Breakdown of Races in Baseball


After Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier and became the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball, the league saw a steady increase of African-Americans.  However, over the past two decades, the pattern has reversed and fewer and fewer African-Americans are playing the game that Jackie Robinson sacrificed so much for.

            In 2011, 61.5% of baseball players were white, 8.5% African-American, 27% Latino, 2% Asian, and 1% other. (Lapchick)  The 8.5% African-Americans is concerning because it is exactly half of what it was in 1990.  Each year the percentage of African-Americans drops a little more, and more teams are without even a single African-American on their roster.

There are a few theories as to why baseball’s African-American community is diminishing.  One theory is that baseball is just too slow and long, and more kids are choosing to play basketball and football when they are young.  While this may be part of the problem, there is likely much more to it.

We believe another part of the problem is the Major League Baseball draft.  Unlike in other sports, like football, the baseball draft is for U.S. amateur players only.  If a baseball team wants an international player, they can sign him without having to go through the draft.  As a result, Major League Baseball has made huge investments in developing and scouting players outside of the United States, especially in the Caribbean countries.  In fact, every team in professional baseball has an academy in the Dominican Republic for talented players that combines both their schooling and baseball instruction.  About half of the 30 teams have academies in Venezuela as well. (Isidore)  The increased focus on these international athletes leads many inner city kids to be left out.  Before, teams made investments in developing talent in the inner cities, but due to the convenience of being able to sign an international player without having to draft him first, baseball teams have shifted their focus to outside of the United States.

Another factor that is likely leading to the diminishing number of African-Americans in baseball is the number of scholarships that colleges can offer in baseball.  Division one colleges can give out 85 full scholarships for football, but only 11.7 scholarships for baseball. (Isidore)  Many inner city kids are unable to attend college unless they get a scholarship, so many switch from baseball to football in order to improve their odds.

While this system hurts many African-Americans, it has been very beneficial to Latino players.  In 2011, Major League Baseball was 27% Latino, compared to only 13% in 1990.  (Lapchick)  The steady increase in Latino baseball players is likely to continue, because of the academies and the increased focus on international players.

In addition, the World Baseball Classic is an international baseball tournament that promotes the game all around the world.  The event began in 2005 and takes place every four years.  It was created by the International Baseball Federation, Major League Baseball, and the Major League Baseball Players Association.  (World)  The World Baseball Classic is unique in that in allows professional players to play for and represent their home countries.  This has really generated lots of interest in the tournament, because the world gets to watch the best players in the world, not college and minor-league players like in the Olympics.

While the World Baseball Classic has done little to increase interest in baseball among African-Americans, the event is still very new and hopefully able to do so in future generations.  The downward trend of African-Americans playing baseball is very unfortunate, but likely to continue unless Major League Baseball shifts it’s focus back to African-Americans growing up in the United States.  While the increased participation internationally is great, the participation by African-Americans is a very serious problem.

 

 

References:

Lapchick, Richard. The 2011 Racial & Gender Report Card: Major League Baseball. Publication. University of Central Florida, 21 Apr. 2011. Web. <http://tidesport.org/RGRC/2011/2011_MLB_RGRC_FINAL.pdf&gt;.

 

 

Isidore, Chris. “Decline of Black Baseball Players Due to Game’s Economics.” CNNMoney – Business, Financial and Personal Finance News. 13 Apr. 2007. Web. 1 Dec. 2011. <http://money.cnn.com/2007/04/13/commentary/sportsbiz/index.htm&gt;.

 

World Baseball Classic: Home. Web. 1 Dec. 2011. <http://web.worldbaseballclassic.com/index.jsp&gt;.

 

Posted in James Buckley | Leave a comment

Jackie Robinson


            “We ask for nothing special.  We ask only to be permitted to live as you live, and as our nation’s Constitution provides.”  This is a quote by Jackie Robinson to a New Orleans sportswriter around the time that he became the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball.  Jackie Robinson reached the big leagues and played first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.  However, his debut was much bigger than just another athlete reaching the big leagues.  His debut was a racial project that led to increased participation by African-Americans in all sports, and progress in the fight for equality for the entire African-American community.

A racial project is something that creates meaning about race, like a law, speech, film, etc.  Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball one year before President Truman desegregated the U.S. military, and seven years before segregation in public schools was ruled unconstitutional.  After the debut in 1947, Robert Lipsyte and Pete Levine wrote in Idols of the Game, “It was the most eagerly anticipated debut in the annals of the national pastime.  It represented both the dream and the fear of equal opportunity, and it would change forever the complexion of the game and the attitudes of Americans.” (Schwartz, 3)  Robinson was a true trailblazer of his time, and his debut gave hope to all African-Americans.

Jackie Robinson was born on January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia to a family of sharecroppers.  He and his four other brothers and sisters were raised by their mother, Mallie.  Their father walked out on the family six months after Robinson’s birth.  In 1920, Mallie moved the family out to a working-class neighborhood in Pasadena, California.  From an early age Robinson loved sports and was extremely competitive.  At UCLA, he became the first athlete to ever letter in four sports when he starred in baseball, basketball, football, and track.  Unfortunately, the Robinson family struggled financially and Jackie was unable to finish his degree.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Robinson was drafted into the army where he continued to excel, and quickly became a second lieutenant.  However, Jackie was given an honorable discharge from the Army after refusing to move to the back of a bus.  All charges were dismissed, and Robinson continued his baseball career with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro League.  That same year was the last for the vocally racist major league baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.  His successor, Happy Chandler, on the other hand was a strong supporter of equal rights, and said, “If they (African-Americans) can fight and die on Okinawa, Guadalcanal (and) in the South Pacific, they can play ball in America.” (Shwartz, 2)

Not long after Chandler took the helm, Dodgers President Branch Rickey approached Robinson and encouraged him to join the Brooklyn Dodgers and become the first African-American in baseball.  There very famous conversation in August of 1945 went as such:

Rickey: “I know you’re a good ballplayer.  What I don’t know is whether you have the guts .”

Robinson: “Mr. Rickey, are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?”

Rickey, exploding: “Robinson, I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back.” (Schwartz, 1)

Robinson’s historic debut changed the game and people’s attitudes about race forever.  His success on the field further proved that African-Americans are not inferior to whites.  Robinson won the Rookie of the Year award in his first season, and the National League Most Valuable Player award in 1949.  However, even more importantly, Robinson kept his cool and did not fight back despite numerous acts of racism against him.  Robinson was the beneficiary of a slew of racial slurs, death threats, flying cleats, pitches at his head, and even spitting on his cleats by catchers while he was batting.  In addition, some of his own teammates rebelled, and the entire St. Louis Cardinals team threatened to strike.  Robinson continued to push forward and excel on the field, despite the unheralded attention and pressure.

Jackie was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, and died in 1972 at the age of 53 from a heart attack.  Despite his death at a young age, Robinson’s strength and courage will never be forgotten.  His debut in April of 1947 was a racial project that changed the game forever.  Before his death, Robinson was quoted saying, “A life is not important, except in the impact it has on other lives.” (Schwartz, 1)

 

Reference:

Schwartz, Larry. “Jackie Changed Face of Sports.” ESPN: The Worldwide Leader In Sports. Web. 29 Nov. 2011. <http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016431.html&gt;.

 

Posted in James Buckley | Leave a comment

Racial Stacking in Sports


            Racial stacking in sports is not a new phenomenon.  It is prevalent in many sports and has been taking place for many decades.  Stacking can be defined as placing athletes in certain positions based on racial stereotypes.  For example, whites are commonly thought of as smarter and more intelligent than African-Americans, and thus pushed to play positions like quarterback and center in football, and pitcher and catcher in baseball.  These positions are commonly associated with requiring intelligence and quick decision-making.  On the other hand, African-Americans are often pushed to play positions like running back, wide receiver, and defensive back in football, because these positions are commonly thought of as reactionary positions, and requiring greater athleticism.  These prejudices are unfair, and should be eliminated.

According to Tatum, a prejudice is a preconceived judgment or opinion based on assumptions.  Even though prejudices may not be our fault, they are our responsibility to eradicate.  Assuming that whites are better suited for positions like quarterback and pitcher is unjust.  All athletes should be given the same opportunity to play whichever position they choose, regardless of their race.

In 2009, about 70% of players in the NFL were African-American, but only 20% of the quarterbacks were black.  “Black athletes are prey to a fallacious logic that runs something like this: Physical ability and smarts are inversely proportional, and since blacks are more naturally athletic than whites, blacks are less intelligent,” explained sports analyst Jon Entine.  (Entine, 1)  Despite numerous studies that have shown blacks and whites are equally athletic, blacks are still commonly associated with being of superior athletic ability.

Before the NFL draft each year, most college quarterbacks with a chance to go pro are given a Wonderlic test.  It is an IQ test, which according to Charles F. Wonderlic, Jr., “…is not meant to be a ranking system.  The test is a valid predictor of learning potential.”  Some NFL coaches and scouts pay attention to it, but others ignore it and instead focus solely on what each player has done on the field.  Nonetheless, it is widely talked about because NFL playbooks are very big and require lots of memorization.  If an African-American quarterback scores poorly on the Wonderlic test, often times they will be assumed incapable of playing quarterback professionally.  However, when a white quarterback scores poorly, many argue that the test is unimportant, and only on-field performance matters.

Statistically whites have scored higher than African-Americans, but many NFL scouts believe that the test is set up to favor whites, and thus automatically puts African-Americans at a disadvantage.  Regardless, we believe that scores on the Wonderlic test are poor indicators of a quarterback’s ability.  Troy Aikman, Dan Marino, and Steve Young (has a law degree), all scored poorly on the Wonderlic test, yet all three of them went on to extremely successful careers as quarterbacks in the NFL.  Aikman, Marino, and Young are all white, and despite their low scores were still given opportunities to succeed.  Black quarterbacks who score poorly on the other hand, often are not given those same opportunities to succeed.  James Harris who was the only starting black quarterback in the NFL in 1974 said, “As a black QB, they are constantly trying to get you to switch to another position…Blacks get two opportunities to play quarterback in the NFL: a chance and a nigger chance.  One mistake and you were gone.” (Entine, 1)

The prejudices that blacks experience in sports often go unnoticed, and unjustly so.  Just because somebody is black should not mean that they are given fewer opportunities to play positions like quarterback than whites.  Every athlete deserves the same opportunities to succeed, and athletes should be placed in positions based on what puts both them, and their team, in the best position to win.

 

 

Reference:

Entine, Jon. “Dark Thoughts.” Sept. 1999. Web. 29 Nov. 2011. <http://www.jonentine.com/articles/dark_thoughts_recon.htm&gt;.

Posted in James Buckley | Leave a comment

Italian National Soccer Team and racial citizenship

When Mario Balotelli grew up in Brescia, Italy, like many Italian kids, dreamed of playing for the national team his whole life. Balotelli has an Italian name but when you see his picture it can be quite confusing. Mario is actually black. He was born to Ghanaian immigrants but they put him up for adoption when he was a child. The Italian national soccer team is deep in tradition. Having won four world cups, second most all-time, and it has produced some of the most talented players to ever play soccer. When you look at Balotelli’s background he would seem to be an Italian, he holds citizenship and is eligible to play for the team. But Mario faces much opposition from right wing Italians over whether he should play or not since he is black.

Mario was adopted by a white Italian family and took their last name, Balotelli, as well as using Mario as his first name which was given to him upon adoption (Mario Ballotelli). Mario grew up in a country that is dominantly white. There are little minorities in Italy and those who are come from Africa to work then move back to their respective countries. In Mario’s case, he grew up very differently. His adopted family is white and he has other siblings who are white, his older brother is his agent. Balotelli has renounced his Ghanaian family since they put him up for adoption. He refused to talk to them when they tried to get in contact later in life. Saying that they are only around now because he became famous. His first language was Italian and he grew up culturally as Italian. He fully believes that he is a true Italian and has great pride in playing for his country. But many people do not want him to play for gli azzuri.

 

In one of Mario’s first international game with the senior side he faced much adversity from fans. Many people chanted racist remarks and held banners that read “No to a multi-ethnic national team”(Agencies). What may come as a surprise is that the game was played in Austria. Not too far from Northern Italy. Also, the chants and banners were done by Italian citizens who traveled to Austria. Balotelli has faced racism not only in the Austria game, but also playing in Romania, England, and even in front of the home crowd in Italy.

These right wing Italians are known for their racist remarks within Serie A. Serie A is the soccer league which is played in Italy. Serie A is consistently one of the top leagues in the world. Yet many African players will not come and play for Italian teams due to issues based on racism. Once in a game when he played Juventus, a couple Juventus fans held up a banner that read “A Negro cannot be Italian. (Taylor)” These Serie A fans are also national team fans since they are from Italy. But now there is a black player on the national team. Balotelli is the first black player ever on the team. He is also the first black player to ever score. There is no doubt that Mario is one of the top young strikers in the world. Because of his playing ability he has been given the nickname Super Mario, after the video game.

After that instance in Austria, Balotelli addressed the media pertaining to the issue of racism. He said “I was very disappointed yesterday and I didn’t want to say anything. The only sure thing is that I alone can’t do anything. Everyone needs to do something against racism. (Taylor)” Balotelli serves as a way to bridge the gap of racism in Italian soccer. Just as mixed race people can be seen to help end racism, can Balotelli been seen as a way to bridge the gap of racism in soccer? My answer would be no. As he has said when he addressed the media it is out of his control. No matter how well Super Mario plays or if he wins them a world cup, Balotelli will never be seen as a real Italian. Many Italians will always see Balotelli as black and that he isn’t a real Italian even if he has his citizenship.

Racism is a real problem within Italian soccer. The governing body of Italian soccer, the Italian Football federation, has taken drastic measures to end racism in Italian soccer. They have banned fans for racist activities. Some fans have been banned for life depending on their actions. In the 1990’s racism was running ramped throughout soccer. Since that time the Italian Football Federation has done quite a good job of limiting racism. But there will always be instances where they fail. It is upon everyone to end racism as Mario has stated. He cannot change the views of other no matter how well he plays. He could win them a world cup and people will still hate him based upon his skin color. Balotelli represents the Italian Culture. Growing up in an Italian family and having grandparents who immigrated to the United States from Italy, I see how Italian culture can be racist. Italians take extreme pride in their culture and ethnicity and like every community some people are truly racist. But there is no need to attack another human; especially one who is proud of being Italian but is repeatedly excluded by some right wing lunatics.

Reference

Agencies.”Mario Balotelli Sick of Racist Abuse with Italy National Side | Football | Guardian.co.uk.”Latest News, Sport and Comment from the Guardian | The Guardian. 18 Nov. 2010. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/nov/18/mario-balotelli-racist-abuse-italy&gt;.

 

“Mario Balotelli.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Balotelli&gt;.

Taylor, Daniel. “Mario Balotelli Speaks out about Italian Culture of Racism in New Book | Football | The Guardian.” Latest News, Sport and Comment from the Guardian | The Guardian. 15 Dec. 2010. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/dec/15/mario-balotelli-italian-racism-book?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487&gt;.

Posted in Anthony Rullis | Leave a comment

The Fab 5 and racial authenticity

 

Like many students at University of Michigan, I was eagerly waiting for the release of the ESPN “30 for 30” documentary about the Fab Five. The Fab Five were five student athletes that played basketball for the U of M Men’s team. The five were: Chris Weber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson. All five of them were recruited in the same 1991 recruiting class (Neumann). They gained popularity because all five freshmen started on a team that returned many players from a 1989 national championship team. Also, they made national championship game losing both times in 1992 and 1993. They were responsible for a culture shock to the sport of basketball. The Fab Five were responsible for ushering in a new era of Basketball.

 

They were not afraid to address the media about many issues. One thing that stood out most to me was Jalen Rose’s quote about Grant Hill. Rose said “I hated Duke and I hated everything Duke stood for. Schools like Duke didn’t recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms,(The Fab Five)”. An Uncle Tom is a derogatory phrase aimed at African Americans who are perceived to act as if they are white. Upon learning about authenticity in class I recognized the similarities and how authenticity is related to this instance. Authenticity is being genuine, honest, or “real”. Jalen was accusing Duke to not recruit true “black athletes”. Something that Rose defines as African American teenagers who came from inner cities, had one parent homes, and were below the poverty level(The Fab Five). All five members of the Fab Five grew up in inner cities of Detroit, Chicago, Austin, and South Bend. From Rose’s view those five were authentically black.

The one person who became the central figure of Jalen’s comments was Grant Hill. Grant Hill’s parents were very successful and attended two very prestigious schools. Grant’s mother, Janet, went to school at Wellesley University and was roommates with Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, his father, Calvin, played running back at Yale University. He eventually played for the Dallas Cowboys and made the All-Pro team three times(The Fab Five). Grant was raised by both of his parents in a suburb of Dallas. He eventually was raised in a suburb of Washington D.C.

When looking at the two of their lives they aren’t similar at all. It was two completely opposite childhoods. The one striking similarity is that both of their fathers were pro athletes.   But Jalen’s father left his mother before his birth; Rose never met his father but did talk to him over the phone before his father’s death (The Fab Five). Even though their lives were different why does Rose refer to Hill as an Uncle Tom? This is where authenticity comes into play. Rose believed that he was a real African American student athlete. Rose and fellow Fab Five members showed what being an African American really was, and that Grant wasn’t the same as them. Grant grew up with a proper family, which worked extremely hard to make their son’s life better. So, how does this make Grant Hill less of an African American than Rose? Rose makes the argument that Hill wasn’t really black. That he acted more like he was white. One of the reasons was that nationally many people did not like the Fab Five. People thought they were cocky, arrogant, and were not good role models. Meanwhile, Grant Hill was an exceptional role model. He came from a proper upbringing, went to a great college, and was an exceptional athlete.

One issue which this circumstance brings up is about the portrayal of an authentic African American man in the United States. Rose’s naïve view of being an authentic African American was to be from low income, inner city areas and brought up by a single parent. How does he form this belief? The social stereotypes affect the way Rose views his own race. It brings up the concept of internalized racism. Rose perpetuated the negative stereotypes from society about African Americans and made that the norm. He correlated that to being an Authentic Black male in America. Because Hill did not grow up the same as Rose and the rest of the Fab Five, Rose automatically called to question Hill’s authenticity of being black. But how is Hill not an authentic African American? There is no real explanation to Rose’s accusations. It is not right for Rose to attack Hill for his parent’s hard work and success. People such as the Hill family should be seen as role models for young kids white or black, whatever race.

A statement from fellow Duke basketball player and African American Jay Williams sums up the stance against Jalen Rose: “”How is it to be less black?” he said.”If the definition of an Uncle Tom is me coming from a dual-parenting home where my mother and father worked harder for me to receive a better education; if the definition of an Uncle Tom is for me going to a prestigious school like Duke or Harvard or learning how to flow from being in the inner city and also being on TV and in the corporate world, I’ll be an Uncle Tom all day long. (espn Chicago)”

 

References

“Mike Krzyzewski: Jalen Rose’s Duke Talk ‘very Insulting’ – ESPN Chicago.” ESPN: The Worldwide Leader In Sports. ESPN, 29 Mar. 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://sports.espn.go.com/chicago/ncb/news/story?id=6270285&gt;.

 

Neumann, Thomas. “ESPN ‘Fab Five’ Documentary: Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson Chat with Page 2. – ESPN.” ESPN: The Worldwide Leader In Sports. ESPN, 11 Mar. 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2011.   <http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=neumann/110311_fab_five_documentary&gt;.

The Fab Five. Dir. Jason Hehir. ESPN Films, 2011.

Posted in Anthony Rullis | Leave a comment

Minorities in the NHL

 

When watching a NHL game one thing is very apparent, the sport is primarily comprised of white men. Compared to other American professional sport, besides golf, hockey has much less racial diversity. Currently the NHL has twenty eight players that are black. Of those twenty eight ten are multi-racial (Wikipedia). The NHL has always been viewed as a “white sport”. Hockey is a sport which white people play whereas black kids will play sports such as basketball and football. Due to the fact that NHL players are predominantly white the fans are also that way. There have been many instances where race plays a role in the NHL and most of the times it has been a negative influence.

This year there was a game played between the Detroit Red Wings and the Philadelphia Flyers. Wayne Simmonds is one of twenty eight black players and is currently on the Philadelphia Flyers. The game was played in London, Ontario. The game was played to a tie and eventually went into a shoot out. During the shoot out Wayne Simmonds was chosen by Philadelphia to take a shot. While he was skating down someone from the stands threw a banana at Wayne Simmonds.

Many people viewed this as a derogatory gesture. Throwing a banana at a black man is symbolizing the primal or underdevelopment of black people as a race compared to white people. The banana relates black people as primates signifying that they are not the same as white people. The incident created a huge stir within the sports world and gained national media attention. The incident is a sign of overt racism which we learned in class. Overt Racism is a public, conscious act intended to harm or damage a person or a group of people of another race specifically because of the race of the victimized person or group of people.

Wayne Simmonds responded to the incident after the game. When a reporter asked if Wayne thought it was an act of racism he responded: “”I certainly hope not. When you’re black, you kind of expect [racist] things. You learn to deal with it. (Seravalli)” While reading this quote I thought back to how this relates to the social norms of society. It is a shame that Wayne’s response is actually true. In society, racism and derogatory terms or slang is still thrown around without consequence. Many times people insult others or in this case do it overtly and it has become a social norm.

One thing that really caught my attention was the amount of YouTube comments on the video above that thought it was funny. One comment that really caught my attention was “if people only knew the things that are said between hockey players, some of the trash talk is just nuts, and hilarious. I’ve seen and experienced worse things at a hockey game.(YouTube)” The fact that trash talk in sports is somehow hilarious even though it is blatantly racist should not be considered fine. Whether it is during a sport or not should not be an excuse for whether it is deemed acceptable. It blows my mind that in our society today many people find this funny or not even wrong. Little things like this are what keep racism alive and will not end racism.

While this shows that overt racism stills exists there was one interesting fact from the story. While Wayne’s response merely just brushed off the topic one of his white teammates vehemently defended Wayne and attacked the person who threw the banana. The teammate remained anonymous but was quoted as saying “I would have went and kicked that fan’s ass myself,”(Seravalli). Even though I have explained how social norms and stereotypes still play a role in racism today we see here that there has been progress when dealing with racism. There has been much advancement since the first black player entered the league in 1958. Regarding both the civil rights movement and in the NHL. To see something like what happened to Wayne occur today shows how we still need to do more to combat race related issues. People should not have to go through what Wayne did during a professional sporting event.

 

 

References

 

 

“List of Ice Hockey Players of Black African Descent.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ice_hockey_players_of_black_African_descent&gt;.

 

Seravalli, Frank. “Fan Tosses Banana Peel at Flyers’ Simmonds | Philadelphia Daily News | 09/22/2011.” Philly.com: News from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Philly Sports. 22 Sept. 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2011. <http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/flyers/20110922_Fan_tosses_banana_peel_at_Flyers_Simmonds.html?c=r&gt;.

Posted in Anthony Rullis | Leave a comment

Mission Statement

The Exploration of Race in Sports is a blog with a US perspective concerning race within basketball, baseball, football, golf, and hockey and the audiences’ perception of how race plays a role in each of these sports. This blog means to raise awareness of how race affects sports and athletes of different races in the world of sports. Through these efforts, The Exploration of Race in Sports hopes to decrease prejudice and breakdown racial hierarchies in sports.

Posted in Anthony Rullis, Craig Loebs, Dan Dueweke, James Buckley | Leave a comment