On August 13, 1950, a white police officer murdered 22-year-old Hilliard Brooks Jr., a Black man, on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
The bus driver had called the police claiming that Brooks had caused a disturbance. Brooks’ crime: refusing to enter or exit the bus through the rear as Jim Crow laws demanded.
While similar incidents of brutality would continue, the civil rights movement led to noticeable change. Only recently, perhaps in response to Barack Obama becoming the first Black U.S. president, has the struggle against racial hatred and white supremacists in America gone backward.
And as the saying goes, baseball “is as American as apple pie.” It’s an escape from reality for many, and for some, it’s the one sport that’s supposed to mirror wholesome American values.
As the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies battle in the 2022 edition — or the 181st — World Series, the America baseball resembles is scary. The teams combined consisted of a group of white Americans and a sprinkling of [perhaps not as welcome] immigrants.
It’s the first World Series since 1950, two months after Brooks’ brutal murder, when the New York Yankees swept the Philadelphia Phillies, that neither team has at least one African American player.
“Nah, don’t tell me that,” Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker lamented. “That’s terrible for the state of the game. Wow! Terrible. I’m ashamed of the game. Quote me. I am ashamed of the game,” reaffirmed Baker, an African American.
Tony Clark, the head of the Major League Baseball Players’ Union, said the reason there is no African American representation lies with years of inattention by the sport to U.S.-born Black people.
“It is truly unfortunate that any young Black player who may be watching these games tonight is not going to see someone that looks like them and, as a result, may make a decision against continuing to play our great game and move on to something else,” Clark said just as the World Series kicked off in Houston.
“That is disappointing and disheartening,” he insisted.
Clark said that the camaraderie among Black players is the reason why the World Series shutout hurts.
“When I first started playing, players made sure, Black players on your team and other teams made sure that you were encouraged and supported, recognizing that even at that time, the numbers weren’t as high, so you were less likely in a lot of ways to see someone that looked like you or came from the same place that you did,” Clark remarked. “Toward the end, less and less of those conversations were being had because there were less of those players to have them with.”
While Black players made up about 18% of all MLB rosters when researchers from TIDES first began assessing the league’s demographic data in 1991, Black players represented only 7.2% of all MLB players at the start of the 2022 season.
Researchers at TIDES – The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports – reported that the percentage of Black players “has been a serious concern for many years.”
TIDES reported that 38% of all players on Opening Day 2022 were players of color – approximately 28.5 percent Hispanic or Latino, 1.9% Asian, and less than 1% Hawaiian/Pacific Islander or Native American.
“Well, I don’t think that’s something that baseball should really be proud of,” Baker said. “It looks bad. It lets people know that it didn’t take a year, or even a decade, to get to this point.”