Friday, September 25, 2009

#235. Playing Baseball

"If you build it, he will come," so spoke the ghost of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson in the classic, Pre-Obama America film "Field of Dreams".

The movie showcases America's pastime - baseball - and the deep connection the sport has with Pre-Obama America; the ritual of playing catch with your father; and the dreams that remain crystallized forever when you step onto the baseball diamond, memories so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces.

For Black people however, the film "Field of Dreams" reminds them of all that they were deprived of when they were denied playing in Major League Baseball and were forced to play in the Negro Leagues.

Also, the game of baseball has completely lost its popularity among young Black people, as Major League Baseball (MLB) find itself with less than nine percent of its players Black people:

"When the Red Sox became the final major league team to integrate in 1959 by signing Pumpsie Green, nearly 1-in-5 major leaguers was black. As recently as 1983, the ratio was better than 1-in-4.

Now the figure is closer to 1-in-12.

A report from the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport found that American or non-Hispanic blacks made up only 8.4 percent of major league rosters in 2006. Whites made up 59.5 percent, Hispanics (a group that includes Americanborn Hispanics, blacks from Spanish-speaking countries and others from Latin America) made up 29.4 percent and Asians 2.4 percent.

The percentage of American blacks was the lowest in 27 years.

Further, American blacks held just three of 30 manager positions, one of 30 general manager positions, and 31 of 519 vice president and senior administration positions. There were no American black CEOs or majority owners.

A list compiled by ESPN. com revealed that 69 out of 750 active players (not including the disabled list) on opening day this year were American blacks. Neither Houston nor Atlanta – cities that are 25 and 61 percent black, respectively – had a single American black."

White people, who make up roughly 66 percent of the United States population, are underrepresented in the major leagues, but Black people, who make up roughly 13 percent of the United States population, are slightly underrepresented (considering how many Black males between the ages of 18-35 are in prison, its amazing that the MLB has even that many Black people).

Recently, the 2005 edition of the Houston Astros made it all the way to the World Series and shockingly they did it without the help any Black people:

"Joe Morgan (Black guy) worries about the face of baseball. Watching the World Series, the Hall of Famer is troubled by what he sees.

His old team, the Houston Astros, is down 2-0 to the Chicago White Sox, but it's not their lineup that concerns Morgan. It's their makeup.

The Astros are the first World Series team in more than a half-century with a roster that doesn't include a single black player.

"Of course, I noticed it. How could you not?" Morgan said while the Astros took batting practice before the opener in Chicago. "But they're not the only ones. There are two or three teams that didn't have any African-American players this year."

Morgan said it's a predicament and a challenge for Major League Baseball. While more players from around the world are making it to the majors -- Japan, Korea, for example -- the number of blacks is declining.

"It's a daunting task to get African-American kids into baseball, and I don't see the trend changing," he said.

The last World Series team without a black player was the 1953 New York Yankees. It wasn't until 1955 -- eight years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 -- that Elston Howard became the first black in Yankee pinstripes."

The Negro Leagues Major League Baseball ain't, as every effort to attract young Black people to the game are underway with the MLB's Inner-City Initiative, as the growing problem of few Black people on the 25-man rosters for MLB teams is a threat to all that is good about America.

Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Jim Rice and Jackie Robinson are all names that baseball fans know and respect, but recent Black players in baseball haven't conjured up the same images of the Black baseball heroes of the past:

"According to a report from, black baseball players total a meager 8 percent of all the leagues players many people involved in baseball have speculated as to why this is so, players and analysts alike. Gary Sheffield of the Detroit Tigers suggests that the rise in the number of Latino players has a direct correlation to the drop in the leagues overall percentage of black players. He was quoted as saying, ... Its about being able to tell Latin players what to do being able to control them ...Where I'm from, you can't control us... So, if you're equally good as this Latin player, guess who's going to get sent home The Twins Tori Hunter also suggested that it makes more economic sense to pay for a Hispanic player that costs 2,000 than a black player that cost 2 million.

This issue perhaps best relates to the perception of black players in the eyes of the media some of the more prominent black baseball players arent always shown in the best light. Barry Bonds is demonized solely on steroid allegations and his unwillingness to oblige the media. Gary Sheffield is often looked upon as a malcontent, simply because hes opinionated. Tori Hunter may have been viewed as culturally insensitive for his shortsighted comments regarding Hispanic players and baseball economics. All of this may have an unintended consequence, as it would appear that the black youth of America could someday be lacking appropriate black male athletes to emulate."
Hmm... Black youth not emulating Black male athletes? As Michael Vick Haters taught us, too late for that idea.

Interestingly, MLB players like Doc Goodin, Daryl Strawberry and Barry Bonds have done wonders for removing from baseball purists minds the lily-white images of the "glory days" of baseball that were depicted in "Field of Dreams", as that movie indicates the only diversity people want on the ball field is of the European variety (there does exist speculation that Babe Ruth was the first great Black home run hitter, but SBPDL will leave that for you to decide).

What are some reasons for the lack of Black people playing baseball? Here is a list:

--As youth programs dried up the past three decades, basketball courts offered an inexpensive substitute. Then the NBA exploded in popularity.

"Dr. J came along, then Magic Johnson and then Michael Jordan. They got icons that transcended the sport," Solomon said. ". . . It's like golf with Tiger Woods. Tiger didn't save golf. But he made it cool."

--Despite initiatives such as the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program and the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., many believe Major League Baseball still has not done enough to penetrate America's inner cities. Hank Aaron called on baseball to do more in June to increase participation.

--Baseball's marketing lags behind the NFL and NBA, especially when it comes to exposing its young, black stars, some players said.

"You look at the TV, you see LeBron (James) and you see Kobe (Bryant)," Sabathia said. "You don't see Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins or these guys out there."

--College baseball programs have just 11.7 scholarships to offer, meaning most players do not get free rides -- or even 50 percent scholarships -- unlike football (85 full scholarships) and basketball (13 full scholarships).

--Baseball has been a game passed down from father to son for generations. The absence of fathers in urban communities may have fractured that link.

"Baseball is a sport where you have to have a dad to teach you how to play catch, and a dad to be there with you to teach you the game," Sabathia said. "There's not a lot of dads in the community these days just for whatever reason."

--The increasing importance of travel teams on youth development may prevent working class and poor families from participating.

--The influx of new ballparks has fueled rising ticket prices, putting the game out of reach for many families. The cost of the average ticket rose 5 percent in 2009 to $26.64, according to the Team Marketing Report. The Fan Cost Index, which measures the cost to take a family of four to a game, including food and parking, rose 3.2 percent to $196.79.

Of course, the real reason so few Black people play baseball is for the same reason Stuff Black People Don't Like includes Father's Day, since nearly 80 percent of Black people are born out of wedlock.

Black people find baseball boring for a few reasons that most people don't want to consider: not because the average MLB game lasts three hours, but because the average MLB game is incredibly boring. Black people don't like baseball, not because there is no beer served after the 7th inning, but because there are so few Black players to cheer for in the first place.

Of course, some Black people still believe racism is the problem behind everything and is always the bogeyman behind every evil action of white people:

"An angry Milton Bradley lashed out at his treatment from Cubs fans Wednesday, suggesting he has been the victim of racial abuse at Wrigley Field.

But Bradley declined to give specifics, saying no one wanted to listen to him.

"America doesn't believe in racism," he said sarcastically before repeating the remark.

Speaking to beat writers in the Cubs clubhouse Wednesday before their 9-4 victory over the Nationals, Bradley was asked to clarify his comments from Tuesday night, when he said he faced "hatred" on a daily basis.

To what exactly was Bradley referring?

"I'm talking about hatred, period," he said. "I'm talking about when I go to eat at a restaurant, I have to listen to the waiters bad-mouthing me at another table, sitting in a restaurant, that's what I'm talking about -- everything."
Milton Bradley might be booed by white people, because it is only white people who go to MLB games anymore. He might not get good service at restaurants, because he is a bad tipper, another SBPDL.

Worse, Jackie Robinson, the man who integrated baseball and has an entire day -April 15 - for his honor, can't catch a break anymore, according to Black MLB player Tori Hunter:

"Jackie Robinson was special, and I don’t think a lot of players know what they’re wearing his number for. I think some players are wearing it because the teams want them to wear it. I don’t think they know what’s behind the number.

You don’t have to be African-American to know what he went through. You’ve just got to be a smart person or a person who knows what pain is like.

For the past 10 years, I’ve been called the N-word, like, 20 times. Not in Minnesota. In Kansas City. In Boston.

I think Jackie Robinson went through a lot just for us to play this game. Had he not gone through that, we probably wouldn’t be playing this game. I probably wouldn’t be here today.

Rondell White was going to wear Jackie Robinson’s number, too, but he’s on the disabled list. And Jerry White will wear it. They represent Jackie Robinson, too.

What bugged me was that Houston doesn’t have a black player . . . and this might not be true at all, but, in my opinion, I feel like everybody (on the Astros) is wearing it because they don’t have a black player. A lot of teams are wearing it, and they barely have black players."

SBPDL has tried to tell everyone that Black people will not be happy until everything in America is 100 percent Black. You can't make Black people play baseball and you can' put Black people on baseball teams, just because they are Black. Sorry Mr. Hunter, that is not how it works, as sports are the ultimate test of talent and affirmative action policies don't work on the playing field.

Stuff Black People Don't Like includes baseball, for "Field of Dreams" shows the ultimate fantasy of baseball fans and it simply to another catch with Dad, a sensation that most Black people never felt in the first place. Also, the movie shows what most Black people believe about white people anyway, that they would like to watch only white people play sports.

Baseball will always be a Pre-Obama America game. As the game fades in popularity and relevance, so does the majority population that built America. Baseball is still seen as a white thing, and remember, SBPDL includes Acting White for a reason.


ARaceAgainstTime said...

Each spring you'll find the obligatory article bemoaning the lack of black MLB players. Within the first 100 words of the article, the name "Jackie Robinson" is almost guaranteed to appear at least once.

Here's some sample article titles from the last few years:
4/3/2006 - Baseball's black exodus (USA Today)
3/14/2007 - Lack of black players a ‘crisis,’ Indians ace says (AP)
4/15/2008 - Number of black ballplayers in MLB drops to just 8.2 percent (AP)
6/21/2009 - MLB must preserve civil rights legacy

It's funny how you never see any articles about the need to preserve the legacy of white players in the NBA. Only 20% of the NBA is white - how is that not a crisis?

Anonymous said...

So it's not good enough for Tori Hunter that one day out of the year, every single MLB player is forced against his will to wear Jackie Robinson's number on his jersey solely because he was black. Tori Hunter is chagrined because there might be some players out there who don't have an awareness of Robinson's "pain." Tori Hunter is not satisfied with the slavering worship of Jackie Robinson foisted upon the entire baseball community because we have corporations and organizations in this country that cynically pander to black America's obsession with itself. Tori Hunter won't rest easy until he has concrete proof that the great and mighty Jackie Robinson is the uppermost thought on the minds all MLB players. Especially the white ones.

Anonymous said...

how about talk civil rights about hockey and nascar?

MLB is filled with latinos, simply because they love the sport. Blacks love basketball.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I were talking about baseball the other day. She took the position that everything's going to be ok, hispanics and indians and asians and blacks are going to come in, take our place as an understudy takes the lead role and assimilate and everything will be fine.

But baseball was my ace in the hole, my analogy to deflect her optimism towards the brown tidal wave of assimilation: Baseball has the same rules and the same everything but who cares to watch it anymore? It's filled with faceless hispanics with no character and who cares? The infrastructure and rules are the same, but the life-blood is gone. Harvard, Mariners, your bus to work. Who cares about them, now that the mirror doesn't reflect you back anymore?

Godffrey said...

So let's see. First, black people decided they wanted to play in MLB but now that they can they don't want to. Second, they wanted to got to all white public schools but now that they can they don't want to. What's next? Anyone who has been around children has no doubt observed the same kind of behavior.

Lisa said...

Be careful stereotyping.