Jackie Robinson Day is April 15 and, in its annual tradition, Major League Baseball will celebrate allowing a black man to wear a uniform.
Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers 75 years ago on April 15, 1947. While there was a steady growth in black baseball participation from that day until the early 1990s, the game today sees a conspicuous absence of African Americans. It’s not just on the pitch. It’s in executive and coaching offices, front offices and booths.
It’s a low tide for player inclusion in Major League Baseball and all the platitudes and self-serving talk directed at us on Friday won’t change the situation.
USA TODAY and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) choose April 15 to release respective reports on the number of black players on MLB’s Opening Day rosters.
Black players made up just 7.6% of MLB’s 2021 Opening Day roster, down from 18.7% in 1981, according to the SABR.
2022 issues were not available for this edition. Unless there are two dozen or more black players there that I’m not aware of, the analysis will conclude that too few African Americans are in the Majors.
Baseball masterminds and beat writers will say “this is bad” and then refuse to acknowledge that racism still plays a role.
You will hear the lack of equipment, the lack of playing fields, the lack of black interest in football and basketball, the lack of this and the lack of that.
What you won’t hear is that too many owners, general managers and fans don’t care about the number of black players. They’ll praise Jackie Robinson, call him a great man, then happily applaud a franchise that has one, two, or even no black players.
FORBES reported last week that the Philadelphia Phillies did not have a black player on their 25-man season opening roster for the first time since 1959, 12 years after Robinson breached the so-called ‘color barrier’ “.
It will also be the first Phillies team without a starting black player since 1984.
All players and on-field personnel will wear Robinson’s number 42 in Dodgers blue on April 15, and an MLB video celebrating “Jackie’s legacy as a hall of famer and trailblazing player, defenseman of social justice, civil rights icon and pioneer in business and broadcasting.” will be part of the pre-game festivities. The St. Louis Cardinals will sport theirs at a road game in Milwaukee.
Note the use of “Jackie” by broadcasters on April 15. I only ever use his first name. It now seems acceptable when it’s disrespectful. Few people in baseball have met Robinson. Yet they feel they can only call him by his first name.
You can’t hold an interested event without an interested logo, and MLB will display a 75th anniversary crest “which shows an unequivocal illustration of Jackie Robinson and his impending swing in minimal form.”
Do not mistake yourself; Robinson deserves full credit for being a first and being one of the greatest baseball players of all time.
But not all of Robinson’s recognition earns MLB a free pass for its past — and current — attitude toward race, players and staff.
The Reid Roundup
Kansas point guard Dajuan Harris, a native of Columbia, Missouri, has relatives in the Kirkwood area and several traveled to New Orleans to watch KU win the national championship… Harris’ Columbia Rock Bridge team beat the CBC team of North Carolina guard Caleb Love 63- 59 of the Missouri Class 5 Championship on March 16, 2019 at Springfield… The late Frank Robinson became MLB’s first black manager on April 8, 1975 for the Cleveland Indians . Forty-seven years later, MLB has only two current black managers, Dusty Baker of Houston and LA Dodgers Dave Roberts…A revised edition of the United States Football League kicks off this week and two of its eight head coaches are black. Former Houston, Texas A&M and Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin leads the Houston Gamblers. Kirby Wilson brings 36 years of coaching experience, including 24 as an NFL assistant coach at the helm of the Pittsburgh Maulers… Don’t be surprised if Jayson Tatum gets a few MVP votes after his best NBA season that ever happened to him. averaged 26.9 points, 8 rebounds and 4.4 assists… At 51-31, Tatum’s Boston Celtics finished first in the NBA’s Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference. Boston opens the playoffs on April 17 and will likely face the Brooklyn Nets in a first-round series.