Gone are the days of Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Major League Baseball during its yesteryears had black players to spare after Robinson broke the color barrier in the 1940s.
The MLB today has only 8.5 percent of players who are black. That is a dramatic drop from the peak percentage which was 27 back in 1975 according to the huffingtonpost.com.
The truth is, Reggie Jackson isn’t coming back to captivate fans for another October, and Hank Aaron isn’t swinging for the fences anymore. So does that mean we will never see popularity for blacks in the MLB again?
Baseball has reflected American views for over 100 years. Really would there be a Michael Jordan without Branch Rickey’s choice to integrate the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947? With the popularity of baseball during that time, Rickey was able to put it in the minds of Americans that blacks could play on an equal and sometimes higher level than whites in the sport.
The irony is that a sport that has been keyed to change in the black community now has a shortage of people from said community. A community that had its own baseball league (the Negro League) now has very little participation in the major league.
We live in a world that loves things done fast. From fast news, to fast money and of course the guilty pleasure of fast food, we just love things fast. In the NFL there is almost constant fast paced action, NBA the same. In Baseball however, the action is slow. For example, patience is required to actually enjoy a 1-0 win by the Baltimore Orioles. In other words baseball might just be too slow in this day and age for black kids.
Maybe if New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter’s shade of black was a little darker then there wouldn’t be a discussion. Jeter has been with the Yankees for almost two decades and unlike a lot of popular black athletes he’s never been in trouble. No arrest, no warrants and more importantly no ammunition for the media to use against him.
Jeter, like other great black baseball players before him has achieved a great deal of success, such as but not limited to, five Silver Slugger awards, five Golden Glove awards, he’s a five time World Series champion and a 13 time all-star selection according to Baseball-reference.com. Oh and not to mention, Fortune ranked him 11th on their 50 greatest leaders list in 2014; yes you read that sentence correctly.
Yes, Jeter one day will have his name enshrined in Cooperstown New York where the Baseball Hall of Fame is located, but sadly, Jeter may be the last of his kind as he is set to retire after the 2014 season. Will there be another great black player to fill that void, all signs point to no.
The decrease in blacks in the sport seems inevitable, and if that is the case the black community owes a great deal of thanks to baseball. Not only for helping to usher in change but also for giving those 8.5 percent of black players playing today great role models who opened the door for them to play.