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Gary Norris Gray-BASN-Staff Reporter
OAKLAND, CA.- The Black baseball player is an endangered species. African American children see the shenanigans continue on the diamond of this historic game. They don’t want to play because they do not see faces that look like them on the field and they also see Blacks experiencing no power or control in the baseball board room.
At the start of the 2016 Major League Baseball season there were 91 African American players on the field and in the dugouts, an increase of four from 87 at the start of 2015. There are two Black managers in the Major League and both are in the playoffs with the old man Dusty Baker of the Washington Nationals and the rookie Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers. This will be Baker’s 4th team to make the playoffs, no manager has done this. This proves once again that African American can lead but MLB refuses to answer the call for inclusion. There might be light at the end of the tunnel if baseball can embrace players like Boston Red Sox-Mookie Betts.
Black faces cannot be found on the diamond. Outfielders Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Dexter Fowler of the Chicago Cubs grace MLB. The League promotes white players consistently: Mike Trout-California Angels, Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals, Noah (THOR) Syndergaard and Matt (BATMAN) Harvey-New York Mets, Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner – San Francisco Giants. Black kids see this and want no part of it.
At the coaching and managerial level, free spirited Barry Bonds gets fired as batting coach for the Florida Marlins while manager Buck Showalter remains at the helm of the Baltimore Orioles, despite Showalter’s failure to manage his pitching(bull pen) staff. Bonds improved the Marlins’ batting average and Showalter engineered another Bird exit from the playoffs. But with Bonds’ departure, another prominent Black face is lost to aspiring young Black fans. That’s baseball being baseball AGAIN.
The game has changed from the 1970′s 25-30 percent African American participation to today’s 8 percent. The “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates fielded a complete Black team with Willie Stargell, Al Oliver, Gene Clines, Frank Taveras, Rennie Stennett, and Dave Parker; if you include Black Latinos Tony Armas, Miquel Dilone, Omar Moreno, with catcher Manny Sanguillen and Dock Ellis starting on the mound, it was Soul City.
The question MLB should be asking is why are numbers now remaining stagnant? African American boys and girls are shying away from the game because of unwritten rules, rules that founders of the game put in place years ago. Then there is also the subtle racism that permeates the game promoting baseball stars. African Americans love to celebrate victory. The unwritten rules of not showing up an opponent.. DON’T DO THAT IN BASEBALL. Don’t throw your bat after a home run, Don’t stand there at home plate admiring your home run, Don’t clap your hands and smile running around the base path, Don’t look at me after a strike out pitch, Don’t show up an umpire even if he has made a terrible call, Don’t slide into second base three feet away from the bag.
These are the UNWRITTEN rules African American youth do not understand and want no part of, because they have been told growing up to be truthful, clear, straight and concise. This game flies in the face of logic.
The is also American cultish breeding of the game’s youngest stars, which could possibly be responsible for what some perceive as the entitled and arrogant behavior of Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper, who was paid at nine years old to schedule impromptu performances on multiple youth travel teams. Not all prospective players are fortunate enough to attend a high school that attracts baseball scouts and coaches, so young African Americans do not get this chance to show off their baseball skills.
There is also the economic factor that makes it very difficult for African Americans to participate. Black high school students switch to football or basketball because they can get a scholarship while attending college. In baseball players toil in the minor leagues for years, African Americans cannot afford to wait 5-8 years to be called up to the majors.
MORE MONEY, MORE MONEY, MORE MONEY
Thursday night September 29, the St. Louis Cardinals in the middle of a wild card race played the Cincinnati Reds. In the ninth inning the Cards had a man on first base with the game tied at three. Catcher Yadier Molina hit a long drive to left field that bounced on the warning track and over the first wall, hitting the second wall and then back on the field. The Cardinal on first base never stopped running until he touched home plate. A St. Louis Cardinal victory.
It should have been a ground rules double, the Cardinal runner should have been sent back to third base and the Reds could have sent the game into extra innings. The Cincinnati manager 45 seconds later protested and wanted a video review. The umpiring crew chief stated it was too late because of the ten second rule. GAME OVER. That’s baseball being baseball, keeping the Red Birds one of the largest baseball radio and television market in the race for the wild card the last weekend of the season.
The National League guaranteed another large market competing for the Wild Card the last weekend of the season.
The Wild Card Game should be expanded into a three game series. Teams play 162 games, than the season rest on nine innings and one game. This is not fair to the players, managers, or fans. Young Blacks understand this too and know this is not fair play.
Young African Americans are watching and they remember what happened to the Jackie Robinson West Little League team from Chicago and want no part of it. Baseball stated many times we don’t want you here and made it a point to single this team out after they won the United States Championship. The Jackie Robinson team lost to the Korean team in the World Championship Game. These kids did what their coaches told them to do. They (children) paid the price for the mistakes of adults and the majority of them will never forget the thrill of winning then the agony of that victory being taken away. These kids may never touch a baseball again.
REVIVING BASEBALL IN THE INNER CITIES
MLB started a program in 1998 to include inner city players called RBI Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities with Alumni Carl Crawford (Dodgers), Covelli “Coco” Crisp (Athletics-Indians), James Loney (Rays-Mets), Manny Machado (Orioles), CC Sabathia (Yankees), Yovani Gallardo (Rangers), and Justin Upton (Padres-Tigers). After almost 18 years only ten students from The RBI program have become stars in the major leagues. It is not enough.
BY THE NUMBERS
RBI programs have been started in more than 200 cities worldwide, and annually provide more than 260,000 boys and girls the opportunity to play baseball and softball. The Jr. RBI playing divisions for baseball and softball players ages 5-12, has more than 160,000 younger boys & girls participating. So with these large numbers and programs the question should be asked why these students cannot make it to the major leagues.
This is the record of Black Players 2016 by position in Major League Baseball: Catchers-0; First Base- 3; Second Base- 7; Shortstop- 7; Third Base-3; Outfielders- 47; Starting Pitchers- 7; Relieving Pitchers- 7. Total- 91
There are 32 teams that carry 25-30 players during the year for a total of 960 players. Jackie Robinson would not be pleased with Major League Baseball as they keep going back to the past. Something has to change.
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad Network, Disabled Community Activist. Email at email@example.com
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