HOUSTON—Joe Morgan worries about the face of baseball. Watching the World Series, the Hall of Famer is troubled by what he sees.
His old team, the Houston Astros, is down 2-0 to the Chicago White Sox, but it’s not their lineup that concerns Morgan. It’s their makeup.
The Astros are the first World Series team in more than a half-century with a roster that doesn’t include a single black player.
“Of course, I noticed it. How could you not?” Morgan said while the Astros took batting practice before the opener in Chicago. “But they’re not the only ones. There are two or three teams that didn’t have any African-American players this year.”
Morgan said it’s a predicament and a challenge for Major League Baseball. While more players from around the world are making it to the majors—Japan, Korea, for example—the number of blacks is declining.
Astros general manager Tim Purpura agrees.
“I think it’s a huge, huge problem for baseball,” he said. “The pool of African-American players just isn’t there. And as baseball becomes more college-oriented in its draft, there aren’t a lot of players to pick.
“The African-American athletes are going into other sports,” he said.
The most recent survey by the NCAA, taken during the 2003-04 season, showed that only 6 percent of Division I baseball players were black. Half of the men’s basketball players were black, as were 44 percent of football players.
Houston has a half-dozen Hispanic players—it was the first team to open a baseball academy in Venezuela, about a dozen years ago. Bench coach Cecil Cooper is black.