6, 1920

On this date 92 years ago, the Cardinals made a monumental move that would change the course of the franchise and the foundation of baseball.

Team President Branch Rickey persuaded team owners to sell the Cardinals' longtime home, Robison Field, and to move across town to Sportsmans Park where the club would become tenants of the American League St. Louis Browns.

But it wasn't the change of scenery that was the big deal for the Birds. It was what the team did with the proceeds from selling its old ballpark.

Rickey spent the cash to create the first major league farm system. He invested in minor league clubs to create exclusive relationships between them and the big league Cardinals. The players on those minor league teams would belong to St. Louis and the Redbirds would stock them with prospects to be groomed to play in the big leagues.

Prior to that time minor league and major league teams acted independently of each other. If a minor league team found and developed a player a major league team wanted it would have to bid against all the other interested big league clubs to try to buy his rights.

In less than a decade the farm system started to produce, sending players like Pepper Martin, Dizzy and Paul Dean, Joe Medwick, Enos Slaughter, Johnny Mize and Stan Musial to St. Louis. The Cardinals used their newly found mine of talent to win the World Series in 1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944 and 1946 and the National League pennant in 1928, 1930 and 1943 before other teams could catch up.

During the ownership reign of Sam Breadon, who bought into the Cardinals in 1920 and sold them in 1947, the team won 2,470 games while losing 1,830 -- a .574 winning percentage.

Indeed, the Cardinals' farm system was so successful that not only did other team's copy it, they objected to St. Louis' head start. The Cardinals were found to be monopolizing talent with their far flung agreements with minor league teams and they were forced to pare down their farm.

But Rickey's innovation paved the way for the greatest era in Cardinals history. And it gave medium and small market clubs a chance to compete until the free agent ERA when talent again started to go not to the best developer of players but the teams with the deepest pocketbooks.

Although on a lesser scale, the farm system still has an impact today. It has morphed into the amateur draft which teams use to stock minor league clubs with talent to groom for the majors. But, instead of 20 or 30 minor league clubs being linked to a major league parent, these days it's six or seven.

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