Jackie Robinson’s Legacy Recedes on Baseball Rosters

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(from The New York Times, October 29, 2013) The first time the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Redsox faced each other in the World Series was 1946. That year there wasn’t a single African-American on either roster; 67 years later, there is only one.

Reviewing the historic World Series battles of these two teams also puts the flow of black Americans in Major League Baseball into prospective.  These two teams have met in the World Series four times (1946, 1967, 2004 and 2013).  In 1967, 13.6% of the MLB was African-American and there were 4 African American players between the two teams. In the 2004 World Series, that number decreased to two players between the teams, and now in 2013 there is only one African American player between the two rosters. These facts are concerning to the MLB, but the Director of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, David James, says the trend can be reversed. He continued to say, “Baseball has done a good job of recognizing that there is a problem and has put in a number of things each year to try to reverse those trends. It’s going to take a lot of time for the impact of some of these programs, particularly at the youth level, to start to develop players that move up to major league potential.”

Yes, the problem of the decline of black players is obvious, but what is the reason behind the decrease? The peak of black Americans in the MLB was during the 1980s when nearly one in five major league players was a black American. Where have all of these players gone? Lawrence Hogan, a Senior Professor of History at Union County College in New Jersey, believes that most have gravitated to basketball and football. “As society has changed and our culture has changed, they’ve become the games, to a point where a lot of people question whether baseball is the national pastime any longer,” Mr. Hogan said. With hard work the trend is reversible and the MLB is trying to take the necessary steps.