Blacks in Baseball, 2014
The sports pundits like Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless on ESPN, and others, are in a hot debate about the state of baseball (once their national pastime) and the dearth of the black player. Only 67 on major league rosters, as we speak. “Where are the black “superstar” players?!!” “What happened?!!” they all ask. The know-it-alls of sports say it’s the money… black athletes can put in one spectacular year in college and go get a multi-million dollar contract playing basketball. (I’m amazed at their talent, by the way); a black kid (not derogatory) can learn a skill position in college football, especially, as a quarterback or receiver and command a multi-million dollar contract after four years. Very different sports, but with coaching and training they can become top tier players and get big, I mean, big money! But you gotta put in the time, either in a developmental league (in basketball) but very few of those guys make to the big show. In football you go Canadian League, Arena, European League to become a “pro” and make a living.
But baseball……unless you are very, and I mean, very special, you spend at least a few years, maybe even five or six, honing your skills and hope to get noticed. I’m not going to get into which sport is more difficult to master, but I am going to say that whether you are big, fast and strong or tall fast and strong, it takes more skills to play the game of baseball; the scouts look for guys who and first hit, (hit a 2 ¼ in sphere, hurled at anywhere from 90 to 100 miles an hour and adjust your hand eye coordination to hit that ball that now dips, curves, slides in any direction), and hire it a long way, say 360 feet or more over a barrier that might be anywhere from four feet to ten feet high (in Fenway, 60 feet high) or throw that pellet at the speeds and changes mentioned above, from 60 feet into a space 12 inches square, but above the batters knees but below the midpoint of his belt and shoulders! Now, that’s skill!
My point is though, about the proliferation of black athletes in the sport, or lack thereof; that the black baseball player, from Joe Black to Bill White to Jackie Robinson, to Larry Doby to Luke Easter to Don Newcombe, to Sam Jethroe, to Satchel Paige to Elston Howard, to even Hank Aaron to Willie Mays, to Roy Campanella to Dan Bankhead; yeah, Dan Bankhead!)…. (need I go on?)………….
all came from the Negro Leagues!!!!!,where they honed their skills and got paid.. (sometimes)!
Major League baseball has been focused on spending its dollars on the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Panama, Cuba, Japan and China, etc. looking for talent (and by and large, succeeding, by paying scouts, building academies, sending ambassadors to train these poor kids and virtually nothing in the USA to do the same thing! Like a lot of rich white people, they follow the “new” trends; they think the best “deals” are in places other than the inner cities of America, where the real talent pool is! And they spend their money there and get a diamond or two every so often.
Black kids are going into basketball and football because the money is there, on the table, right in front of them NOW, NOW!! Not in three years or four years or five!
When I was a little lad… (long time ago) my brothers would take me to Ebbets Field or the Polo Grounds and yes, to the venerable Yankee Stadium to watch baseball.. crowds poured in and watched a double header…25,000 to 50,000 strong, the New York Black Yankees versus the New York Cubans or the Kansas City Monarchs or the Black Giants versus the Philadelphia Eagles or the Homestead Grays… not the Binghamton Yankees, or the Buffalo Bisons or the Gwinnet Braves or the Norfolk Tides. The point is back then it was a “big city” game where inner city folks could take their boys to a game, teach them the fine points of the game…play catch with them, let them tryout with a city club, get coached and get paid!
There is a lot of black athletic talent for baseball out there, but Major league baseball must invest in the inner cities baseball programs and let them play in the major parks when the ML teams are traveling. You may not get the crowds of the past, I’ve talked about but I think you will get people out, especially if you cut back on televised games of major league teams that are not in your city/ area. Promote and coach city baseball and the talent will come to the surface. Spend the same money you spend in the D.R. and P.R. and Venezuela, etc. and black kids will come back to baseball but you gotta pay ‘em and give them a decent place to display their talent. You get 100,000 to a college football game and 25/30,000 to a basketball game because the colleges promote the GAME and make millions! All those players do not get to the NBA or the NFL but they all are worthy the money. Don’t wait until the colleges think they can make money from baseball, because if they ever do, watch out! But they still cannot replace the inner city kid with enough talent to hit a ball a mile and run like a deer who does not want a “college” education. Baseball must compete for that kid or football or basketball will snatch him up, because who said you have to go to college to be a sports pro….did Kobe or LeBron? Don’t say “They’re basketball players…” yes they are but colleges don’t need black football players who are training to be “pros”. They’re making millions with the system they have in place.
So, I said my piece…isn’t it really political, after all?
Enough said, I’m out!!
I’d like to hear your take on the subject….