Sunday, April 15, 2007

Here's to you, Mr. Robinson

Along with the celebration of the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier has been a fair amount of hand-wringing about the declining numbers of black ballplayers in Major League Baseball today. From what I understand, MLB has largely vacated America's inner cities, where its baseball development programs had nurtured many future stars, for Latin America. Like many businesses, MLB took a look at the global market and decided that their player development dollars would go further in Latin America, where costs are lower and they can get young talent on the fast track at a younger age due to looser regulations. None of the articles I have read, including this one in today's ProJo have mentioned the globalization angle, but I think it's an important part of the story.

I also wonder how important this story really is. Black players are well represented in professional football, which is easily the most popular sport in America today. Black athletes have risen to the top in many sports that had little to no black representation a generation or two ago. Jackie Robinson's story is important and it's one that all kids should learn, but the most important part of his story is not the game that he played, it's the way he humbly blazed the trail for all black professional athletes in the face of constant and often vicious racism.


Michael David said...

Your views on this are exactly the same as mine, and it's annoying to hear things, like what Peter Gammons is saying on my TV right now, about MLB scouts being "afraid to go into the inner city." That's absolute nonsense. There is a lower percentage of blacks in MLB now than 40 years ago for the same reason there is a lower percentage of whites in MLB now than 40 years ago: Increased opportunities for Asians and Latin Americans. If Jackie Robinson was the kind of man I think and hope he was, he'd see increased opportunities as a good thing.

Pastch said...

Jackie Robinson was indeed a pioneer as he broke baseballs color barrier. It is another black eye on this county's racial policies that there was ever a color barrier.

But let us not forget Branch Rickey, who had the courage to be the first to sign an African American player.