RaceBall 2012

Jason Daugherty, American Renaissance, May 4, 2012

There can never be too many blacks in baseball.

On Easter Sunday, two weeks into the 2012 Major League Baseball season, the late Jackie Robinson was worshipped, as he is every April 15th. Every player and coach in all 15 games played that day wore Robinson’s number 42 to pay tribute to the man who broke baseball’s “color barrier” in 1947. And, as has been the case in recent years, Jackie Robinson Day provided the perfect opportunity for black baseball players, Robinson’s white former friends, and even baseball’s white commissioner to complain that there are not enough blacks in the sport. In the upcoming months, there will be more of this hand-wringing.

In truth, it’s not really black players who are underrepresented, but rather American-born blacks, as AR has previously noted. Los Angeles Angels right-fielder Torii Hunter clarified this distinction for us when he called non-American black ballplayers “impostors.”

Although blacks are 13 percent of the US population, they account for only 7.7 percent of the players on the 30 current MLB teams, or 66 out of 853 players. That was down from 8.5 percent  last year, and way down from a high of 27 percent in the mid 1970s.

Race

Total Players in MLB

MLB Percentage

All

853

White

525

61.5 percent

African-American

66

7.7 percent

Foreign Black

95

11.1 percent

Hispanic

145

17 percent

Asian

18

2.1 percent

Native American

4

0.5 percent

The current lows are a great worry to “racism”-hunting organizations like the TIDES Foundation and its diversity czar, Richard Lapchick, and to outspoken black ballplayers such as Jimmy Rollins, C.C. Sabathia, and Mr. Hunter. It doesn’t matter to them that including foreign-born blacks brings the total black percentage to 18.8 percent. We must redouble our efforts to get more American blacks on the field.

“We’re trying to get better,” laments baseball commissioner Mr. Selig, as reported by the USA Today, but black former star pitcher Dave Stewart is not satisfied: “It’s not getting better. It’s only getting worse. We’ve been in a downward spiral for a long time.”

Mr. Stewart is also angry because only two of MLB’s 30 managers and two of 30 general managers are American-born blacks. He says team owners “don’t want to hire blacks as decision makers,” and claims that white managers get second and third chances with different teams, while black managers get passed over. “It’s a joke,” he complains.

But why are African-American players underrepresented by more than 40 percent in pro baseball? Los Angeles Angels pitcher LaTroy Hawkins says scouts are afraid to venture into dangerous inner-city areas where blacks play. Mr. Hawkins may have touched on a minor factor, but there are other explanations.

One is culture. After all, there are plenty of blacks in baseball, just not as many American blacks as there used to be. There are more blacks—75 of the 95 foreign-born blacks in baseball—from the Dominican Republic than there are American blacks.

What makes the D.R. different? There, baseball is a way of life, more specifically, a way out of poverty. It is a way to make it big on the shores of the world power just 800 miles to the north. Also, baseball is by far the most popular sport in the Dominican Republic. There are only three Dominicans playing professional basketball in America, and only one in professional football.

Culture and childhood experience probably explain why ice hockey, for example, has hardly any blacks. While it certainly helps to have some brains in hockey, the sport is more like basketball and football, in that physical skill and conditioning are more important. But hockey is a northern sport. Seven of the National Hockey League’s 30 teams are based in Canada, while professional baseball and basketball each have only one Canadian team. There are no NFL teams in Canada. Hockey is the major sport in Canada, and not many blacks live there. On the other hand, in the American South, where there are many blacks, hardly anyone pays attention to hockey. At the same time, hockey does not require jumping ability, which blacks use to great advantage in football and basketball.

Another explanation for why there are fewer American blacks playing baseball than before could be the number of fatherless homes. Many, if not most, successful baseball players learned the game from their fathers in the backyard, with two mitts, a ball, and a bat. More than 70 percent of black boys are born to single mothers, and with no father to teach them baseball, are likely to pick up a basketball and head down to the local park.

Another explanation may be the increase in the number of blacks in basketball and football, which are both more than two-thirds black. In any population, there are only so many people with the potential to be top athletes, and if more blacks gravitate to other sports there will be fewer left for baseball.

Racial differences may have something to do with the shift, too. Basketball and football require raw athletic prowess—something blacks clearly have. Most positions in these two sports do not require a great deal of intelligence, which makes them natural homes for physically gifted blacks. Some would argue that baseball is more of a thinking man’s game. Strategy and good decision-making skills are essential to success, though this is truer for some positions than others.

Within a given sport, intelligence appears to explain part of the racial distribution of the different positions. Much has been made of the fact that most NFL quarterbacks are white. Fans and commentators agree that quarterback is the most important position of the football field, and with good reason: It requires the most brains (see Quarterbacks, Intelligence, and Race, July 2011 American Renaissance). Quarterbacks must know the playbook inside out, and make important decisions after the ball is snapped. Running back and wide receiver—generally dominated by blacks—are positions with mostly physical demands: running, jumping, and catching and holding the ball.

In baseball, the most mentally demanding positions are catcher and pitcher. The catcher directs fielders to the proper locations before each at bat. He also decides which pitches the pitcher should throw. In order to do this, he needs to know the habits and weaknesses of each opposing batter who comes to the plate. As of this writing, there are 67 catchers in the Major Leagues, and not one is African-American, though four are foreign-born blacks. Despite making up 18.8 percent of MLB rosters, only 6 percent of catchers are blacks of any nationality.

Race

Catchers in MLB

Percentage of Catchers

MLB Percentage

All

67

White

40

59.7 percent

61.5 percent

African-American

0

7.7 percent

Foreign Black

4

6 percent

11.1 percent

Hispanic

22

32.8 percent

17 percent

Asian

1

1.5 percent

2.1 percent

Native American

0

0.5 percent

The pitcher also has to be smart. Like the catcher, he must know which pitches each hitter prefers, and which he doesn’t, but the pitcher must also know which part of the strike zone to aim for. Moreover, the relationship of a pitcher with his catcher is clearly the most important tandem on the field. At the start of the current season, there were 431 pitchers playing professional baseball (more than half of all pro baseball players are pitchers) and only 11 (2.6 percent) were African-American. Another 12.1 percent of MLB pitchers are foreign-born blacks, so while blacks in total make up 18.8 percent of the players, only 14.7 percent of pitchers are black. Whites, who are 61.5 percent of the players, account for 68 percent of the pitchers.

Race

Pitchers in MLB

Percentage of Pitchers

MLB Percentage

All

431

White

293

68 percent

61.5 percent

African-American

11

2.6 percent

7.7 percent

Foreign Black

52

12.1 percent

11.1 percent

Hispanic

62

14.4 percent

17 percent

Asian

11

2.6 percent

2.1 percent

Native American

2

0.5 percent

0.5 percent

The outfield is where speed is most important in baseball. Outfielders must cover far more ground than infielders, pitchers, or catchers. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that blacks (and especially African-Americans) are overrepresented in the three outfield positions. While 18.8 percent of baseball is black, fully 32 percent of outfielders are black. The overrepresentation is even more pronounced among African-Americans, who account for 7.7 percent of the players, but 25.5 percent of all outfielders.

Race

Outfielders in MLB

Percentage of Outfielders

MLB Percentage

All
White

78

51 percent

61.5 percent

African-American

39

25.5 percent

7.7 percent

Foreign Black

10

6.5 percent

11.1 percent

Hispanic

21

13.7 percent

17 percent

Asian

4

2.6 percent

2.1 percent

Native American

1

0.7 percent

0.5 percent

Organizations like TIDES and people like Richard Lapchick exist solely to lambaste professional sports for being too white. In 2011, TIDES gave the NBA an A+ for racial diversity, despite the fact that the league was 78 percent black. In other words, TIDES does not really care how diverse teams are, only how colored they are. The fewer whites the better.

But even with TIDES trying to sniff out “racism,” major disparities will remain. General managers and owners are interested in winning games, not satisfying the wishes of diversity preachers like Mr. Lapchick. No matter how many report cards TIDES issues, it cannot change mental, physical, and cultural differences, and these will always affect which athletes excel in and at what sports and at what positions.

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Jason Daugherty
Mr. Daugherty studied history at the University of Cincinnati. He lives in Baltimore County, Maryland, and enjoys golf and hiking.
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