Take me out to the ball game,

Take me out with the crowd;

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,

I don’t care if I never get back.

Baseball is still considered America’s pastime by some, especially the older generation. But is the MLB adapting to the ever changing diversity in America? Out of all the major professional sports, the MLB has been the most publicly accepting of diversity. From Luis Castro, to Jackie Robinson, to Masanori Murakami, has the MLB become complacent?

What do I mean by complacent? Just look at the numbers. Within the atmosphere of the MLB, you will notice a gradual decline of professional black baseball players. In 1997, the MLB consisted of 17% black players. Now the number is down to 10%. Why?

The answer that most people have come up with is a combination of three factors: the lack of inner-city baseball facilities, combined with the cost to play baseball, in addition to the easy access today’s youth has to other sports. To a degree, this answer makes sense. To play baseball you need money for a glove, money for balls, money for bats, and you need to have enough friends who actually want to play. Compare this to football, where you just a ball, at least three people, and space (a street, a field, a parking lot, hell I’ve played in an alley). With basketball, you need even less: ball, hoop, hands, and feet. You can play basketball with or without friends. While I do see the logic behind this answer, I think it’s a cop out. So let’s get down to it and dig a little deeper.

I refuse to believe that money is the major issue, because the Hispanic movement has been built out of poverty. Some of the Hispanic players in the MLB remember playing baseball with a stick and some rocks, but they did it for the love of the game. Is it easier to buy a basketball and go to the local rec center to play? Absolutely. However, when you walk into the gym and there are tons of people playing, and just as many waiting for their turn on the court. So getting enough people to play shouldn’t be a problem.

I think the real problem with the MLB is the MLB itself. The TV product of Major League Baseball is boring. If you go to a live game it’s great, but most inner city blacks are not going to live games. Not only is watching baseball on TV kinda dull, but the MLB doesn’t put an attractive product out there. Just compare advertisements between the MLB and the NFL, and you’ll see where I’m coming from. With poor promotion and a poor TV product, the MLB is having a harder time reaching young blacks.

Before I forget, I do want to do a quick shout out to Magic Johnson for trying to be the face of the L.A. Dodgers management.

The next problem the MLB has attracting black fans is the lack of young black superstars. You need young black superstars to attract a young black crowd. If you ask most black sports fans when was the last time they watched a baseball game, it was probably in the late 90’s or even earlier. Growing up we had plenty of black stars that were amazing (Frank Robinson, Ken Griffey Sr, and Jr, Barry Bonds, Kirby Puckett, and the list can go on).

Last week I mentioned position stereotypes within the NFL, and its no surprise that Major League Baseball suffers from those as well. This is most glaring when we look at the statistics for starting pitchers. How many starting pitchers are Hispanic? 18 out of 92. 19% of starting pitchers are Hispanic, but 29% of the league is Hispanic. Why? Some speculate that the Hispanic starting pitcher suffers from black quarterback syndrome: not smart enough, too emotional, and the athleticism gives them flawed mechanics. These stereotypes are not true because there have been plenty of great Hispanic starting pitchers (Juan Marichal, Pedro Martinez, and Luis Tiant off the top of my head).

Much like last week’s article about Race and Football, I looked up the demographics for the MLB and for the five biggest MLB cities. Let’s take a look:

Non-Hispanic White Non-Hispanic Black Non-Hispanic Asian Hispanic
Atlanta 36.00% 54.00% 3.00% 5.00%
Boston 47.00% 22.00% 9.00% 18.00%
Chicago 31.00% 32.00% 5.00% 28.00%
LA 29.00% 10.00% 11.00% 49.00%
NYC 44.00% 26.00% 10.00% 26.00%
MLB 61.00% 10.00% 2.00% 27.00%

All of these cities boast a high minority influence. Atlanta is the only predominantly black city, yet it falls under the national average of Hispanics. However, all of the other cities have a high percentage of Hispanic ties. With the exception of LA, every city on this list is well over the national average of blacks.

What do these numbers tell us? It tells us that the cities where baseball is most popular are not generating black players, despite those cities having a high population of black citizens. This lends credence to the theory that the MLB bores young black athletes towards football, basketball, or track and field.

The racial situation in the MLB is still a bit murky, but they do boast a higher level of player diversity than the NFL. MLB fandom is almost exclusively a two race race (White and Hispanic). I have given my solutions to solve the decrease of blacks in the MLB, but what do you think? If Major League Baseball can solve its problems, could it return to America’s pastime?

Jason

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