NY Times Misses Real Umpire Story Missing Black Umps

Updated: October 12, 2008





Right there on the front page of The New York Times on Wednesday was a classic human interest story about a ‘hidden’ group in our sported minded society. Umpires who toil anonymously in the minors under appreciated for one overriding reason the Ultimate Dream of all those who would Umpire …

The Major Leagues !

Except The Times

walked right by

The Big Story

Where are the Black Umpires.

In the Minors and

the Majors.

It is a Theme that the Box has highlighted time and again as no other media has. Our ‘classic’ special report and investigation has been available on the BASN for almost 3 years now.

And nothing has Changed.

But The Great New York Times, its editors and the reporters and researchers who worked on The Times feature titled ” Minor League Umpires Wait for the Big Call ” is color blind in the worst way. After following around as bunch if minor league umpires and looking at all sorts of biographical information about lots of minor league imps and even after having Times photogs take pictures of many minor league umps for possible use in the article and the on line slide show …..

it didn’t strike any of them

including the much praised

Times Executive Editor

Bill Keller

There are NO

African Americans here !

So what we’re going to do with today’s Box as a public service to America and The New York Times is quote liberally from our own 2003 Special Report ” The Very Worst Case of Discrimination in Sports Today.”

Here are some excerpts from our Special Report

Excerpt #1

There is a systematic character of exclusion to the entire MLB umpire organization and hierarchy that insures that African Americans are barely represented at all among the ranks of MLB umpires and not at all, zero, among those who manage this function and those who train new umpires for the future. It even extends to the Umpires Union all of whose executives and directors are white. It amounts to the most blatant example of institutional racism in sports today in the United States. There have been a total of just six African American umpires in the entire history of MLB baseball which has included over 350 umpires.

Excerpt #2

Let’s look at the current MLB umpire roster. As of this moment MLB lists 70 active roster umpires for major league games. Two are African American. There is also one Mexican, one Dominican, and one Jamaican ( all three light skinned if you put any meaning in that ). So that leaves us with 65 white caucasians and just TWO African Americans here in the 21st century, and 55 years after Jackie Robinson’s entry into the majors. The two African Americans are Chuck Meriwether and Kerwin Danley.

Excerpt #3

The unique nature of this discrimination against African Americans in sports today goes far far beyond the current MLB umpire roster. It infects every element of a large network of which the umpires themselves are the end result. There are five other key components to this network as will be explained. The management, oversight and training organizations which develop, organize and manage MLB umpires. There is not a single African American in any of these five organizations. Repeat not even one African American among all five organizations.

Excerpt #4

That situation today is absolutely no different than it was prior to Jackie Robinson entering the MLB in 1947. The entire MLB umpire ‘matrix’ is composed of well over 100 individuals individuals. Only 2 of them involved in one or another aspect of the structure of MLB umpires are African American, only Meriwether and Danley. At the very lowest wrung of this hierarchy. And it insures that just as yesterday and today, for years to come there will be few if any Black umpires in major league baseball.

Excerpt #5

Umpiring is a skill, rather than a rare talent, meaning that motivated individuals with a love of baseball can be, and are trained to be MLB umpires. MLB umpires are not born. They are trained and selected. There is an official mechanism, and associated organizations which determine who will become an MLB umpire.

It’s a good job to have. It pays between $88,000 and $300,000 a year depending on seniority and responsibilities, and additional for post season work. Umpires work just about seven months a year and the rest of the fall and most of the winter they can do whatever they want. Have second careers if they like.

Both inside of predominantly Black communities, and within college and minor leagues there are significant numbers of Black Americans who enjoy umpiring. Who would consider being a Major League Umpire the ultimate dream. Yet only six of them in 100 years have ever been allowed to realize the Dream.

Excerpt #6

Here is why in reality MLB umpiring is a Nightmare for African Americans, and under current conditions will continue to be, and why MLB baseball is guilty of the worst case of discrimination, call it racism if you like, in sports today. MLB is a big business, with lots of employees working for it, separate from the individual teams.

MLB has its own Umpire Division, under Commissioner Bud Selig, with a full time executive staff of thirteen. Twelve are white, one Hispanic, and not a single African American. It is led by VP for Baseball Operations Sandy Alderson. This is the Division that controls umpiring in the MLB, makes all assignment, and chooses all new umpires. Not a single Black in the entire operation.

Excerpt #7

From there we move on to the very interesting way in which one qualifies to be a potential MLB umpire. You must enroll in either of just two approved umpiring schools, and graduate from their program. You must also gain experience in the minor leagues, but graduating from either of these schools is also an MLB requirement.

The two schools both in Florida are the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring, and the Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires. Both schools are white owned, all their executives and all their instructors are white. Together they employ 51 senior staff involved in training.

There is not a single African American among them. Oh one more point. Call it a miracle. Harry Wendelstedt who now owns one of the two approved schools has a son named Hunter who is also an MLB umpire. In fact until dad retired they were MLB’s father and son umpires !! Both school owners Bob Evans and Harry Wendelstedt are long time former MLB umpires.

Excerpt #8

Major League Baseball allows a major component of its operation, the umpire function, to be run as a virtual private club, which African Americans are rarely invited to join.

A system in which the entire decision making process excludes any meaningful Black participation, a system in which a completely white led private corporation selects and evaluates minor league umpires for potential promotion, a system which employs all white private schools as a necessary element in becoming an umpire, and a system in which nepotism is not prevented, amounts to a system out of control, in which only six Black Americans in the history of baseball have ever been selected to be Major League umpires. Six African American MLB umpires out of almost 400 men who have served throughout its history as MLB umpires.

Excerpt #9

The issue of MLB umpires if anything is even more compelling, even less possible to rationalize the lack of African American umpires in Major league Baseball.

We have documented in detail the major shortcomings in the MLB umpire process, that may well amount to nothing less than an organized conspiracy, whether with specific racist overtones or not, a conspiracy to defraud African Americans who may be interested in becoming MLB umpires from ever attaining that goal. Almost 400 umpires in MLB history, only six African Americans in total, and just two today for a very very inviting job that pays very well.

Excerpt #10

The current situation, and the historic lack of Black umpires in Major League Baseball is the inevitable result of a system for training and choosing MLB umpires, that is so absent of Black involvement, which just as clearly cannot be justified, that undermines all credibility in this matter.

A) The Umpire Division of MLB that does not include a single African American.

B) Two privately owned and only approved and required training schools for MLB umpires, neither of which employs a single African American as an executive or instructor, C) the corporation that oversees and rates all minor league umpires that does not have a single African American officer or executive, D) and the Umpire Union approved as the umpires representative in labor matters, that has no Black officers or board members.

And what is the result of this system Commissioner ? Only two current African American MLB umpires, and a total of six in the entire 100 year history of MLB baseball, in which there have been almost 400 umpires selected.

End of Excerpts

The entire Special Report

should be required reading

at The New York Times

beginning with Bill Keller

and everyone in

The Times sports department


( hope springs Eternal )

The Times will print

the Umpire story

they should have.