“Signing Jackie Robinson Killed Negro Leagues,” said Blair

By Joe Booker
Updated: June 18, 2005

HOUSTON, TX.–Baseball is no longer apple pie, hotdogs and popcorn for blacks. It just isn’t a pastime for blacks anymore. You don’t have to take my word for it. All you have to do is attend any major league baseball game. You can almost count the number of blacks in the stands on your hands.

Back in the day, baseball was the sports for blacks. Every little kid grew up wanting to be like Jackie Robinson. You had the Old Negro Leagues and blacks back in the day played for the Old Negro League.

Signing Jackie Robinson saw the decline of blacks in baseball.

“What people don’t realize is it started when Branch Rickey (Dodgers owner) signed Jackie Robinson,” said Bill Blair owner of the Dallas Elite Newspaper and former pitcher in the Negro Leagues. “Major League baseball put the Negro Leagues out of business. They had teams in Canada and other cities. Did you know that 35% of the players in the Negro League were college men? Right down there in Houston, you had Pat Patterson (late Yates baseball and football coach). I remember when Jackie Robinson played. Blacks would take off from work to go see him play.”

Blacks priced out of the game.

“They (major league baseball) priced blacks out,” said Blair who tutored Hall of Famer Ernie Banks. “Blacks are not going to games, because it cost too much. The game is now geared to big business. You see sponsors and corporations getting all the good seats. The seats that are discounted are so high until you can’t see the game with a telescope. It’s a game for the big money people. All professional sports have gotten that way.”

Groomed Ernie Banks

“People don’t know but I taught Ernie everything he knew about baseball,” said Blair, going on 83 and looks like he did 30-years ago. “Ernie played the wrong sport. He was a better basketball player than he was a baseball player. I never saw anyone who could shoot a basketball like Ernie. Ernie was the first black that played in the major leagues that they did not change from the infield to the outfield. Larry Doby, Hank Aaron and several other black players were infielders, but were moved to the outfield.”

Mays was the greatest to play.

“People talk about all the greatest players, but Willie Mays was the greatest player to ever play baseball,” said Blair. “The Giants scout who signed Mays was not going to see Mays, he was going to see a player named Alonzo Perry. After seeing Mays he (scout) forgot all about Perry. Perry never reached the majors.”

Blair feels pitchers should be able to pitch complete games.

“When I played a pitcher was supposed to get stronger the longer he pitched,” said Blair. “During Satchel Paige’s days pitchers pitched double-headers. I don’t believe in the pitch count. If a pitcher is going strong why take him out? How many times have you seen a relief pitcher come in and lose the game? Could you see a manager coming to the mound to pull Bob Gibson after so many pitches? The game has gotten too specialized.”

Former NFL Player Davis says game too slow.

“Baseball is too slow. I don’t like it,” said Charles Davis, former NFL running back who is now a trainer for Bally’s. “They must do something to speed the game up.”

Some teams don’t scout black players.

“It is as simple as not seeing black players,” said a former black major league baseball executive. “I blame the scouts, because some of them don’t even scout black players. If you don’t scout black players you will not have any on your roster. I think team executives need to look at their scouts and ask why? When you see more blacks on a team you will see an increase of blacks attending games. Young black athletes don’t have anyone to identify with, so they don’t play baseball. They can find blacks on any NBA and NFL team.”