HOUSTON (AP) — Dusty Baker grew up watching black stars shine in the World Series, paving the way for a life dedicated to baseball.
When he leads the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night, the AL and NL champions are expected to play without any American-born black players. for the first time since 1950, shortly after Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier.
It’s a fact that deeply disturbs Baker, 73, one of two black managers in MLB, who has spent his entire life playing or coaching baseball.
“What hurts is I don’t know what hope that gives some of the young African-American kids,” Baker told The Associated Press on Thursday. “Because when I was their age I had a bunch of guys, (Willie) Mays, (Hank) Aaron, Frank Robinson, Tommy Davis – my hero – Maury Wills, all those guys. We have to do something before we lose them.
Jackie Robinson made his debut in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers and played in the World Series that year. Since then, the 1950 game between the New York Yankees and the Phillies has been the only World Series without an American-born black player.
Houston and Philadelphia will announce their 26-man rosters several hours before Game 1 Friday night at Minute Maid Park, and neither is expected to have an American-born black player. Michael Brantley, a black outfielder from Houston, is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
“I don’t think that’s something baseball should really be proud of,” said Baker, who won a World Series as an outfielder with the Dodgers in 1981 and is seeking his first championship as a manager.. “It looks bad. It lets people know that it didn’t take a year or even a decade to get here.
Indeed, the dwindling number of black MLB players has been a problem for years. Richard Lapchick, 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 sport. He said black players made up just 7.2% of the opening day roster this year, the lowest percentage since survey data was first collected in 1991, when 18% of players in the MLB were black.
From 1954, when Mays and the New York Giants played Larry Doby and Cleveland, every team to reach the World Series had at least one American-born black player until the 2005 Astros don’t do it.
The Phillies had no black players on their opening roster this year for the first time since 1959. Roman Quinn, a black backup outfielder, played 23 games before being released.
Philadelphia rookie Darick Hall made his debut 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 any of the first three rounds this postseason 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 more than 300 major leaguers, including Atlanta’s Michael Harris II, Cincinnati’s Hunter Greene, Pittsburgh’s Ke’Bryan Hayes and Milwaukee’s Devin Williams, have taken part in MLB diversity initiatives. such as the MLB Youth Academy, the DREAM Series, and the Reviving Downtown Baseball (RBI) Program.
Although “very disappointed and discouraged” by the situation this year, Baker hopes the composition of the most recent draft top means it will be the last World Series where American-born black players will not be represented.
“There is help on the way,” he said. “You can tell by the number of number one African American draft picks. Academies produce players. So hopefully in the near future we won’t have to talk about it or even be in that situation.
AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker contributed to this story.
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