It's been 62 years since Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. Stepping onto the Ebbets Field grass, going 0-4 in a 5-3 win over the Braves, Robinson had "changed the face of baseball". It's been 10 years since Bud Selig retired Robinson's number 42 throughout baseball.
However, in 2009, African Americans comprise about eight percent of Major Leaguers. Robinson, if he was alive today, would probably wonder, what happened?
In 1975, African Americans comprised 27 percent of major leaguers, and the future seemed bright for African American participation in Major League Baseball. So to answer Mr. Robinson's hypothetical question what did happen?
There is much conjecture particularly revolving around the choices African American athletes make at young ages. More of the African American athletes whose future is in sports seem to opt for football or basketball over baseball, possilbly because the sports have "more action."
Programs such as R.B.I.—a program that seeks to bring baseball to the inner cities have been pushed to new heights in an attempt to harness this market for baseball fans and players alike. You can't watch a Major League game without seeing a commercial for the Boys and Girls Club or R.B.I.
However, I believe the lack of African American baseball heroes such as Jackie Robinson is a large problem as well. Neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox have one, arguably the sport's premier teams start an African American player or pitcher on a regular basis besides Derek Jeter who is half-black, and he broke into the Majors 16 years ago!
For years, a young African American kid from the inner city may only have connection to basketball players and football players while growing up. An inner-city kid would buy "The Jordans," get the Michael jersey, and styles his hair like Allen Iverson.
But the news isn't all negative. It is apparent that the push for baseball in the inner- city may be paying off some dividends, as we watched the action unfold in tonight's All Star Game.
Of the 56 players that were selected as All Stars, ten are African American—Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Chone Figgins, Carl Crawford, Edwin Jackson, Prince Fielder, Orlando Hudson, Justin Upton, Adam Jones, and Ryan Howard. That's almost 18 percent of the combined roster.
Even better news is that seven of the 10 are in their 20s and representative of a new generation of baseball fans and players. Finally, the young black athlete has black baseball players whom he or she can admire in their pursuit of a career in baseball.
We have a long way to go to reach the heights of African American baseball in the 70s, but this All-Star game is a step in the right direction. Carl Crawford's game saving catch at the wall and subsequent MVP honors can only help baseball's quest to win back the black athlete.
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