No US-born black players on expected World Series rosters

Looking around Memorial Stadium before Game 1 of the 1983 World Series, Philadelphia Phillies star Gary Matthews saw plenty of black talent. Joe Morgan. Eddie Murray. Garry Madox. Ken Singleton. AlBumbry. Disco Dan Ford.

Looking around Memorial Stadium before Game 1 of the 1983 World Series, Philadelphia Phillies star Gary Matthews saw plenty of black talent.

Joe Morgan. Eddie Murray. Garry Madox. Ken Singleton. AlBumbry. Disco Dan Ford. And much more tonight in Baltimore.

« There were several of us, » Matthews recalls.

When fans watch the Astros and Houston Phillies line up this week to start the Fall Classic, it will be a much different picture.

Certainly, Houston’s Jose Altuve and Philadelphia’s Jean Segura are among dozens of Latin players who help keep big league rosters diverse.

But for the first time since 1950, shortly after Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier, there are no draft American-born black players in this World Series.


« It’s eye-opening, » said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. « It’s somewhat surprising that two cities that have a large African-American population, there isn’t a single black player. »

« It lets us know there’s obviously a lot of work to be done to create opportunities for black kids to pursue their dream at the highest level, » he said.

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 a black player.

Houston and Philadelphia will announce their 26-man rosters several hours before Game 1 Friday night at Minute Maid Park, where Dusty Baker, a black outfielder for the 1981 champion Los Angeles Dodgers, manages the Astros.

Beginning in 1954, when Willie Mays and the New York Giants played against Larry Doby and Cleveland, every team to reach the World Series had at least one American-born black player until the Astros of 2005 have none.

During this half-century, big black names such as Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Rickey Henderson and Frank Robinson dominated the October scene. In 1979 alone, Willie Stargell and Dave Parker were among 10 black players in the Pittsburgh Pirates « We Are Family » champions.

For much of this period, baseball was clearly the dominant game in the United States, the national pastime. Over the years, as basketball and football grew in popularity, baseball became more expensive with an emphasis on traveling teams and elite showcases.

“Kids started moving to other sports,” Matthews said.

One of Matthews’ sons, Gary Jr., was an All-Star outfielder. Another son works in the commissioner’s office with diversity programs.

In 2020, when the Dodgers beat Tampa Bay, Los Angeles star Mookie Betts was the only black player in the World Series.

During the All-Star Game this summer at Dodger Stadium, Betts wore a T-shirt with the message, « We need more black people in the stadium. »

But on the field this weekend, despite encouraging indicators and MLB’s multilevel efforts, it will be a World Series shutout for the first time in more than seven decades.

« That’s the exclamation point, » said Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports in Central Florida.

« It’s a story that’s been going on since the late 1980s, the decline of black baseball players, » he said.

Lapchick, lead author of his group’s annual reports on diverse hiring practices in sports, said black players made up 7.2% of opening day rosters this year. That fell 7.6% last year and marked the lowest since survey data was first collected in 1991, when 18% of MLB players were black.

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.

Houston lost in the World Series last year with Michael Brantley, a black outfielder, on the roster. Brantley is out for the season this year with a shoulder injury. Relief pitcher Josh James is also black and is on the team’s 40-man roster, but underwent arm surgery in early October.

MLB had 38% of players of color on opening day rosters, including Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Jeremy Peña, Yuli Gurriel, Cristian Javier and Framber Valdez of the Astros and Segura, Ranger Suárez and Seranthony Domínguez of the Phillies.

Many Afro-Latino gamers embrace black identity, but perhaps not for the same reasons as Black American gamers. Race and skin color have a different motto in places like the Dominican Republic, Panama, Cuba, and Belize.

Betts, San Diego’s Josh Bell, Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie, Atlanta’s Michael Harris II and Aaron Hicks of the New York Yankees were among the Black players whose teams were eliminated earlier this month in the playoffs.

Kendrick and others see signs of more on the way.

« I’m optimistic. I am, » he said.

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 Harris, Hunter Greene of Cincinnati, Ke’Bryan Hayes of Pittsburgh and Devin Williams of Milwaukee, have participated in MLB diversity-based initiatives such as the MLB Youth Academy. , the DREAM series and the Reviving Baseball in Inner. Cities Program (RBI).

MLB has also pledged $150 million over the next decade to the Players Alliance, an organization of current and former players working to increase black participation at all levels of sport.

Chicago White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams is the only black leader of baseball operations for a major league team.

« I think surely but slowly we’re going to see a pendulum shift, » Kendrick said.

“The problem is that we are not patient. I don’t like instant beans. I’m from Georgia – I like mine slow cooked, » he said.


AP writer Aaron Morrison contributed.


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Ben Walker, The Associated Press


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