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Roy Tucker
04-13-2007, 02:12 PM
I thought this was an excellent and thought-provoking article at USA Today that touches on race, class, and where the US is in 2007.

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/2007-04-12-robinson-1a-legacy_N.htm



Is Jackie Robinson's legacy fading after six decades?
By Mike Dodd, USA TODAY

On Sunday, when more than 200 Major League Baseball players wear No. 42 jerseys to honor the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in the national pastime, it will be a reminder of past promises and a troubling present.

The commemoration of Robinson's historic debut will recall an elaborate ceremony 10 years ago, when MLB retired Robinson's number across the majors and Commissioner Bud Selig emphasized baseball's push to hire more minorities.

Sunday's tributes also will put a spotlight on an uncomfortable question for baseball: Is Robinson's legacy within the game fading?

The percentage of African-Americans in the majors has dropped sharply during the last decade and now is the lowest it has been since the 1960s 8.3%, or 72 players on opening-day rosters, according to a USA TODAY study that includes injured players.

The percentage of blacks in key front-office, managing and coaching positions hasn't increased during the last decade. Even MLB's central office, with about 470 employees mostly in New York, has a smaller percentage of blacks than it did in 1997. However, two of MLB's five executive vice presidents positions created since 1997 are black.

Robinson, who kept crusading for equal opportunity for the disadvantaged after his playing career ended in 1956, probably would not accept this situation, his widow says.

"He was always impatient for change and a fighter for change," Rachel Robinson says. "He would think the struggle is still on, and he would not be satisfied with where we are."

"Are we where we should be? No. We've got a lot of work to do," says Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB executive vice president for baseball operations and an African-American. "Are we working on it? Yeah, we're working hard on it."

MLB is trying to boost blacks' participation with urban initiatives on several fronts, including its Diverse Business Partners Program and Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI), a youth program that helped lead current big-leaguers Dontrelle Willis of the Florida Marlins and Coco Crisp of the Boston Red Sox to pro careers.

But the efforts are not gaining much traction in addressing a range of problems, particularly baseball's growing disconnect with African-American youths and sports fans, who continue to be more interested in football and basketball.

A Harris Interactive survey released in January found only 7% of African-American adults said baseball was their favorite sport. This comes at a time of growth for other minorities on the field; nearly one in three MLB players is Latino or Asian. Their increased presence has pushed the overall percentage of minority players to 40.5% this year, the highest ever.

But as the number of African-American players dwindles, the effect eventually could reverse gains made in increasing blacks' presence in front office and coaching positions in baseball.

"I don't doubt that opportunities will be provided," says Chicago White Sox senior vice president-general manager Ken Williams, the majors' only African-American GM. "But my concern is with the dwindling number of participants on the African-American front. As we move forward in future years, there will be fewer people in the pipeline. So how will those numbers grow? ... Where are the candidates going to come from?"

Baseball has made significant progress in its overall diversity in the last 10 years. It received its highest marks ever in the recently released 2006 Major League Baseball Racial and Gender Report Card from the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, which annually examines the racial and gender composition of pro and college personnel in various sports.

But MLB's scorecard for African-Americans shows no home runs:

The percentage of African-American players has continued to decline, dropping by 50% since 1997, according to the Institute's report. The overall figure was about 27% in 1975 and 17% in 1997.

There are two African-American managers this year (the New York Mets' Willie Randolph and the Texas Rangers' Ron Washington). That's one fewer than in 1997, although during the last 10 years, there have been as many as eight in one season (2002). The percentage of African-American coaches is essentially the same, 14%-18% in 1996-97, 16% in 2006. Representation in the general manager's office is unchanged: one (Bob Watson of the New York Yankees was the lone black GM in 1997).

While Latino and Asian representation has increased significantly in MLB's central office as it has grown, the percentage of African-Americans has dropped since 1997 from 13% to 10.4%.

Community programs launched

Baseball has begun several diversity initiatives in the last 10 years. MLB says its Diverse Business Partners Program, founded in 1998, has resulted in more than $400 million being spent with thousands of minority- and women-owned businesses.

MLB opened a Youth Baseball Academy, a $10 million facility, at Compton Community College in Los Angeles last year and continues its 18-year-old RBI program, which gives one-time grants to Boys and Girls Clubs of America seeking to start or expand urban baseball and softball leagues. RBI programs have been started in 185 U.S. cities, serving as many as 120,000 boys and girls, MLB says.

Baseball sponsored its first Civil Rights Game this spring in Memphis; proceeds are benefiting several charities, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

MLB also partners with its players union in the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, which it says has awarded more than $10 million to programs that encourage youth participation in baseball and softball.

"I will stand up and shout from the top of the mountain (that increasing blacks' participation) is a priority for them," Williams says of MLB and its 30 clubs. "There is not just a business interest in keeping (Robinson's) name alive ... There is an interest from the heart."

Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, notes the irony regarding Robinson's dual dream of increasing minority involvement on and off the field. "At the time of his passing (1972), African-Americans were starting to emerge as players but virtually non-existent in front office and managing positions. That has gotten significantly better," he says. "But the part of his dream which looked like it was going to be a no-brainer lots of African-American (players) has gone in the other direction."

'Nothing is getting done'

Cleveland Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia was the most recent player to sound the alarm over blacks' decreasing presence in baseball, saying last month that a concerted effort is needed. "Any reaction is good," he says of his comments, "because nothing is getting done."

"I'm tripping when I see teams like Atlanta and Houston not having any black players," says Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter, who launched a national urban youth baseball program with the help of donations from about 12 big-leaguers. "Atlanta? That's Chocolate City! And no black players?"

The Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros are the two major league teams this year with no black players, though both have an African-American on the coaching staff.

"It's not something we like having attached to us," Astros general manager Tim Purpura says. "We drafted five black players last year ... and we have more African-American scouts than we've had in a long time. We're working on an infrastructure to attract more African-American players."

Says John Schuerholz, Braves vice president/general manager: "The reality is you can't feel uncomfortable with reality. There's a diminishing amount of African-American players in the game at all levels. We have black players in our organization. ... But we pick the best 25 guys" for the majors.

Many African-American athletes who might have pursued a career in baseball during a previous generation are pursuing basketball and football. Theories for the decline almost outnumber the players.

"A perfect storm was created," says Solomon, citing full college scholarships for football and men's basketball, the expense of baseball equipment, shoe companies' promotion of African-American basketball stars and baseball's focus on scouting in Latin America.

Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, author of Dropping the Ball: Baseball's Troubles and How We Can and Must Solve Them, suggests MLB, corporate sponsors, players and the NCAA unite to fund grants to deserving inner-city youths who receive only partial scholarships for college baseball.

Division I-A NCAA programs can offer 85 full football scholarships and 13 full men's basketball scholarships but only 11.7 for baseball, and those can be divided among several players. Among Division I schools, 6.5% of baseball players were African-American in 2005, according to the NCAA's most recently available race/ethnicity data.

Winfield and current players cite the expense of playing the game and baseball's marketing strategy. With youth baseball, "It's more like a country club. You've got to get instruction, playing in tournaments with fees," Hunter says. "The equipment is more expensive."

Winfield says open spaces in U.S. cities are decreasing and many parks departments can't afford to maintain baseball fields. Also, while basketball markets stars such as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant appeals that resonate with many African-American youths baseball sells the experience of going to a game, which doesn't. "Kids don't grow up saying I want to be like Yankee Stadium," Winfield says.

Solomon says Nike and other shoe and apparel companies, not necessarily the NBA, deserve credit for starting the slick marketing of NBA stars. But he agrees "we have to focus on ways to get our players in front of our potential fans and our current fans."

Hunter says many black youngsters view media and public criticism of star Barry Bonds as racist.

Bonds, who is closing in on Hank Aaron's home run record, has been at the center of a steroid controversy the last few years.

"The one big, black face in baseball is Barry Bonds, and they see he is constantly being scrutinized and he has never tested positive for anything," Hunter says. Black kids "think, 'That game is not for us.' "

Finding top prospects

Winfield and others suggest baseball clubs are pouring resources into finding and developing players in Latin America while scouting U.S. inner cities less.

The logic: It's easier and cheaper to sign Latino players. A team can develop a young player at an academy in Latin America and sign him when he turns 17. In the USA, a top young player goes into the amateur draft and becomes fair pickings for all 30 teams. If selected in the first round, he could command a $1 million-plus signing bonus.

Solomon says he's heard anecdotally from urban areas that "scouts don't come here," but he believes "that's less and less the case." Teams will find top prospects anywhere, he says. "The question is whether scouts will see the marginal African-American player."

That's what the RBI program and Baseball Academy are designed to do, he adds. "We just had a showcase in Compton, and there were 150 scouts there."

Meanwhile, Rachel Robinson, who founded the Jackie Robinson Foundation which has provided four-year college scholarships to nearly 1,200 minority students, says she is thrilled so many players will wear No. 42 Sunday. Ten years ago, she hoped the 50th anniversary of her husband's baseball debut would re-energize equal opportunity efforts in baseball and beyond.

Did it? "Not totally," she says. "I would have liked to have seen an increase in African-American inclusion in the game. The diversity is there in terms of the Latinos and also bringing in Asians ... so for that I can applaud them. Yet for me, diversity right now is not the issue. It's more the inclusion."

Contributing: Bob Nightengale

redsrule2500
04-13-2007, 02:28 PM
They make up about 12% of the USA and 8% of MLB.

It's not a 'crisis'. And can't we just look to NFL/NBA to make the exact opposite, but even more effective argument? `

REDREAD
04-13-2007, 02:35 PM
"I'm tripping when I see teams like Atlanta and Houston not having any black players," says Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter, who launched a national urban youth baseball program with the help of donations from about 12 big-leaguers. "Atlanta? That's Chocolate City! And no black players?"


I don't really think Hunter is helping out much here. How many Twin's players are from Minnesota? Probably not many.

Winfield has good points. Baseball is an expensive game. It's largely only played in organized leagues. The neighborhood kids just don't get together anymore and play wiffleball like when we were kids. That's just the way it is.
Not to mention it is a huge time commitment now for the better players.
I see it as more of a class issue than a racial one. The wealthier families can take their kids to the instruction camps, traveling teams, etc, etc. That's a pretty big edge, considering that the youth today seldom seem to play "pick up" baseball/wiffleball games anymore (at least in my area, maybe this isn't a nationwide trend, but I'm guessing it is). A lot of kids would much rather play baseball on the computer/playstation than go outside and play it for real.

Chip R
04-13-2007, 02:51 PM
Some good stories on Espn.com about this including something from former Reds exec DeJon Watson.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/jackie/index

gonelong
04-13-2007, 02:55 PM
That's a pretty big edge, considering that the youth today seldom seem to play "pick up" baseball/wiffleball games anymore (at least in my area, maybe this isn't a nationwide trend, but I'm guessing it is). A lot of kids would much rather play baseball on the computer/playstation than go outside and play it for real.

Its hard to blame the kids for that. When you were a kid, families were larger which led to more baseball games. Your parents didnt' freak out if you went outside. Some of us grew up with out air conditioning so it didn't make much sense to stay inside when it was hot. Many of us grew up without video games or cable.

I don't wonder why kids want to sit in a heated/cooled house on the couch eating Chips, drinking soda, and playing video games. I likely would done the same thing but none of that was available to me.

GL

dougdirt
04-13-2007, 03:06 PM
Its hard to blame the kids for that. When you were a kid, families were larger which led to more baseball games. Your parents didnt' freak out if you went outside. Some of us grew up with out air conditioning so it didn't make much sense to stay inside when it was hot. Many of us grew up without video games or cable.

I don't wonder why kids want to sit in a heated/cooled house on the couch eating Chips, drinking soda, and playing video games. I likely would done the same thing but none of that was available to me.

GL

I just turned 23 Monday and I grew up playing baseball with my friends in our free time. We never had enough guys to play games really, but that didn't stop us from playing home run derby, or abreviated games. Heck once a week when we cant get enough people together 2 or 3 of my friends and I go to the local park and play a game. We pitch and hit. The batter decides whether or not a fielder would have made the play or not. We play 7 inning games. Its tough to get 18 kids together to play a game surely, but you have to be creative.

Roy Tucker
04-13-2007, 03:50 PM
I see it as more of a class issue than a racial one. The wealthier families can take their kids to the instruction camps, traveling teams, etc, etc.

That was my first reaction too. But then I started thinking about modern day basketball and it really is all about camps and AAU and other travel teams. The associated costs with those are pretty steep.

But the last time I checked, African-Americans were doing pretty well in hoops.

dabvu2498
04-13-2007, 03:54 PM
That was my first reaction too. But then I started thinking about modern day basketball and it really is all about camps and AAU and other travel teams. The associated costs with those are pretty steep.

But the last time I checked, African-Americans were doing pretty well in hoops.


Most AAU/travel basketball teams of any consequence have significant sponsorships, even at the young ages, to take the burden of $ off the players' families.

IslandRed
04-13-2007, 04:07 PM
That was my first reaction too. But then I started thinking about modern day basketball and it really is all about camps and AAU and other travel teams. The associated costs with those are pretty steep.

But the last time I checked, African-Americans were doing pretty well in hoops.

I'm not sure it's apples-to-apples. The AAU and camp circuit is important in basketball, but primarily for the elite players. It's not a point of entry into the game. Kids still learn basketball by playing pickup against their peers, and there are still school teams to play for. Hardly anyone plays pickup baseball anymore, and (at least in my experience) there's little meaningful baseball played at schools below the high-school level. If geography or money prevents a child from playing Little League, there isn't much else.

Cyclone792
04-13-2007, 04:20 PM
I just turned 23 Monday and I grew up playing baseball with my friends in our free time. We never had enough guys to play games really, but that didn't stop us from playing home run derby, or abreviated games. Heck once a week when we cant get enough people together 2 or 3 of my friends and I go to the local park and play a game. We pitch and hit. The batter decides whether or not a fielder would have made the play or not. We play 7 inning games. Its tough to get 18 kids together to play a game surely, but you have to be creative.

A group of my friends and I have done similar things in recent years. We'd gather up three to five guys and head out to a field, hit, pitch, field, etc. Considering most of the guys usually out there were college guys, it was an excellent/fun outdoor activity that carried minimal financial cost. The biggest problems are finding halfway decent fields that we're allowed to use, and we're all adults in our mid 20s willing to travel a bit to find a nice field. If we're having problems finding nice fields, it's likely much more difficult for kids unable to drive to find some nice fields near their neighborhoods.

Finally though, this spring we said to heck with only getting a few guys out on a field at one time so we decided to get a softball team together. Now slow pitch softball obviously isn't the same exact sport as baseball, but it's a fun substitute that's close enough. The differing skill levels are interesting to watch too. Some guys and teams we've played are absolutely awful out there, but there's other guys who some real darn good ballplayers too. But what heck, if everyone has fun out there, then I've got no complaints.

Also, I know one of my cousins has latched on to some local amateur baseball team. Some of those teams may be hard to find, but if there's some pretty solid baseball players wandering around out there just a few years removed from their high school and/or college playing days, there's some opportunities to keep playing.

Roy Tucker
04-13-2007, 04:30 PM
I think part of is also that baseball really isn't the National Game that it used to be.

Playing baseball and MLB used to be an integral part of American society. Robinson breeaking the color barrier was an enormous deal in its day because of the stature of the sport.

These days, with the NFL (and to some degree the NBA) having taken over the national consciousness, MLB baseball just as big of a deal any more and I don't think it matters as much.

oneupper
04-13-2007, 05:37 PM
Robinson's achievement was bigger than baseball. What happens with the sport after than can't diminish it

Mr Red
04-13-2007, 06:02 PM
Roy has hit the nail on the head. Baseball is not the National Game that it used to be. Maybe not in our in circles, but as a whole NFL and the NBA are bigger nationally.
20 years ago this wasn't the case.....and 60 years ago baseball probably passed all other sports combined in popularity. You could argue many reasons as to why....my initial reaction is mainly due to FA.
Jackie should and always will hold a special legacy. I cannot seem to fathom living in a society such as we had during that time frame that did not put an equal emphasis on individuals. We have come along way in the last 60 years.
If anything the whole uniform thing has already been positive as it has evoked discussion for a generation of kids who do not know who Jackie Robinson is.

Ron Madden
04-13-2007, 07:10 PM
I think part of is also that baseball really isn't the National Game that it used to be.

Playing baseball and MLB used to be an integral part of American society. Robinson breeaking the color barrier was an enormous deal in its day because of the stature of the sport.

These days, with the NFL (and to some degree the NBA) having taken over the national consciousness, MLB baseball just as big of a deal any more and I don't think it matters as much.


I agree with Roy.

I'm sad to say it but it seems baseball isn't the National Game that it used to be.

edabbs44
04-13-2007, 08:26 PM
They make up about 12% of the USA and 8% of MLB.

It's not a 'crisis'. And can't we just look to NFL/NBA to make the exact opposite, but even more effective argument? `

Touchy subject, but sometimes people have to look around. I'm sorry, but Torii's quote was ridiculous.


"I'm tripping when I see teams like Atlanta and Houston not having any black players," says Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter, who launched a national urban youth baseball program with the help of donations from about 12 big-leaguers. "Atlanta? That's Chocolate City! And no black players?"

Let me know how many white players the Jazz have in Vanilla Village. Make that statement on the air and you'd get Imused.

Betterread
04-14-2007, 01:00 AM
Robinson's achievement was bigger than baseball. What happens with the sport after than can't diminish it
Well-said. Jackie was one of our nation's most authentic heroes.

Falls City Beer
04-14-2007, 01:33 AM
Really. The only reason baseball's worth watching is a direct result of Robinson breaking the color barrier.

The modern game of NL baseball is the single best sporting event in the world.

George Foster
04-14-2007, 02:33 AM
That was my first reaction too. But then I started thinking about modern day basketball and it really is all about camps and AAU and other travel teams. The associated costs with those are pretty steep.

But the last time I checked, African-Americans were doing pretty well in hoops.

football equipment is a lot more expensive than a glove, bat, and a ball. There are a ton more blacks kids playing football. Heck, you can share a bat and a glove, you can't share pads and a helmet. Money has nothing to do with it.

BCubb2003
04-14-2007, 03:08 AM
It seems like the schools are where the gap is.

GAC
04-14-2007, 05:18 AM
There are way too many distractions for kids today that "steals" their interest in summer baseball leagues. We have leagues around here that can't seem to get enough boys signed up so they have to combine their forces with other towns/villages.

I'm a child of the 60's. As soon as warm weather hit my two brothers and I, as well as every kid in the neighborhood, were gathering in someone's backyard or even in the street, playing pickup games. I have coached kids in little league. I am simply amazed at the quantity of kids that do sign up and yet know very little about the game. We've had to teach them pretty much everything, and I a very short period of time, in order to get ready for the league. We were having to give them a "crash course". I remember the drills we use to have just to teach the kids how to run the bases.

It never use to be that way because you, and the neighborhood kids, were always playing the game in their spare time.

I just wish I had all the baseball cards I wasted in the spokes of my bike as I slung my glove and bat over the monkey bars and headed out to the field. :mooner:

OldRightHander
04-14-2007, 02:21 PM
I grew up in the 70s and early 80s and it was the same way then. I lived in the country and there weren't as many kids around who were my age, but as many of us as could gather would always play something involving a baseball. Having a glove and a ball was just a part of life. Of course growing up where I did, learning to shoot was a given as well, but that's a different discussion. We played in fields and used the fences between fields as the home run fence and whatever we could find for bases, often times old frisbees. If we only had two people, we would just pitch and hit and you had to agree on what the result of the hit would have been. "That one was down the line, let's call it a double." We spent hours playing ball every summer and if you tried out for knothole, (where I fizzled out) you already had the requisite basic knowledge of the game. The coaches didn't have to teach you which way to run and how to put on the glove. The game was different for those of us nearing 40 and older and I don't think this country will ever get back to that. It's kind of sad, but I don't know if we can ever recapture what baseball once was.

4256 Hits
04-14-2007, 02:55 PM
They make up about 12% of the USA and 8% of MLB.

It's not a 'crisis'. And can't we just look to NFL/NBA to make the exact opposite, but even more effective argument? `


Very good points! Also take into consideration all the non Americans on the rosters I bet they make up 12% of Americans on MLB rosters. I guess unless blacks make up nearly the entire roster (NBA) or the great majority (NFL) it means something is wrong. :(

kaldaniels
04-15-2007, 01:17 AM
I don't know if there is a thread going on about the #42 tribute tommorrow, but I'd like to point out you can shell out 224.99 for a #42 Reds tribute uniform on reds.com/mlb.com (with no mention of proceeds going to charity). Thank you MLB...you never let me down. :bang:

butlerbulldogs
04-15-2007, 11:32 AM
I am outraged there is not one starting white RB in the NFL, do white kids play football anymore? what happened to all the great white RBs? Don't tell me baseball is expensive, it is so expensive that many latin players come from much worse off conditions than inner city black or white children and still play baseball!! Let the best players play the game regardless of color of skin, this shouldn't even be an issue

westofyou
04-15-2007, 11:43 AM
do white kids play football anymore?

Who else has the money for steroids?

Chip R
04-15-2007, 11:55 AM
Let the best players play the game regardless of color of skin, this shouldn't even be an issue


But that's the whole point. People are saying that the best players aren't playing any more for whatever reason.

edabbs44
04-15-2007, 07:37 PM
But that's the whole point. People are saying that the best players aren't playing any more for whatever reason.

So we are to assume that the best baseball players are black? I know you're not saying it. I would be interested to see if the number of black baseball players entering the professional ranks dropped since HS basketball players were allowed in the NBA draft. I think that had a huge impact on this, since kids could go right to the pros and get that automatic million-dollar check.

I'm not sure why it is MLB's "fault" that the number of black baseball players is dropping. Last time I checked, this was a free country and you can play what you'd like. Baseball must be one of the cheapest sports to play. Golf and football...hell yeah, expensive and restrictive. Especially golf. But baseball?

Bat. Glove. Ball. There you have it.

paintmered
04-15-2007, 07:50 PM
So we are to assume that the best baseball players are black?

No, I think the assumption is the best black athletes aren't playing baseball.

remdog
04-15-2007, 07:51 PM
Who else has the money for steroids?

That was, as someone once said to me, "uncalled for".

Rem

edabbs44
04-15-2007, 07:52 PM
No, I think the assumption is the best black athletes aren't playing baseball.

I don't think that's right. I think the argument is the numbers, not the quality.

westofyou
04-15-2007, 08:06 PM
That was, as someone once said to me, "uncalled for".

Rem

shrug... I guess.

remdog
04-15-2007, 08:26 PM
shrug... I guess.

No guessing about it.

Rem

westofyou
04-15-2007, 08:35 PM
1947 article from TSN

http://www.deadballart.com/redszone/v.jpg

westofyou
04-15-2007, 08:37 PM
http://www.deadballart.com/redszone/robinson.jpg

Chip R
04-15-2007, 09:21 PM
So we are to assume that the best baseball players are black? I know you're not saying it. I would be interested to see if the number of black baseball players entering the professional ranks dropped since HS basketball players were allowed in the NBA draft. I think that had a huge impact on this, since kids could go right to the pros and get that automatic million-dollar check.

I'm not sure why it is MLB's "fault" that the number of black baseball players is dropping. Last time I checked, this was a free country and you can play what you'd like. Baseball must be one of the cheapest sports to play. Golf and football...hell yeah, expensive and restrictive. Especially golf. But baseball?

Bat. Glove. Ball. There you have it.


Saying that the best players aren't playing the game doesn't necessarily mean that black players are the best. For all I know there is an untapped source of baseball talent in Sweden. But there is a fear that young men who are black - who may be among the best ballplayers - aren't playing baseball anymore.

I do agree that they have more of a choice now than they did back in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Up until the late 60s, early 70s, there were a significant number of colleges who would not recruit black athletes to play football and basketball. The NFL still had a significant amount of white WRs and DBs - a position now that is almost entirely made up of black athletes. The NBA didn't have the percentage of blacks playing then that they do now. That was because their athletes came directly from colleges. Up until the mid to late 90s, the blacks who played QB played for teams who ran the option in college. And if they were good enough to play for an NFL team, they were moved to another position. Now it isn't uncommon to see a team in college have at least 1 black QB on their squad. And the more black QBs who play college ball, the more play in the NFL. Now you have a black young man who can throw a ball well, he doesn't necessarily have to play baseball anymore. He can play QB in college and maybe the NFL. There are more choices now and that is good.

Another advantage basketball and football have is that you don't have to serve an apprenticeship in the minor leagues. If you're good enough, all you have to do is stay a year in college - if you're a basketball player - and 3 if you're a football player. Then the big money awaits. You get drafted in baseball and you may get a nice bonus but more often than not you have to spend time in the minor leagues in places that is as much a culture shock to them as Watts or Harlem would be to us. And if you're not a high draft pick, the going is much tougher. And if you make it, you have to wait at least 3 years to be paid relatively well. Baseball is a culture that is predominately white. The fan base is predominately white and older. If some hip hop group were doing commercials for the Fox Game of the Week, a lot of fans would be unhappy with that because that isn't the type of music they like. If they started playing Jay Z between innings instead of organ music, people wouldn't like it. There has also been somewhat of a history of outspoken black players being seen as troublemakers while outspoken white players are seen as colorful. Some black kid growing up in the 70s sees Dick Allen being treated poorly by the media and by others or he sees Hank Aaron get death threats for trying to break Babe Ruth's record or he sees Reggie Jackson not get his due because he's outspoken they are going to wonder what baseball has to offer them. Kids today see Barry Bonds and believe people want him out of baseball because he's an outspoken black man and not because he did roids and is a jerk. Rightly or wrongly they see a brother being kept down.

This is a bit of a tempest in a teapot. Not only do young blacks have other choices if they want to play sports but they have other professions open to them now that were closed to them as few as 20 years ago. I don't know for sure but I'd bet there are more black attorneys, doctors, accountants, whatever than there were 20 years ago. And after today, the media is going to forget about this for another 10 years.

I want the best players to play baseball. I also want the best players to play football and basketball and hockey. Some believe the best are not playing baseball because there aren't as many blacks playing baseball. butlerbulldogs made the point that expense doesn't stop Latin players from playing baseball so it shouldn't stop blacks. The difference is that the talent is there but they don't have the choices that kids in this country have. It's either baseball or nothing. Some box, some play soccer. Even a few become jockeys. But how many football or basketball players you see from the Dominican or Mexico or Venezuela or Puerto Rico? And those kids usually don't have to worry about getting shot at when they step outside. If you want to play baseball in the major leagues, you have to be noticed. And you are not going to be noticed in the US unless you play organized ball.

There are other reasons that blacks don't play baseball as much as they used to and it's a problem to some people. I think MLB is making a good effort to make inner city kids aware of it. Could they market it better to them? Probably but they would run the risk of alienating their best customers. I don't think there is a conscious effort to keep blacks out of baseball. But the numbers are down and on this date, people are going to ask why. We don't have to be upset why there is a big deal being made out of this. It's healthy debate and if you believe The Man isn't trying to keep a brother down and economics, choice and opportunity are the reasons blacks aren't populating MLB like they used to, it doesn't make you a racist. But if someone else believes differently, they aren't necessarily trying to stir up trouble.

Cyclone792
04-15-2007, 09:54 PM
Here's an interesting anecdote from TSN, originally published on May 28th, 1947, about Jackie Robinson and Hall of Fame first baseman Hank Greenberg. Greenberg dealt with a little bit of anti-Semitism since he was Jewish, but stated that it was nothing remotely close to what Robinson went through.

http://img479.imageshack.us/img479/6540/robinsongreenbergpl2.jpg

You want to talk real bigotry, that was what Jackie Robinson had to contend with in 1947. Teammates asking to be traded rather than play with him, opponents threatening to strike rather than play against him; in many places he couldn't eat or sleep with the rest of the team. I never encountered anything like that.

-- Hank Greenberg, as told to Lawrence Ritter in The Glory of Their Times

remdog
04-15-2007, 11:08 PM
Good post Chip. IMO, much of the whole situation has to do with societal changes of the last 50 years---changes that, ironically, Jackie Robinson had a part in causing.

So maybe it's simply the natural evolution of society, maybe not. (shrug) I don't think that edabbs44 is wrong with his "Bat. Glove. Ball." summation but your "....Even a few become jockeys..." comparison did give me a momentary chuckle.

I don't know that the situation will ever be changed. I just know that (despite having been there when the Big Red Machine was a steamroller) this is, overall, the best baseball, in terms of athletic ability, that I've ever seen in my lifetime.

Rem

cincinnati chili
04-15-2007, 11:55 PM
Perception is reality. If African Americans, by and large, perceive that baseball is not for them, then the participation of African Americans will continue to diminish. For all the criticism I've lobbed at Bud Selig, I do think he sincerely wants to court minority interests. He's not stupid. The demographics of the country are changing, and MLB has much more successfully courted Hispanics than Blacks. Not as effectively as they could, but more effectively than blacks.

I don't take Torii Hunter's comments very seriously, nor do I take offense as a soon-to-be middle aged white guy.

Let's debunch our panties, why don't we.

Ballplayers are not usually all that bright, this demographic shifting stuff is kinda complex, and I don't expect athletes to figure it all out.

I still contend that we can partially blame the lack of interest in baseball on American children's decreased attention span. It's not as seductive as the instant gratification of many other sports, video games, and extreme activities. If an interest in baseball isn't nourished - usually by adults - it's less likely to take hold of distracted minds.

Chip R
04-16-2007, 12:11 AM
I wonder if one of the reasons that fewer black players are in MLB now is that speed is not as much of a factor anymore. What they were saying on the GOTW tonight about how Jackie brought speed back into the game and reading rem's last post about the athletic talent in the game in the 70s. Now it seems that with the smaller parks and the elimination of Astro-Turf along with the increased size of the players that speed isn't as much of a factor that it used to be. Teams play for many runs instead of one nowdays. Why steal a base when you can jog around the bases when the guy behind you can hit a home run?

Of course there are white players who can steal a base and there are black players who you wouldn't want to steal a base. But more often than not, black players - and Hispanics too - steal the most bases. Also home run hitters get paid more than base stealers - for the most part. Now that's always been the case but the money they are making now dwarfs the money they made back then. Reds fans remember Eric Davis more for his power than his speed although he posessed both in great quantities. He was paid for his power rather than his speed. Eddie Milner was fast but didn't have the power ED had so he was paid less.

They say everything is cyclical. Perhaps if baseball goes back to more of a speed game, there will be a re-influx of black talent.

BuckeyeRedleg
04-16-2007, 10:45 AM
And if African-Americans played Lacrosse, there would be a ton fewer scholarships going to white kids from the suburbs.

One of the many reasons I can't take that sport seriously.

Baseball? It is apparent that their numbers are dwindling, but I don't see it as some major problem. It will probably level off. Let's not forget that a majority of the Latin players coming over are also of African decent. In fact, I would bet that the number of players of African decent is larger now than it ever has been.

Sea Ray
04-16-2007, 11:24 AM
Robinson's achievement was bigger than baseball. What happens with the sport after than can't diminish it

This is an excellent point and it should have been the predominant point of the day yesterday. Instead what was pounded all day long was: "why aren't there more black MLB players"? ESPN was the worst offender and it got to the point where I had to turn off the game last night. I just can't take nine innings of that stuff. It got to the point where they were blaming scouts for being afraid to enter the inner city, money and lack of black managers.

How many Asian managers are there? How much money do the kids in the Dominican have to spend on baseball? How are these issues different than in the 1970s when there were many more black players?

Talented black athletes tend to prefer football/basketball while Asaian and Hispanic guys tend to prefer baseball. What's the problem? Nobody's lamenting the lack of white or Asain athletes in football.

I watch sports to get away from junk like this.

gonelong
04-16-2007, 01:59 PM
I still contend that we can partially blame the lack of interest in baseball on American children's decreased attention span. It's not as seductive as the instant gratification of many other sports, video games, and extreme activities. If an interest in baseball isn't nourished - usually by adults - it's less likely to take hold of distracted minds.

I am begginning to think that its not a short attention span thing as much as it is that the average life-style is much quicker paced than in recent generations.

My parents worked harder physically than I do on a daily basis, but they lived life at a much slower pace than I do.

Think about the amount of things that fill up your kids life compared to when you were a kid.

We need everything right now because we only have 10 minutes until the next thing starts. I don't know if that is so much a short attention span as it is the need to move quickly if you are going to get it all done.

Baseball has you sitting on one place doing one thing and one thing only. Anymore, there aren't too many things in life like that.

GL