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Where Are All The Black Baseball Players?

robinson.jpg Baseball's opening day has come and the boys of summer (and fall) are back in the sporting spotlight. You’ll probably be hearing a lot about this year being the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first season in the Major Leagues. Especially on April 15th, which will be the actual anniversary of Opening Day 1947.

While you’re looking around the baseball diamond during this season, thinking about the great Robinson and all he did for both sports and civil rights, count the number of black players you see. Odds are you won’t see many: a 2006 report by the University of Central Florida Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport found that only 8.4% of major leaguers are black! Not only that, but numbers of black athletes in baseball have been steadily falling since the 1980s. In this anniversary year, the report has gotten (and likely will get) a lot of attention. I first read about this a year ago, and I almost couldn’t believe it until I tried to name a few black players. After about 15 names, I began to struggle. Many players who have dark skin are actually of a Caribbean or Hispanic background, not African-American or black (as defined by the Census Bureau).

Definitely something to think about as we honor one of history's greatest baseball seasons.

Links: "2006 Racial and Gender Report Card: Major League Baseball," University of Central Florida Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (PDF)
"Sabathia pitches for more African-Americans in game," March 14, 2007. ESPN.com
"Fewest blacks in major leagues since '80s," March 29. 2007. MSNBC.com
"African-American Presence Has Been Shrinking Throughout Baseball," July 3, 2006. The Ledger Online

Photo from rgusick's Flickr stream.


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