Baseball No Longer Such A Good Field For Black Athletes

By Patrick Murphy
Updated: April 28, 2007
OHIO—It has been over two weeks since baseball paused to celebrate Jackie Robinson’s 60th anniversary of breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

Now what?

It appears, like most moments of national awareness, this one will slip away from the limelight and take a backseat to whatever grabs the headlines, probably something about Anna Nicole.

What many fail to realize is that Robinson’s inclusion into baseball’s all-white, good ol’ boys game is American history, not just African-American history.

It is an event not limited to baseball, but one that changed this country.

Baseball may have been the backdrop for change, but the impacts of that day and those following it have had an impact on all aspects of this country.

For African-Americans, it gave them hope that if they could play professional baseball, they could enter other walks of life and gain acceptance for their accomplishments regardless of their skin color.

For white America, it made us open our eyes and realize people of color were deserving of our respect.

Of course, change came slowly, and it is still a work in progress. Racism still exists, and there are still those people who root for African-American athletes on the field, but treat them poorly once the uniform comes off.

The question that permeated last week while we celebrated Robinson was this: Why are there fewer and fewer African-Americans playing in the majors?

While African-Americans are no longer barred from playing, there are socio-economic barriers. Many areas do not have the means to build ballfields for young people to hone their skills and learn the game.

It is much cheaper and easier to pour cement and put up a basketball hoop.

There also is a quicker path and earlier pay day to professional basketball.

What kid, regardless of race, does not dream of making millions of dollars?

When they see kids just a few years older than them going to the NBA, it is far more tempting than putting in the time and learning the intricacies of baseball.

Spending years in the minor leagues, riding buses, making less than their peers on the basketball court also is keeping kids off the diamonds and on the basketball courts.

Counter that with young kids growing up in Latin America, where baseball is still the No. 1 game, and there is a spike in the number of major leaguers from those countries.

And there is another force to be reckoned with, Japan and some day soon, China.

Japan is the new hotbed for major league baseball players as teams mine the Japanese league for talent, creating a more worldwide game.

The New York Yankees and Chinese Baseball Association have formed an alliance that will allow the Yankees to send coaches and staff to China to help develop players and Chinese staff can come to the Yankees facilities to learn more about American baseball.

No doubt the Yankees have a plan to eventually harvest talent for their team.

Whether the dearth of African-Americans in the majors turns out to be a matter of ebb and flow or a downward slide, there is reason to be concerned now.

Baseball needs to reach out to all people and make sure facilities and coaches are there to teach the game still considered by some to be America’s pastime.

If we don’t, Robinson’s legacy cannot be carried on.