This past Saturday April 15th MLB conducted their annual “Jackie Robinson Day” celebrating Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947. In the ensuing decades the world was introduced to some of the best baseball players in history who just happened to be black. Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Reggie Jackson, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith, and Ken Griffey Jr. to name a few. While Black players are some of the most athletic players the sport has ever seen the game today is mostly a white and hispanic game. Where have all the black players in the MLB gone? Within the past 15-20 years the population of professional baseball players has steadily decreased while young black kids playing little league in inner cities has pretty much become non existent. In doing some research I found that Black professional baseball players make up 7.7 % of the league with a handful of teams having four black players on their team, most team 1 to 2 players, and one team no black player on their team. That causes a huge disadvantage when black kids look for stars like them and can’t find them.
When I was a kid in the 90s we had Griffey to look up to if you were a black kid playing baseball Griffey was your idol. Along with Griffey we had Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin, Kenny Lofton, Bobby Bonilla, Daryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Tim Raines, Brian Jordan, Ozzie Smith and Rickey Henderson even at the tail end of their careers could put on a show, Albert Belle probably was someone’s role model. Today’s kids have Adam Jones, David Price, CC Sabathia, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Kemp, Justin and BJ Upton to name a few. While these guys are all talented and superstars none of them have that factor to draw black kids in.
Some of the factors against baseball in the black community are basketball and football are seen as the cooler sports. It’s perceived the young ladies will flock all over you if you play those sports, but not if you play baseball. I’ve heard that baseball is a very expensive sport to put your child in, I don’t know how true that is but that could play a big factor if money is tight. One of the biggest factors is if you’re one of the lucky few gifted with the talent to make the pros, you’ll ascend quicker to the pros in basketball and football. First round pick in basketball and football you’re in the pros the following season. Baseball on the other hand you can toil around in the minors for years before being called up to the majors and making a shit load of money. If you’re striving to move your family in a better situation that’s not the ideal move.
Baseball is always going to be behind basketball and football in the popularity contest, basketball and football are fast moving games, with out of this world superstars, and that certain “cool” factor. Baseball is a slower paced game full of chess like moves, alot of methodical play calling and substitutions among other things that cause the games to drag.This gives baseball the label of “boring”. While at times it can be boring, there are also times it can be one of the most exciting games you’ve ever seen. Along with the fact if a child today turns on a baseball game and see’s every other race but them, more than likely they’ll turn the game off and never gain an interest.
Despite all of the real or perceived reasons that baseball is not popular in the black community, I honestly think it boils down to the black mlb population dwindling. Not only on the field, there’s two black executives in professional baseball Hanks Aaron with the Braves and Kenny Williams of the White Sox. While there are only two managers in baseball Dusty Baker of the Nationals and Dave Roberts of the Dodgers. As with anything no decision makers that look like us, not alot is being done to keep us. MLB does have some programs in place to reach out to the black community to try and reverse this trend. Black players have a profound history in baseball history as far as players, statistics, and most importantly changing the course of the game for the better. My question is if MLB is genuinely extending their hand out to have more black players in the major leagues, will we as community extend back and teach our kids the beauty of the game or do they simply need a brief history lesson on the greatest black players in MLB history to spark their curiosity?
About the Author
B.Easy is the co-host of Talkin' Suplexes. He's a self-professed geek loving movies, wrestling, comic books, and using his imagination. Goal in life is become to a world traveler and get paid to hop on lear jets.