Charting The Decline Of The Black Baseball Player

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A few years back, baseball writer and SABR member Mark Armour tracked the integration of baseball from 1947 to 1986, the 40 seasons after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Why 1986? That year would begin a precipitous decline in the number of African Americans, to less than half the high-water mark—and the trend may not have bottomed out. Armour, with the help of Dan Levitt, has updated the study. The chart above tracks the demographics of MLB from 1947 to 2012.

The new study adds Latinos and Asians, and tracks the proportions through the most recent completed season. The general results aren't a surprise—last month MLB announced the formation of a task force to tackle the issue—but it's incredibly valuable to see the trends graphed, especially the tremendous rise of Latin players.


At Armour and Levitt provide all the numbers and have created demographic charts for each position. The findings can be fascinating: there hasn't been a black catcher since 2005; the steepest decline has been in the number of black outfielders, who until about 2000 outnumbered whites. The rise of Latinos is broken down too: catchers and middle infielders are increasingly, and soon to be predominantly Latino.

Go read the study.

Baseball Demographics, 1947-2012 [SABR]