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A True White Sport? MAG
Thegame of baseball has been popular since the early 1800s, and today millions ofpeople across the world play it competitively. Just in the United States thereare 31 professional teams and over 150 minor league affiliates. AfricanAmericans, however, who have been playing baseball since the 1860s, are not wellrepresented on the field or in management (according towww.sportsillustrated.com). Only 17 percent of all major league players areAfrican-American, and there are only four African-American managers in MajorLeague Baseball (MLB). Unlike professional basketball and football, where themajority of players and many coaches and management are African-American,baseball continues to shun these players and managers.
Since the late1800s, baseball has been dominated by the white community. Between 1881 and 1947,Moses Fleetwood Walker and his brother Welday were the only African-Americans whoplayed on a major-league team. When they graduated from Oberlin College in 1883,they were signed by the Toledo Blue Stockings, a Triple A team. However, whenToledo joined the American Association as a professional team, the Walkers werereleased.
Exclusion from professional baseball did not discourageAfrican-Americans from playing the sport. In 1900, the first professional Negroleague was formed. It consisted of five teams and in ten years grew to more than60 teams. In 1920, Rube Foster formed the Negro National League, which lasted for12 years before collapsing during the Great Depression. Later the Negro AmericanLeague was formed, and continued until baseball was integrated. The greatestplayer in the Negro Leagues was Josh Gibson, a catcher for the St. Louis Grays.Gibson played for 16 years and batted a lifetime average of .391, and hit 962homeruns (84 in one season). These statistics would shatter Hank Aaron's MLBrecord of 755 and Ty Cobb's lifetime average of .366.
Theemergence of skilled players in the Negro leagues led to the integration ofprofessional baseball. In 1945, Jackie Robinson of the Kansas City Monarchssigned with the Dodgers' minor league team for $600 a month, followed by fourmore players in the next years. In 1947, Robinson played his first professionalgame and went on to win Rookie of the Year. In the next seven years, sixAfrican-American players won the award.
The integration of baseball ledto the emergence of many African-American players. Willie Mays, Hank Aaron,Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson are just a few of the most famous. They opened thegates for today's stars, including Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey,Jr.
Although African-American players are statistical leaders in manycategories, only 17 percent of players in MLB today are African-American.Ironically, the Los Angeles Dodgers only had one African-American player on theirroster, Gary Sheffield, and they traded him to the Atlanta Braves. The New YorkYankees and Arizona Diamondbacks, of World Series' fame, each have three.
"It should be embarrassing not only to the Dodgers," saysjournalist Bobby Newcombe, "but to all of baseball. I don't know if it's aconcerted effort, but I know some of the black players are talking about it. It'sa trend that's very disturbing." (sportingnews.com)
"You want toknow why there aren't any black players? Because you've got to be twice as goodas anyone else. If you're not, you just won't make it. Why do you think youhardly ever see any black bench players? You better be a star, or you're notmaking this team. They don't want a black player sitting on the bench makingmoney. You got to be white," says Sheffield about the current state ofMLB.
African-Americans are also the minority in management. Dusty Bakerof the San Francisco Giants, Lloyd Mclendon of the Pittsburgh Pirates, JerryManuel of the Chicago White Sox and Don Baylor of the Chicago Cubs are the onlyAfrican-American managers. Also, there are only two African-American third basecoaches, Willie Randolph of the Yankees and Ron Washington of the OaklandAthletics.
Even more astonishing is the number of African-Americangeneral managers, the most respected authority position in baseball. There iscurrently only one: Kenny Williams of the Chicago White Sox. Bill White, theformer National League President, was the highest ranking black executive insports in the early '90s until his position was eliminated by MLB. In the minorleagues there are two general managers for the 150 teams.
"I takefull responsibility. Every club (with an opening) has been talking to me. Thesituation will get better," says Bud Selig, president of MLB. SaysSheffield, "That's why you don't see black managers. If you had blackmanagers, they might hire their black friends as coaches. And if you have blackcoaches, they might get black players." (sportingnews.com)
This pastNovember, Dave Stewart, now the new pitching coach for the Milwaukee Brewers,was denied the position of GM of the Toronto Blue Jays.
"They thinkthe only people capable of doing these jobs are white people, notminorities," said Stewart. (news. excite.com) After being passed over,Stewart signed with the Brewers. Blue Jays President Paul Godfrey defended hisdecision, saying, "Why did I give it to somebody else other than the guyinside? Because J.P. Ricciardi [the new GM] had something no other candidate had- a plan and a strategy both for the major league team and the minor leagueteam." (news.excite.com)
When baseball was integrated in 1945 byJackie Robinson, people believed African-Americans and other minorities wouldemerge and populate the baseball community. However, professional baseball hasonly partially responded. Although there are few African Americans on currentteam rosters, the minor leagues are filled with African-American players.Awareness must continue. Says Stewart, "It's an issue that blacks don't needto hear about, because we live it every day, but others do. It's just liketalking about AIDS and drugs, you're just making people aware, that's all."(sportingnews.com)