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savafan
04-21-2007, 04:05 PM
http://www.casperstartribune.net/articles/2007/04/21/ap/sports/baseball/d8ohtba00.txt

By JIM LITKE Saturday, April 21, 2007

CHICAGO - Jackie Robinson Day passed through town like a cool spring breeze, leaving little behind besides a chilly reminder that black kids don't play baseball anymore.

"Tomorrow," Cubs great Billy Williams said, settling into a seat in the shade of the home dugout, "you won't even know any of this happened."

In the sunshine nearby, members of the Cubs marketing department scurried from place to place, setting up microphones and herding schoolkids taking part in the pre-game ceremonies into position. An hour later, a few scholarships would be announced while the four Chicago ballplayers and two coaches who donned Robinson's No. 42 posed alongside Ken Griffey Jr., Cincinnati's lone representative, for a photo.

Robinson once said he avoided looking at the crowd during most of his at-bats in that fateful first season of 1947 "for fear I would see only Negroes applauding."

The good news is that now everyone would have been cheering because his accomplishments shamed America's sporting public into severing ties to its spiteful past. However, there weren't many more African Americans to be glimpsed in the announced crowd of 39,820 than the handful the two clubs combined to put on the diamond.

"We look at the problem, read about it, talk about it and nothing much changes," Williams said.

A sweet-swinging outfielder with an unusually discerning eye at the plate, Williams didn't make it to the majors until 1959, three years after Robinson had retired. But he was part of a treasure trove of ballplayers who lived in and around Mobile, Ala. _ where Henry Aaron and Willie McCovey hailed from _ who weren't "discovered" until big-league scouts began mining historically black billfolds fields in search of another Jackie.

He can't bear to think what scouts would find there today.

"Empty diamonds, for the most part," Williams said. "Kids, specially talented kids, don't want to wait. They think baseball is 'slow,' whether you're talking about the game itself or the time it takes to get the payoff. We're talking 5 or 6 years to get established, but because of the longevity, you can get those back at the end of your career."

Williams chuckles bitterly at the irony that among Robinson's many virtues, patience is the one precious few of his heirs bothered to master.

"Try selling that to a generation that grew up on Michael Jordan," he said. "Their motto is: 'I want it now.'"

Baseball spent much of Sunday in a self-congratulatory mode, harkening back to the day when it held such a central position in American society that Robinson breaking the color barrier 60 years ago had a much more significant impact outside the game than between the lines. From that day, the percentage of African Americans in the major leagues climbed steadily until about 1975 _ peaking at 27 percent _ then began falling precipitously. They have been replaced gradually, by Hispanic ballplayers, and more recently by Asians.

Today, the number of African Americans in baseball hovers around 8 percent, roughly the same as the percentage of black adults who list it as their favorite sport.

"I didn't appreciate baseball. I was just bored," recalled Cliff Floyd, one of four Chicago players who wore Robinson's number . "And that's what these kids are: They're bored. ...

"A lot of times in baseball you strike out, you pop up, you roll out to first. In basketball, you've got dunks. You've got guys flying through the air. You've got balls flying off the backboard. That's fun for these kids," Floyd added. "You've got kids looking at the basketball rim going, 'Man, that's me one day.'"

Basketball continues to collect much of the blame for siphoning off all those would-be Jackies, thanks to an assist from the sneaker companies. But baseball's poor marketing overall, as well its late recognition that black kids were turning away from the game, come in for plenty of scorn, too.

"Go to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic or Venezuela and you'll find baseball academies bought and paid for by teams," Williams said. "We've got one up and running in Compton, and we're renovating a few ballfields in a few other places.

"But it won't be until we get people and former players who aren't afraid to go back to the neighborhoods where they came from and do some serious scouting and selling that we're going to make a dent."

Floyd, for one, said he was prepared to do his part.

"It's going to take a huge effort _ not so much when you're playing, but when you're retired. I've got to go back home and not just sit on my butt," he said. "I think you should get out there in the community and show these kids how important the game is, show them video of how you laughed and smiled because that's what they don't see."

After Cincinnati won Sunday's game 1-0, Griffey sat in front of his locker in the visiting clubhouse working over a plate of food. His father was a Reds star when baseball was still the No. 1 game in black communities. Asked what one thing he would like to see different the next day, Junior didn't opt for more U.S. baseball academies or a better marketing campaign.

"Just him, Jackie, being here," Griffey replied.

Asked whether Robinson would have liked what baseball has become, Griffey shook his head slowly.

"I have no idea," he replied. "But I would have liked having him around."

MWM
04-21-2007, 05:25 PM
People fool themselves if they think this is simply a matter of marketing.

Marc D
04-21-2007, 06:04 PM
Like the article said, its just reflective of the interest of the black community in baseball. African Americans probably make up less than 8% of the NHL, NASCAR, and whatever they call pro soccer as well. Does anyone care about this?

I guess I'm just missing the point. There certainly aren't any barriers in place to AA's participation in any sport so whatever percentage they account for is essentially by choice. If the point of the article is that MLB isn't the overwhelming favorite American pastime it once was then again I ask, whats the point? I think most everyone knows this.

Unassisted
04-21-2007, 06:53 PM
I guess I'm just missing the point. There certainly aren't any barriers in place to AA's participation in any sport so whatever percentage they account for is essentially by choice.

Access to facilities and equipment is a barrier in urban areas where the AA population is highest. The perception is that it takes a lot more than a parking lot, a ball and a hoop to play baseball.

cincinnati chili
04-21-2007, 07:44 PM
Like the article said, its just reflective of the interest of the black community in baseball. African Americans probably make up less than 8% of the NHL, NASCAR, and whatever they call pro soccer as well. Does anyone care about this?



The NHL is in the toilet financially. It's almost paying NBC to televise it's games.

Pro Soccer in the US is a non factor in the spectator sport landscape.

NASCAR is doing well, I would argue, largely because of outstanding marketing and athlete/fan relationships. When NASCAR drivers switch sponsors, their fans switch products. This more than makes up for its lillywhite appeal.

In the scope of the universe, it's not a big deal that African Americans are losing interest in baseball. If, however, you have an interest in the financial viability of the sport (e.g. Bud Selig) it's a huge deal. The demographics of the country are changing. The country will be mostly non-white in my lifetime, or so I read. The fans of the game are getting increasingly white.

This won't kill baseball, but it might make it tougher for fans to find it on their television dials, might cause certain teams to fold, might cause a lot of the best athletes to choose other sports, etc.

Hubba
04-21-2007, 08:10 PM
Lilly White?:rolleyes:

cincinnati chili
04-21-2007, 09:31 PM
Lilly White?:rolleyes:

My mistake. I misspelled. Lily white.

Are you seriously going to try and tell me that NASCAR appeals to an integrated audience?

I didn't mean it to a political statement, as much as a fact.

For the record, I enjoy numerous things that African Americans - by and large - don't enjoy. . . chamber music, bridge, croquet.

Okay, so I made up the croquet.

SandyD
04-21-2007, 09:55 PM
I agree with MWM. It's much more than a matter of marketing.

If I had a child in the city, I'm not sure I'd let him/her roam like we used to. Or play ball in front of the house. We're more tightly packed these days, and there's much more chance of a ball going into a window of a home or a car.

And breaking someone's window can be more dangerous in some areas than it used to be.

Also, baseball takes longer to appreciate than football and basketball. Couple that with the instant success stories of young players right out of HS or College making big bucks almost immediately, and the inner city kids are naturally going to gravitate to those sports.

And now that so many sports train pretty much year round, you're not going to have as many multi-sport athletes as time goes on.

It would be nice to see a push to revive the inner city youth leagues in some areas. Just not sure the interest is there.

Marc D
04-21-2007, 10:07 PM
I can see the AA community losing touch with baseball but its not like Hispanic and Asian players aren't there to fill the void.

Baseball is never going to retake football as America's #1 sport but its not exactly hurting. I would be willing to guess the hispanic and asian demographics are large enough to offset the loss of interest by the AA community.

"Breaking news, sun sets in the west" kind of story to me but I'm wierd so take it fwiw. ;)

SandyD
04-21-2007, 10:32 PM
I can understand that the negro league ball players ... and some negro league fans ... may lament the fact that their children and other African American youth aren't embracing the game.

Yachtzee
04-21-2007, 11:46 PM
I agree with MWM. It's much more than a matter of marketing.

If I had a child in the city, I'm not sure I'd let him/her roam like we used to. Or play ball in front of the house. We're more tightly packed these days, and there's much more chance of a ball going into a window of a home or a car.

And breaking someone's window can be more dangerous in some areas than it used to be.

Also, baseball takes longer to appreciate than football and basketball. Couple that with the instant success stories of young players right out of HS or College making big bucks almost immediately, and the inner city kids are naturally going to gravitate to those sports.

And now that so many sports train pretty much year round, you're not going to have as many multi-sport athletes as time goes on.

It would be nice to see a push to revive the inner city youth leagues in some areas. Just not sure the interest is there.

I don't know about the first part. People have alway been pretty tightly packed in the cities and have always had a certain level of danger. The neighborhood I lived in in Lima wasn't exactly safety town. We would rarely go to the park because of the rough element that hung out there. But it was no big deal to head down to the church parking lot on the corner of our street to ride our bikes and maybe play some HR Derby. And equipment isn't so much an issue. Sure it's important if you want to have a proper league. But all that was needed when I was a kid was a tennis ball and some sort of implement to hit it with, a bat, a broomstick, even a whiffle ball bat. Kids don't need fancy equipment and a manicured lot to play on. They just need to know it's a fun game.

I fully agree with the second part. I think it's a combination of marketing and economics. On the one hand, baseball has generally focused its marketing on the game as a whole, instead of individual players. I can't help but think this is a product of the antagonistic attitude between players and owners in the free agent era. Kids don't care so much about owners or baseball as a spiritual experience. They like players and having fun.

But there are other issues as well. As you said, the time it takes to hit the big payday is longer in baseball. Because of the marketing behind college sports, kids can make a name for themselves while playing on scholarship at a big school. In fact, kids look to LeBron James and see someone who was already getting the media attention in HS. Why deal with 5 years toiling in obscurity to make the majors when you could be getting your face on TV now?

I also think that moving most of the games to cable tv outlets has really cut down on the number of games inner city kids get to see. If baseball wants to market towards African Americans in the inner cities, I think baseball needs to get more games on TV on the major networks and more local games available on over-the-air broadcast channels. Baseball has done a great job of marketing toward the luxury box set with all the new stadium building and seems to do a great job of making the game available to those who can afford high-speed internet connections or cable/satellite TV. But for the lower income families, MLB has a "Let them eat cake" attitude.

Ravenlord
04-22-2007, 12:29 AM
the explosion of top athlete wealth is another factor in this.

if you're great at basketball or football, after one or two years of college, you go pro with millions of dollars. with baseball if you're great, you go pro, make crumbs for 2-5 years, and then wait another 3 or 4 years to get to be a millionair if'n you even make that far.

if i had grown up in a poor family, i probably would have played a whole lot more basketball and football just for the possible pay day.

Chip R
04-22-2007, 12:58 AM
I think a big factor in the shift of black kids away from baseball is, as others have said, choice. Professional baseball has been around since the mid 1800s. Both black and white kids grew up admiring the professional athlete and knew if they were good enough they could play in either the white leagues or the Negro leagues. They didn't know from football or basketball. There were pro leagues in both sports but they didn't receive much attention until the latter half of the 20th century. And by then even black kids knew they could play in the former all white leagues. Now, kids have the opportunity to enjoy all 3 sports. During their seasons there seems to be a college basketball or football game on every night. And, really, most of those guys are pros, except instead of money, they receive room, board, books and tuition. But they are treated like pros. And the pros get a lot of money. But the money is a secondary factor. It is the attention that is brought to them that kids see. TV, radio, newspapers, magazines all used to cover baseball almost exclusively among the 3 major pro sports. Even in the 70s and early 80s, the NBA would show some playoff games - including the championship series - on tape delay instead of prime time. The first few Super Bowls weren't sellouts. That's unthinkable now. Kids now know who the great basketball and football players are. So now they have someone to look up to and emulate besides baseball players.

savafan
04-22-2007, 03:29 AM
That's all true Chip, and while it may not be "all about marketing", MLB is still not doing a very good job of marketing their African-American ballplayers. Why? Well, some of those players, especially the ones that are so marketable, tend to be aloof toward the media and public like Ken Griffey Jr. or simply plain old jerks like Barry Bonds, or like Albert Belle was. Eddie Murray, when he played, wasn't a great player to market either. In reality, the only African-American player that I see MLB marketing to the public at all right now is Dontrelle Willis, and that is in those Boys and Girls Club commercials. Then again, MLB doesn't do a good job of marketing their product to the public at all. You don't see a lot of commercials, a la the "I Live For This" NBA spots, or the "United Way" NFL spots. There aren't a whole lot of endorsement deals for MLB players, therefore, there's not a lot of products. When I was 12 years old, I saved up a whole summer's worth of yard mowing money in order to buy myself a pair of Bo Jackson Nike cross trainers. I suppose you could argue that Jackson was a different breed, because he played both football and baseball, but I feel he was better known for his baseball play. You just don't see that anymore with MLB players. I can remember back to the 1989 season when there were baseball players featured in commercials quite often, but in the last 18 years, this seems to be something that MLB has dropped the ball on (no pun intended).

I bet in many cities across the country, fans can't name more than one or two players on teams in other markets, and that's sad.

Ravenlord
04-22-2007, 03:41 AM
I bet in many cities across the country, fans can't name more than one or two players on teams in other markets, and that's sad.

excepting the Yankees and Red Sox...even my mother who hasn't followed since the 70s can name most of the Yankees and Sox starters.

savafan
04-22-2007, 04:04 AM
excepting the Yankees and Red Sox...even my mother who hasn't followed since the 70s can name most of the Yankees and Sox starters.

Thank you ESPN

RFS62
04-22-2007, 09:53 AM
I think we're missing the big picture here.

In my mind, Jackie Robinson's greatest accomplishment wasn't that he integrated baseball. It was that he integrated professional sports as a whole.

Had he not played baseball, Michael Jordon wouldn't have had his opportunity to play basketball.

The sport doesn't matter. It's the fact that he broke the color barrier in ALL sports that is significant.

African American athletes in ALL sports owe Robinson, and Branch Rickey, a debt of gratitude for their courage.

The fact that more black kids are drawn to other sports is irrelevent to me. In fact, it's all the more tribute to Robinson's legacy that they can chose the sport they like.

This isn't a baseball thing, although MLB would love to have us focus only on them.

It's about our society at large.

Cooper
04-22-2007, 10:15 AM
I think rfs62 makes a good point. In the early 50's and 60's Blacks in general did not have as many choices. Robinson was a marker for the society as a whole, but if Robinson does not become a Dodger it doesn't mean that it would not have happened shortly with some other player leading the way. Integration was/is a problem within all of society -and it was those changes (service by blacks in the war, society as a whole starting to recognize the injustice of seperate but equal, etc....). I would venture to say baseball has never led the way in solving any of societies ills. They jump on the wagon long after it is safe to. There would have been another Jack Robinson shortly after --society was ready for it. We, as a nation, finally figured out how silly the whole thing was.

Btw, i was thinking of a story the other day --it's about a 2 Reds players who were at spring training. One black, one white--but they had to sit with a rope in between them. They got to talking and realized how silly that rope was and just took it down. I want to say one of the players was Brooks Lawrence...anybody remember this story?

westofyou
04-22-2007, 10:16 AM
In my mind, Jackie Robinson's greatest accomplishment wasn't that he integrated baseball. It was that he integrated professional sports as a whole.IIRC Marion Motely played for the Browns in 1946.

westofyou
04-22-2007, 10:19 AM
I think rfs62 makes a good point. In the early 50's and 60's Blacks in general did not have as many choices. Robinson was a marker for the society as a whole, but if Robinson does not become a Dodger it doesn't mean that it would not have happened shortly with some other player leading the way. Integration was/is a problem within all of society -and it was those changes (service by blacks in the war, society as a whole starting to recognize the injustice of seperate but equal, etc....). I would venture to say baseball has never led the way in solving any of societies ills. They jump on the wagon long after it is safe to. There would have been another Jack Robinson shortly after --society was ready for it. We, as a nation, finally figured out how silly the whole thing was.

Btw, i was thinking of a story the other day --it's about a 2 Reds players who were at spring training. One black, one white--but they had to sit with a rope in between them. They got to talking and realized how silly that rope was and just took it down. I want to say one of the players was Brooks Lawrence...anybody remember this story?
Brooks Lawrence was done pitching in Fla. one day, when done reds players had to shower and dress and sit in the stands. Also done that day was catcher Ed Bailey. When Bailey went to the stands to sit he saw Lawrence and went over to sit with him. It was then he saw the rope that separated the white crowd from the black. He took it down and noted the stupidity of it (even though it was the law, a dumb one at that) and they never put it back up.

cincinnati chili
04-22-2007, 10:20 AM
excepting the Yankees and Red Sox...even my mother who hasn't followed since the 70s can name most of the Yankees and Sox starters.


I've had this discussion with people before, and believe it's the inevitable result of expansion.

When there were 8 teams in the national leage, a CASUAL baseeball fan living in a national league city (e.g. Cincinnati) might know all of the hitters on all of the teams. (8 defensive positions x 8 hitters = 64 players).

With expansion and interleague play, this is not feasible. Even the hardcore fans, have trouble remembering what team Jose Cruz and Reggie Sanders is playing for these days. (It's not free agency, as studies have shown there was just about the same amount of player movement before free agency. It's a matter of volume).

Let's also not forget that baseball has more fans today than ever before, it just has fewer fans relative to the percentage of the total population. This is the inevitable result of available substitutes - the internet, video games, rock climbing, escort services, you name it.

westofyou
04-22-2007, 10:21 AM
Even the hardcore fans, have trouble remembering what team Jose Cruz and Reggie Sanders is playing for these days.

San Diego and KC?

RFS62
04-22-2007, 10:40 AM
IIRC Marion Motely played for the Browns in 1946.



Yeah, but if it had any of the significance and impact on society as a whole, we'd be celebrating that instead of Jackie.

Baseball was America's touchstone back then. I believe that Robinson's story helped set the tone for a social revolution far beyond sports.

SandyD
04-22-2007, 11:46 AM
Last weekend Alfred and I talked a bit about this. The integration of baseball was big among African American families of our generation and before.

There is a snapshot of Jackie Robinson sitting in a dugout in Alfred's family album.

I agree that Jackie Robinson's contribution was bigger than baseball.

Yachtzee
04-22-2007, 01:21 PM
Last weekend Alfred and I talked a bit about this. The integration of baseball was big among African American families of our generation and before.

There is a snapshot of Jackie Robinson sitting in a dugout in Alfred's family album.

I agree that Jackie Robinson's contribution was bigger than baseball.

I had a professor who believed that Jackie Robinson was the public face of integration in that era because of baseball's stature in American society, but the really big step toward integrating society was integrating military units in the Army.

Ravenlord
04-22-2007, 09:37 PM
Thank you ESPN

yeah...she knows who Melky Cabrera is, but no idea who Jason Bay or Richie Sexson are.