This week on the Barber Shop Show, we're taking a swing at America's past time: Baseball.
50 years ago this week, Jackie Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. But today, African-American players make up a smaller and smaller percentage of players in Major League Baseball.
In Chicago, only one player is African American: the Sox's Orlando Hudson, and he's currently sitting on the bench.
This week, voices around the city are asking, "Does it matter?"
On Friday's show, we'll have M.C. Johnson, a former player in the Negro Leagues, on the show. Johnson played for the Kansas City Monarchs from 1963 to 1964, and he'll be with us to talk about his experiences and memories, as well as his thoughts on the current state of Major League Baseball.
We'll also have Evan Moore, an African-American baseball fan, and Chicago-based freelance journalist, and Ben Strauss, a writer and editor for Chicagosidesports.com, and regular NY Times contributor.
Both Moore and Strauss have written pieces on the topic of race in the MLB and will be sharing their thoughts with us.
What do those in the know have to say about the topic? Here's a quick rundown, but be sure to read their pieces.
- ChicagoNow's Evan Moore asks if the Bulls' Derrick Rose skyrocketing into fame and riches makes baseball's slow rise look unappealing to today's young athletes.
"Let’s track the progress of the average baseball player in the same time period. Player gets drafted. Next he gets signed and sent to the rookie league. Next, depending on how the player progresses, said player matriculates through A, AA, AAA. At this point, you can see that this player is not a millionaire so far," writes Moore.
- Sridhar Pappu at ChicagoSide Sports talks about why it matters that there's only one black player in Chicago.
"The lack of black ballplayers puts our national game at the risk of being shoved to the margins, a regional sport staffed primarily with white and international stars," writes Pappu.
- Ben Strauss has a great post full of interviews with coaches and players on Chicago's South Side about the future of African Americans in baseball. They talk about why they play baseball and the challenges to playing the sport in the city today.
"Our neighborhoods are changing a little bit. My block has a couple foreclosures. Older people are moving out, a lot of younger families are moving out. You’ve got to have the dads, once you lose the dads, you lose so much," Bill Haley, president of the of Jackie Robinson West Little League told Strauss. "Once communities start breaking down, for whatever reason—Chatham is just a case where people got older, Roseland would be a more economic thing—baseball becomes tougher to pull off."
- Roger Crockett talks about the MLB's diversity paradox, explaining how the number of black players may be down, but baseball is becoming more diverse on the field and behind the scenes.
"African-Americans comprised 5.7 percent (4.0 percent in 2010) of the vice president positions, while Latinos comprised 4.8 percent (4.0 percent in 2010) and Asians were nearly 2 percent (1.8 percent in 2010). Furthermore, for the first time in the history of the major leagues, two different teams are owned by persons of color," writes Crockett.
- And Thursday on ChicagoSide Sports, our own Kimbriell Kelly talks about the crossover between racial equity and Chicago's sports scene.
"If we were talking about the city’s minority contracts program, or diversity among city employees, I’d be the first one grabbing the bullhorn and crying foul," writes Kelly. "But this is different, right? This isn’t equal-opportunity employment, or public service, this is entertainment. This is a game. Besides, baseball isn’t discriminating. Anyone can play. So it doesn’t matter, right?"
What do you think? We want your opinion too. Take our quick poll and tell us what you think about the lack of black players on Chicago's professional baseball diamonds.
© Community Renewal Society 2012
Photo credit: Baseball with magnifying glass/Shutterstock