Since Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947, there has only been one World Series without at least one black player.
WASHINGTON — Philadelphia Phillies star Gary Matthews looked around Memorial Stadium ahead of Game 1 of the 1983 World Series and saw plenty of black talent.
Joe Morgan. Eddie Murray. Garry Maddox. Ken Singleton. Al Bumbry. Nightclub Dan Ford. And much more tonight in Baltimore.
“There were quite a few of us,” Matthews recalls.
As fans watch the Houston Astros and Phillies line up this week as the Fall Classic begins, they will paint a very different picture.
Of course, Houston’s Jose Altuve and Philadelphia’s Jean Segura are among the myriad of Latin American players who help keep major league rosters diverse.
But for the first time since 1950, shortly after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, there are expected to be no US-born black players in this World Series.
“This is an eye opener,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. “It’s somewhat startling that two cities with large African American populations don’t have a single black player.”
“It lets us know that there is obviously a lot that needs to be done to create opportunities for black children to achieve their dream at the highest level,” he said.
Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and played in the World Series that year. Since then, the 1950 matchup between the New York Yankees and the Phillies has been the only World Series without a black player.
Houston and Philadelphia will announce their 26-man rosters hours before Friday night’s Game 1 at Minute Maid Park, where Dusty Baker, a black fielder for the 1981 champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers, will manage the Astros.
Beginning in 1954, when Willie Mays and the New York Giants played Larry Doby and Cleveland, every single team that made the World Series had at least one US-born black player until 2005 when the Astros didn’t.
During that half-century, black greats like Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Rickey Henderson, and Frank Robinson dominated the October stage. In 1979 alone, Willie Stargell and Dave Parker were among the 10 black players in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ “We Are Family” champions.
For much of that time, baseball was clearly the dominant game in the United States, the national pastime. Over the years, as basketball and soccer grew in popularity, baseball became more expensive with a focus on touring teams and elite showcases.
“Kids switched to other sports,” Matthews said.
One of Matthews’ sons, Gary Jr., was an all-star outfielder. Another son works in the commissioner’s office with diversity programs.
Until 2020, when the Dodgers defeated Tampa Bay, Los Angeles star Mookie Betts was the only black player in the World Series.
At this summer’s All-Star game at Dodger Stadium, Betts wore a T-shirt that read, “We need more black people at the stadium.”
But on the field this weekend, despite encouraging indicators and MLB’s multifaceted efforts, it will be a World Series shutout for the first time in over seven decades.
“That’s the exclamation mark,” said Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport in Central Florida.
“It’s a story that has been going on since the late 1980s, the decline of black baseball players,” he said.
Lapchick, lead author of his group’s annual reports on hiring practices for diversity in sports, said black players made up 7.2% of opening-day lineups that year. That figure declined from 7.6% last year and marked the lowest level since study data was first collected in 1991, when 18% of MLB players were black.
The Phillies had no black players on their inaugural roster that year for the first time since 1959. Roman Quinn, a black backup outfielder, played 23 games before being sacked.
Philadelphia power-hit rookie Darick Hall debuted in late June and has played 41 games — his mother is white and his father is black and white, and he identifies as multiracial. Hall was not on the Phillies roster for the first three rounds of this postseason and is unlikely to be on the World Series roster.
Houston lost on the list last year in the World Series with Michael Brantley, a black outfielder. Brantley is out for the season this year with a shoulder injury. Back-up pitcher Josh James is also black and on the team’s 40-man roster, but he had arm surgery in early October.
MLB had 38% black players on its opening day rosters, including Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Jeremy Peña, Yuli Gurriel, Cristian Javier and Framber Valdez of the Astros and Segura, Ranger Suárez and Seranthony Domínguez of the Phillies.
Many Afro-Latino players adopt Black identities, but perhaps not for the same reasons as Black US players. Race and color have different meanings in places like the Dominican Republic, Panama, Cuba, and Belize.
Betts, San Diego’s Josh Bell, Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie, Atlanta’s Michael Harris II and Aaron Hicks of the New York Yankees were among the black players whose teams were eliminated in the playoffs earlier this month.
Kendrick and others see signs of more on the way.
“I’m optimistic. I am,” he said.
Last summer, for the first time in MLB draft history, four of the top five players selected were black.
All four, along with more than 300 great players including Harris, Hunter Greene of Cincinnati, Ke’Bryan Hayes of Pittsburgh and Devin Williams of Milwaukee, participated in MLB diversity initiatives such as MLB Youth Academy, DREAM Series and Reviving Baseball Inside part of the Cities (RBI) program.
MLB has pledged $150 million over the next decade to the Players Alliance, an organization of current and former players working to increase black engagement at all levels of the sport.
Kenny Williams, executive vice president of the Chicago White Sox, is the only black head of baseball operations for a major league team.
“I think sure, but slowly, we’re going to see a pendulum shift,” Kendrick said.
“The problem is that we are not patient. I don’t like instant grits. I’m from Georgia — I like mine slow cooked,” he said.
https://www.king5.com/article/sports/no-us-born-black-players-expected-in-world-series-2022/507-5341d857-fef8-46da-9e04-64b1e6e5ff4d No US-born Black players in World Series 2022, a 1st since 1950