The Common Good

Number of African-American Baseball Players Declines

Yesterday was Jackie Robinson Day in major league baseball. Every player on every team wore the number 42 on their uniform in honor of his integrating baseball in 1947. In the 1950s and 60s, players such as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson, and many more followed.  All were giants of baseball. All are in the Hall of Fame. All are African-American.

This morning, USA Today released research results showing that the percentage of African-Americans in baseball is now down to 8 percent, the lowest since Robinson’s day. In 1975, it reached 27 percent; in 1995, it was 19 percent. There are a variety of reasons for the decline: basketball and football appear more glamorous to top athletes, the cost of equipment in baseball is prohibitive for many inner city schools and teams, and there is a lack of college scholarships in baseball. Some also cite the low number of African-Americans in leadership positions – out of 30 teams, there are only 2 general managers and 2 managers.

Whatever the reason, baseball is poorer for the absence.