One of Many Serious Problems Facing MLB:Fewer African Americans Playing the Game

By Willie Cochran
Updated: August 8, 2007

MLB Logo and Jackie RobinsonNew Jersey—Major League Baseball has many very serious problems like salaries spiraling out of control and that no owner in the majors is making money (so they say). There is one problem that many do not hear about and that has been kept under wraps, which the lack of African-Americans playing Major League Baseball.

This is something that has been an ongoing trend in baseball since 1975. ESPN’s Outside the Lines recently did a story on the subject. They stated that in 1975, 25% of the players were African-American.

In 1975 that dwindled to 19% and in 2002 it fell to 10%. That 10% margin factors out to almost 3 per team.

Many have not noticed this disturbing trend since most of the star players in the Majors are of African-American descent. Sure there is Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, and Ken Griffey Jr. who are making the big highlights all over television, but that assumption is completely wrong. The number of African-American Major League All-Stars has also fallen. In 1975 there were 17 while in 2002 there were seven.

People assert that baseball has advanced so far since Jackie Robinson.

In most respects in regards to African-Americans it has but there’s still is a problem.

So the question is why has African-American participation in baseball gone down?

Baseball has failed to market the game to the inner cities much like the NFL and NBA do. Baseball Public Relations and Advertising do not try to get stars into the cities to teach the game and relate to children. Public Relations have failed to get to the kids while they are young, which results in less kids playing sandlot baseball down the street from. Advertising is failing to cater their game to a younger crowd by pushing the African American stars.

A glaring example of this is Dontrelle Willis. Next to Roger Clemens’ 300th win, Willis has been the other big name in the first half o the season. It is not just all hype with Willis, but he has backed it up. His sparkling 8-1 record with a 2.13 ERA has showed that. In his last start against the Atlanta Braves he drew a 5.4 rating on FOX Sports Net Florida. That was the highest rating for a regular season Marlins game since their World Series year in 1997.

Willis is a well-spoken, intelligent African-American athlete that could steer baseball in the correct direction with young blacks. Baseball, not surprisingly, messes up again by not voting Willis to the National League All-Star team. It would have been the perfect forum to push him as one of their emerging stars.

Bud Selig and his people are really missing the money train with not having Willis at the game.

Selig really needs to tackle this issue of declining African-American participation now or in another couple decades their might be an extinction of black stars or players for that matter.