Posted on September 1, 2011

Baseball Loses Allure for African-Americans

Terry Foster, Detroit News, August 30, 2011


Interest in playing and watching baseball has seen an alarming decline in African-American communities. Experts blame the economy, the decline of the African-American family structure, the sparse marketing of current players and even video games.

The result is evident on every Major League Baseball team including the Tigers, where center fielder Austin Jackson and newly acquired Delmon Young are the only black players.

Only 8.5 percent of Major League players are African-American. That’s down from 10 percent in 2010 and the lowest number since 2007, according to Richard Lapchick’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida.

In 1997, during the 50-year anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier, league rosters were 17 percent African-American.


One shining light is MLB’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, which began 22 years ago. More than 1 million youths across the country have gone through the program, including 171,000 in 2010. MLB teams have drafted 171 RBI players, including Carl Crawford, Dontrelle Willis and Justin Upton.

About 47 percent of participants are African-American. {snip}

“It’s not just a problem; it’s a crisis,” New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia told the Associated Press about the lack of blacks in baseball.


Baseball experts say inner-city baseball has been hurt by the sluggish economy. The money just hasn’t been there to buy equipment. Sponsorships have declined. The Eagle Sports Club charges $45 per child, which includes the cost of the uniform, but also offers help to those who can’t afford it.


But back in the 1940s, blacks did not feel comfortable going to games because white fans made it clear they weren’t welcome. Those that did attend often sat in the lower-deck bleachers at old Tiger Stadium and rarely took their sons or daughters.

That is one reason African-American attendance remains low.

Former Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson, for instance, challenged his Yankees teammates to find more than 10-15 black fans in the stands.

“At first it starts off as a joke,” Granderson told the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram. “So after a while it becomes: See, told you so.”