By Gary Norris Gray- BASN Staff Reporter (first presented January 12, 2017)
Major League Baseball struggled for years with the issue of inclusion of African American players but the Negro Baseball Leagues kept growing becoming very popular in the Southern Cities. The owners saw a gold mine and wanted in. That was the inclusion of African American fans. Work still needs to be done.
OAKLAND, CA.-There was a gentlemen’s agreement to not sign African American players until 1947. Bill Veeck of the Chicago White Sox tried but was rebuffed by fellow owners. The Brooklyn Dodgers-Branch Rickey signed the first Black player after careful screening. This player had to stand up to racial torment and white rage every day. MLB did not want the best player in the Negro League because catcher Josh Gibson would not put up with the racial nonsense.
The first African-American to break the color lines was Jackie Robinson. Robinson would not be pleased with Major League Baseball today as the Black enrollment continues to remain stagnant with 83-87 African American players on team rosters in 2016. There are currently two Black managers, The Los Angeles Dodgers-David Roberts and Dusty Baker of the Washington Nationals. The number has never gone above four Black field generals per year, remember there are 30 teams. The question should be asked WHY?
Some teams have a single African-American player on the squad. MLB Teams carry 28 players until Aug 31. That’s 30 teams times 28, do the math that is only eight percent of African Americans on the field. MLB tried hard to attract young Black stars with their RBI-(Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities) but these players cannot spend time in the minor leagues without earning a salary. Baseball needs to fix this because these young men are the breadwinners for the whole family.
Then there is the issue of steroids and the hypocrisies of the game. Barry Lamar Bonds-Pittsburgh Pirates-San Francisco Giants got blackballed from Major League Baseball for using performance enhancing drugs while Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun continues to play for the Brewers using these same drugs.
There are so many unwritten rules in this sport it would take the rest of this page to write them all down.
This is the only game where you can legally cheat. Erase the batter’s box, scuff a baseball, throw a spitball, put pine tar on a bat, steal signs from the catcher or third base coach, and pour water on the base path to slow down runners or let the grass grow long to stop a ground ball hitting team or cut the grass short to make the ball fly through the infield for singles. It is the only sport that does not have equal dimensions in any ballpark.
- Baseball and hockey are the only two sports where fights are permitted. In baseball, players can run all the way from the bullpen to join the fray, try that in football and basketball and the players would be ejected immediately.
- Hit a home run, act like you have been there before, run around the bases quickly and go directly to the dugout. Please don’t show up the pitcher or catcher or the next time at the plate the stitches of the baseball might be engraved on your back or your butt. Why?
- Don’t steal a base when you are nine runs ahead as former New York Jets-Kansas City Chief head coach Herm Edwards stated many years ago “You play to win the game,” so why not steal bases, teams have come from behind to win.
- Do not over-celebrate anything on the field, doubles, triples, or game winning hits, just play the game. “Be a gentleman.” This stifles African Americans natural emotions for the love of the game.
- Pitcher Dennis Ray “Oil Can” Boyd of the Boston Red Sox was called wired, weird, strange, eccentric, and just plain odd. People were afraid of Boyd. Yet baseball fans loved Mark “The Bird” Fidrych who talked to the ball before pitches. Do you not think this was odd?
It was a long and hard battle for Blacks to break the color lines in golf. Charlie Sifford became the first African-American to gain a PGA card in 1961 making the American PGA. Sifford made the PGA remove the Caucasian-only clause on clubhouse doors. Pete Brown became the first to win a PGA-sanctioned event in 1964 at the Waco Turner Open. My hero Lee Elder became the first African-American to play in the Masters in 1975. Progress was being made but African Americans found it hard to play on the PGA tour. Tiger Woods would change that.
At the turn of the century, a golfer unlike no other showed up on the golf course. Eldrick ‘Tiger’ Woods, a strong Black man who won more majors faster than anyone in history. Mr. Woods opened doors for African Americans in the Golf World. Tiger did something that no other golfer had done, weight lifting in training. This allowed Mr. Woods to drive the ball down the fairways like no other, golfers followed suit with their own weightlifting programs.
This sport has responded by Tiger-proofing their golf courses, expanding their fairways and widening their greens to make it more difficult for Mr. Woods to win and allowing other golfers a more forgiving course and a chance to taste victory.
Mr. Woods put golf into the national spotlight and let the inner city child experience the game for the first time. Young minorities took up the bag and took out the clubs to try to play this game. The boys have a long way to catch up with their Asian sisters. Se-Ri Park is leading the way with her Korean crew. Following the Tiger Woods workout system, it worked.
Last, the emergence of Tiger Woods created the Golf Channel on most cable systems and allowed golf experts to educate the American public about their game.
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston Mass. THE GRAYLINE: – The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad Network, Disabled Community Activist. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org