Today is the day we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his efforts to improve the civil rights of African-Americans and other oppressed minorities in the United States.
It brought to mind the series of posts I did just a couple of months ago concerning the continued dearth of African-American managers in major league baseball, not to mention the low numbers of Hispanic managers as well. The most recent of these posts can be found here. Rangers manager Ron Washington, in five seasons, already ranks #6 in wins by African-American managers and should reach #5 on the list in 2012. I have now established a permanent page, which will be updated with each managerial change, showing all the managers hired in MLB between 1975, when Frank Robinson became the first African-American manager hired, to the present. That page can be found here.
I brought this subject matter up with some of my brethren in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and an interesting point was brought up. Every year, MLB honors Jackie Robinson for being the first to break baseball’s color barrier. Yet over the years the African-American presence among major league baseball players becomes less and less. Looking at my beloved Texas Rangers, if no further changes are made between now and Opening Day, the Rangers will not have a single African-American player on their 25-man roster. Last year, Darrin Oliver and Arthur Rhodes were the only African-American players on the Rangers roster.
It is true that major league baseball has evolved into truly international proportions. This year’s Rangers roster could include three Japanese players and 7-9 Latin players. What is just as true is, for whatever reason, baseball has become less prominent in the African-American community. I haven’t done any studies into this, but off the top of my head, I’d say this partially has to do with the expense of playing baseball. This not only affects kids learning how to play on the sandlots and streets, but also later on, as many schools have dropped baseball as a sport due to high expenses and low attendance.
This is a shame. MLB is sponsoring a program to help bring back baseball in the inner cities and they should be applauded for that. I hope even more is done in the future, because it would be a shame for a sport that celebrates the breaking of the color barrier annually to see the participation in that sport dwindle down to nothing again.