Whenever Dave Winfield and Bud Selig come together to cook up an idea, you know it's going to be good. Reportedly it was the two of them who came up with this one: a ceremonial draft of Negro League veterans by all of the Major League teams, to be held next month. Expect the Nationals to actually insert one or two of their picks into the starting lineup.
Under the initiative, teams will "draft" surviving Negro League players. The individuals selected will represent all the black ballplayers that were denied a chance to play in the Majors because of their skin color. Major League Baseball will preassign draft selections, based in part on any requests teams might have. Each team will compensate the player it selects with a stipend. Major League Baseball will pick up the travel expenses for each player (and a companion) to the Draft headquarters in Orlando.
In 1997, Major League Baseball awarded $1,000-per-month pensions and medical benefits to many black players who did not get an opportunity to play in the Majors. I'm not sure how this new initiative affects that, but I do know that as the percentage of black players in the league continues to drop, MLB is looking for creative PR solutions to help plug the leak.
My question: How will the draft order be decided? I think it should go by the year that the team became integrated. So the Dodgers would get the first pick, and the Red Sox would choose last (and then trade that player the following season). In any event, you can watch the draft live at BaseballChannel.TV at 1 p.m. ET, with the 2008 First-Year Player Draft at 2 p.m.
MLB To 'Draft' Negro Leaguers [MLB.com]