If you look at the current rosters for the Cubs and the Sox, you’ll only find one African American player, Orlando Hudson.
And he’s been sitting on the bench.
On Friday’s Barber Shop Show, we took a look at the presence of African American players in Major League Baseball. Our guests Evan Moore, Ben Strauss and former Negro League player M.C. Johnson joined us to take on this tough topic and help us pull apart why this is the case.
There were a lot of theories thrown out as to why there are fewer and fewer black faces in the ranks of the MLB. Is the lack of African American players a reason for declining black audiences? Or is declining black interest in baseball in general to blame for the lack of players?
Then there’s Little League–the best way, our guests said, for young people to get into the sport. But baseball is a tough sport to fund and to organize–requiring a lot of equipment, a special field, and often, adult organization. That’s tough to find in poorer neighborhoods on the South Side, where basketball is king.
The topic garnered a lot of comments from around the web, and as always, our audience had a lot of great input. Here’s a few choice words from listeners and readers:
On the lack of fields and exposure:
“When I was a kid we had a baseball diamond outside the school yard and ‘strike em’ out’ spray painted on the side of the building. These inner city kids don’t have that option anymore. They don’t have baseball teams in grammar schools either… you will be a cheerleader or basketball player. The park near me doesn’t even have the little league baseball anymore. I believe if kids are exposed to these different sports other then basketball and football at an early age there would be more kids to excel in various sports.” — Michael James
“I think the problem is more that kids aren’t exposed to baseball like we were. Baseball is a sport that in order to be successful you have to pick it up at an early age. How many little leagues are left that cater to black kids? ” — Ezra McCann
Differing definitions of diversity:
“I don’t think anyone notices that there are diminishing numbers for blacks in baseball. They have been replaced by Latinos and Asian players. Your premise that baseball is America’s game is probably outdated … Baseball–or beisbol–now belongs to the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and maybe even Japan where physical limitations prevent them having NBA success, but young players have a bigger passion for the game to escape poverty.” — George Wilcox, sportswriter for the Pioneer Press
“The influx of Latin players has been blamed on the waning Black presence, but it has really just taken up the slack and Latin players have years of experience in quality youth and academic team setting in cultures that treasure the game.” — Patrick Murphin
“Why is that relevant? Chicago has a large Polish population too, but there aren’t any on the rosters.” — Chris King
Better economic opportunities elsewhere:
“No kid wants to wait four years in college then possibly have to go to the Minors where he could be there for five to six years making less than normal college grads with a job living in hotels of small hick/no-name towns. Many minor league players don’t even make it to the League and they have wasted five, six, seven years of their lives and NEVER fulfilled their dreams or made enough money to survive.” — Aaron T. Bell
“I would say the entire NBA is to blame, they create these hoop dreams for young kids, when the chances are very slim for most players to even make it to the NBA.” — Marcus Phelps
More important concerns:
“Shouldn’t we be more concerned about the low percentages of black folks in occupations that actually matter–like being doctors who heal, teachers who teach, business owners who create jobs? Vast majority of players in NBA and NFL are black…who cares if one sport is skewed the other way?” — Lorraine Forte, Catalyst magazine
What do you think is to blame for lack black players in Major League Baseball? The conversation continues here on the web. Let us know what you think.
If you missed Friday’s show, catch the podcast on Tuesday on Vocalo.org.
Photo credit: Baseball inside leather glove/Shutterstock