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Baseball and race- a discussion

Postby tinfoilxtouch » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:06 pm

So I’m sitting here watching the ESPN special about Jackie Robinson, and everyone seems to agree the sky is falling and the reduction in black baseball players is a crisis. Let me pose the situation this way and get your feedback…

Black players currently account for 8% of the major leagues. That sounds bad, until you remember blacks are only 12% of the US population. Everyone on ESPN seems to be praising the days when blacks accounted for 27% of the majors. If one group is represented in such great numbers over their portion of the general population, doesn’t that mean other groups, by simple math, have to be underrepresented? So who is supposed to have their numbers reduced? Whites? Latinos? The same races that struggle to find their place in the other two major sports?

I think it’s clear that there is NO racial bias in baseball anymore. Players are being judged on talent and character, but certainly not race. Just look at the amateur draft… nobody in their right mind avoids drafting someone like Delmon. If you have talent, you can play.

The question is whether we should care that African Americans don’t seem to be interested in baseball in the same numbers as other races. Why? Sports, just like music, is very cultural. Should we be worried more blacks don’t buy indie rock albums? No. They have the choice… what is the harm if they choose other things?

The bottom line is this: I imagine Jackie Robinson had a dream for a sport where race wasn’t a consideration in the opportunities you were afforded. And to that extent, I can’t imagine anyone arguing his goal wasn’t accomplished.
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Postby Coppermine » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:14 pm

I don't think it's a racial bias on baseball's part. I think you're missing the point. The problem is that black youth are less interested in baseball then they used to be, and that's detrimental to the sport for a variety reasons. It's arguable that there are perhaps potentially great African American baseball players who will never even pick up a bat. The reasons vary, but the common consensus seems to be economic. First of all, football and basketball are more appealing to black youth. It's presumably easier to play these sports professionally, whether this is perceived or real is debatable, but those sports are certainly less expensive to play than baseball.

Kids used to pick up a bat and play in the back yard, sand lots and parking lots. Now there are youth leagues, fees and expensive equipment to buy. This is detrimental to disadvantaged, urban youth.

To expand on my own opinion, basketball and football have more of a pervasive, urban culture to them. Those sports are predominantly black, and young black athletes are inclined to gravitate toward those sports.

I think all of these things are unfortunate, and I think MLB is doing a great thing by honoring Jackie Robinson to expose young people to the history of the game and the profound impact the sport had in desegregating years before the civil rights movement. Jackie Robinson's achievement isn't just a part of sports history; it's a part of American history.
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Postby thedude » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:20 pm

The real problem is that African-American are under represented in upper management in all American Sports.
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Postby Philliebuster » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:28 pm

thedude wrote:The real problem is that African-American are under represented in upper management in all American Sports.


Seems ok to me...in baseball...carefull using the word "all."

4/2/07-Richard Lapchick, the director of the Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sport at UCF... the institute’s Racial and Gender Report Card gave baseball higher marks for minority representation in its front office, issuing a letter grade of B+. Lapchick’s report card gave baseball an A+ for its hiring policies within its central offices, a B+ for hiring among its senior administration and a B among team vice presidents.
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Postby StarsNPinstripes » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:31 pm

I also think it's cultural as well.In Latin America, kids live for baseball;Here in the US all kids,regardless of race, are losing interest in playing baseball.Whether it be basketball,football, skate baording, video games or those damn heeleys kids born and raised in the US seem to be turning to anything and everything except baseball.


Whatever path these kids choose, they have choices because of people like Jackie Robinson.
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Postby mbuser » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:35 pm

how many cities have baseball diamonds in them? i think it speaks to the fact that not all kids in all places have real access to all sports, which is a problem regardless of what color the kids are
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Postby sportsaddict » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:39 pm

Coppermine wrote:I don't think it's a racial bias on baseball's part. I think you're missing the point. The problem is that black youth are less interested in baseball then they used to be, and that's detrimental to the sport for a variety reasons. It's arguable that there are perhaps potentially great African American baseball players who will never even pick up a bat. The reasons vary, but the common consensus seems to be economic. First of all, football and basketball are more appealing to black youth. It's presumably easier to play these sports professionally, whether this is perceived or real is debatable, but those sports are certainly less expensive to play than baseball.

Kids used to pick up a bat and play in the back yard, sand lots and parking lots. Now there are youth leagues, fees and expensive equipment to buy. This is detrimental to disadvantaged, urban youth.

To expand on my own opinion, basketball and football have more of a pervasive, urban culture to them. Those sports are predominantly black, and young black athletes are inclined to gravitate toward those sports.

I think all of these things are unfortunate, and I think MLB is doing a great thing by honoring Jackie Robinson to expose young people to the history of the game and the profound impact the sport had in desegregating years before the civil rights movement. Jackie Robinson's achievement isn't just a part of sports history; it's a part of American history.


I think you bring up a good point. Not only do I think youth interest in baseball is dwindling in black culture, but also in American culture in general. More kids just aren't playing baseball these days, and I really don't know why. I still think baseball is America's sport, no matter what, but more kids are interested in playing football or basketball or something else. Is that ok? I don't know, I guess its just the way things work.

However, I think baseball, for whatever reason, has done a good job of pretty much being multi-racial. When you watch a basketball game, and you can admit this or not, a lot of people make jokes about the stereotypical "white boy that can't jump." We see race when we watch basketball. We do when we watch football too. It's just the way it works, there's nothing you can really do about it. But baseball, I don't think anyone ever really talks about "wow, look at C.C. Sabathia, he's a good black pitcher," or "look at Dontrelle Willis, he's another good black pitcher, good for him." We just say, "look at the fatty Sabathia and how much of a beast he is," and "look at DTrain, he acts like a 10 year old on the mound, in a good way" :-b In baseball, I think people tend to ignore race more, but I do think the youth are losing interest in baseball as a whole.
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Postby josebach » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:44 pm

mbuser wrote:how many cities have baseball diamonds in them? i think it speaks to the fact that not all kids in all places have real access to all sports, which is a problem regardless of what color the kids are


That's a major part of it. I also think a big problem is that to a lot of black kids, Baseball simply isn't "cool". I don't care what color you are, kids want to fit in. If that means playing the same sports your friends do or speaking in the same vernacular, that's what they're going to do.
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Postby number9 » Fri Apr 13, 2007 3:18 am

With the huge Latino infusion both in MLB and the American population in general, it's not surprising that the African American MLB players are less represented, just demographically. Will there be a big Asian infusion in the future? (Still just a trickle.) And the percentage of white players should be in a steady decline over the decades too (or has it stablized?)
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Postby reiser » Fri Apr 13, 2007 8:28 am

Coppermine wrote: The problem is that black youth are less interested in baseball then they used to be, and that's detrimental to the sport for a variety reasons.

first: wow...is this the most intelligent thread I've ever seen on the cafe?

there's three people I wanted to quote here, but I think coppermine nailed it :)
it's detrimemental both in a cultural/historical/fuzzy sense, and then from a business/marketing viewpoint as well.

in the cultural sense...baseball was the first major sport (when it was *the* major sport) to integrate. what a fantastic legacy! so I think the symbolic slide is important here-baseball hasn't really cherished this rich legacy.

from a marketing business viewpoint however, it's a disaster. if an entire segment of the US population doesn't even consider baseball as an option to play and/or watch, that's just poor business.

put another way: which would you rather be in 2007, football or baseball, in terms of your viewer demographics?

as to the writer who mentioned front office disparities: fantastic! good catch! i love red herrings!
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