Sunday, April 08, 2007

Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson

Sixty years ago Jackie Robinson was the first black man to play in the white world of Major League Baseball. For most baseball fans or civil rights activists it is a familiar tale of courage.

What has happens in the last years is the reduction of black participation. There are black coaches which is no longer a milestone that only we in the minority community can appreciate. White folks take these opportunities for granted. For us whom appreciate the history and the now of racial prejudice we celebrate firsts.

For endless reasons, gifted black athletes are not turning to baseball. It is easier to put together a pick up game of basketball than a baseball game. There a known rules for fouls and there is a minimum equipment requirement.

To participate on a Little League team requires a glove, bat, spikes insurance and league fees. Of course, a league has to exist. In the cities, it is a challenge to find a league. In suburbia, the sport of choice is soccer.

Some kids actually find the sport boring. (if they could only appreciate the beauty and excitement of a no-hitter) I digress.

I grew up around the sport. I had uncles who played in the Negro League. My family's history no doubt lent itself to my generation's participation in the sport. This love has been passed on to our kids.

Baseball recruits from a farm system. Little leagues, Legion, and semi-pro leagues feed the farm system. If minority athletes do not find the way into the system, they will never be in a position to be "scouted."

Major League Baseball has not helped itself. Drugs clearly were a issue. But there is the perception that MLB is targeting Barry Bonds because of the color his skin. It will be interesting to see what happens when he breaks Hank Aaron's record.

Jackie Robinson would be appalled.

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