Baker regrets the lack of US-born black players at the World Championships

HOUSTON (AFP) – Dusty Baker grew up watching black stars shine at the World Series, paving his way to a life devoted to baseball.

When the Houston Astros lead in the first game of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night, the AL and NL champions are expected to play without any black players in the United States. For the first time since 1950, shortly after Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier.

It’s a fact that deeply bothers 73-year-old Baker, a Black MLB manager, who has spent his entire life either playing or coaching baseball.

“What hurts me is that I don’t know how much hope it gives some African American children,” Baker told The Associated Press on Thursday. “Because when I was their age, I had a bunch of guys, (Willy) Mays, (Hank) Aaron, Frank Robinson, Tommy Davis – my hero – Murray Wells, all those guys. We need to do something before we lose them.”

Jackie Robinson made her debut in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers and played in the World Championships that year. Since then, the 1950 game between the New York Yankees and the Phillies has become the only international tournament in which there is no American-born black player.

Houston and Philadelphia will announce their 26-player roster several hours before Game One Friday night at Minute Maid Park, and no American-born black player is expected. Houston Lions’ Michael Brantley is out of the season with a shoulder injury.

“I don’t think that’s something baseball should be really proud of,” said Baker, who won the world championships as a player with the Dodgers in 1981 and is seeking his first championship as a manager.. β€œIt looks bad. It lets people know that it didn’t take a year or even a decade to get to this point.”

In fact, the declining number of Black MLB players has been a problem for years. Richard Labschek, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport in Central Florida, is the lead author of his group’s annual reports on diverse hiring practices in sports. He said black players make up just 7.2% of this year’s opening day roster, the lowest percentage since the study’s data was first collected in 1991, when 18% of MLB players were black.

Beginning in 1954, when the Miss and New York Giants played against Larry Dobby and Cleveland, every team that reached the World Championships had at least one US-born black player until the 2005 Astros did not.

The Phillies had no black players on the opening roster this year for the first time since 1959. Roman Quinn, a black reserve defensive player, played 23 games before being released.

Rookie Darrick Hall made his Philadelphia debut in late June and played 41 games – his mother is white and his father is black and white, he identifies as multiracial. Hall has not been on the Phillies’ roster in any of the first three rounds in this post-season and is not expected to be on the World Series roster.

Last summer, for the first time in MLB draft history, four of the first five players selected were black.

All four, along with over 300 top leagues including Michael Harris II of Atlanta, Hunter Green of Cincinnati, Kibrian Hayes of Pittsburgh, and Devin Williams of Milwaukee, have participated in diversity-based initiatives in MLB such as the MLB Youth Academy and the Series DREAM and Reviving Inner Cities Baseball (RBI) Program.

Despite his “deep disappointment and frustration” with the situation this year, Becker is hopeful that the top of the latest draft means this will be the last world championship where US-born black players are not represented.

“There’s help on the way,” he said. You can tell by the number of first recruiting options for African Americans. The academies produce players. So hopefully in the near future we won’t have to talk about this anymore or even be in this situation.”


Baseball writer Ben Walker contributed to this story.


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