Hot dogs. Peanuts. Cracker Jacks. Racism. It can only mean one thing — Opening Day of a new Major League Baseball season is here. And today, of all days, is a great example of how things haven’t changed and remain the same, or gotten worse.
The 2023 season comes a year after MLB “celebrated” the 75th anniversary of Jack(ie) Robinson breaking the color barrier in the most pathetic way possible. Of the 81 players that were selected for last season’s All-Star Game, only five of them were African-American-born players. Only 7.2 percent of African-American-born players were on Opening Day rosters to start last season, which was lower than the 7.6 percent from 2021.
And get this, The Philadelphia Phillies — who made it to the World Series — didn’t have a single African-American player on their Opening Day roster for the first time in 63 years. But wait, there’s more. Last season’s Fall Classic between the Phillies and the Houston Astros was the first time since 1950 that the World Series didn’t feature a single U.S.-born Black player. Astros manager Dusty Baker was the lone Black face of baseball, as he became the third Black manager to ever win it all.
“Nah, don’t tell me that,’’ Baker said when he found out there weren’t any Black players in the World Series. “That’s terrible for the state of the game. Wow! Terrible. I’m ashamed of the game.”
“I don’t think about being an African-American manager because I look in the mirror every day and I know what I am,” Baker said before winning the series clincher. “You know what I’m saying? (But) I do know that there’s certain pressure from a lot of people that are pulling for me, especially people of color. And that part I do feel. I hear it every day… and so I feel that I’ve been chosen for this.”
This is how baseball, at its highest level, honored Robinson. It’s pathetic when you put it all together, isn’t it?
“When you’re talking about African-American ballplayers, we need to do better,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told the Los Angeles Times last year. “I think about it all the time. It’s really getting uncomfortable.” In that same article, Tony Reagins, a former GM for the Angels that currently serves as the MLB’s chief baseball development officer, said, “What we need to do is to get more players, specifically African-American players, playing college baseball.”
None of this should be surprising. This is a league that, a few years ago, was trying to get into bed with America’s most racist, misogynist, and prejudiced sports site — Bar(f)stool — to broadcast midweek games.
It’s at moments like this where the league and many of its fans will try to deceive you about baseball’s “diversity.” Check this out from MLB.com last year:
“The 2022 season is another example of how diverse the game has become since Jackie’s (Robinson) time. Of the 975 players on Opening Day rosters and inactive lists, 38 percent came from a diverse background (Black, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American) — a slight increase from 37.6 percent in 2021.”
This is how they juke the stats with diversity. Anytime a company/league points out how many players/employees come from a “diverse background” it’s a sleight of hand trick to get you to focus on how few of them are African-American. They like to throw us all in one bunch so that you don’t pay attention to how small the numbers are from certain groups.
So as you enjoy baseball today, there will undoubtedly be Black faces on the field. But the number of them that are African-American will be uncomfortably low like it always is. Which makes it so much easier to understand why it’s intentional.