10.28.2005

The ball is white and so are the players

Rosa Parks, the black woman who refused to give up her seat on a public bus in 1955 and thus helped accelerate the American civil rights movement, died earlier this week. Since her courageous act of civil disobedience African-Americans have made great strides in attaining equal rights in American society. Professional sports – a domain once ruled solely by white athletes – has been energized in recent decades by the infusion of talented African-Americans.

However, at this year's baseball World Series we saw a rather disturbing exception to this trend. The Houston Astros were the first World Series team since 1953 - two years before Rosa Parks made headlines - to field a team without an African-Americans player. The other series team, the Chicago White Sox, only had three blacks on their post-season roster. The composition of baseball teams changes frequently during the season, but there were times this year when - in addition to Houston - Boston, Seattle, Baltimore, Colorado, and even Atlanta, had no active African-American players on their roster (this does not include "black" Hispanic players). Yet over in Minnesota, a state with a negligible minority population, the Twins boasted a self-dubbed "Soul Patrol" outfield of three black players.

Make what you want with that trivia, but there is no denying that a definite "color drain" is occurring in professional baseball. Thirty years ago, 27 percent of major league baseball players were African-American. By 1995 that total had slipped to 19 percent. This year it dropped way down to 9 percent. In the college ranks, the figure is even worse, at less than 6 percent. By contrast, the number of Hispanic players in pro baseball now stands at 28 percent, and in the past decade the number of Asian players (from Japan, Taiwan and Korea) has increased sharply.

Part of the reason for the decline in black baseball players is due to the "hip factor." Baseball, to put it simply, is not nearly as appealing to American black youth as is NBA basketball or even NFL football. The percentage of African-American players in those leagues reflects that popularity; in the NBA about 80 percent of the players are black, and in the NFL it's over 65 percent.

On the other end of the pro sports spectrum, there is that last bastion of good old white boys: professional golf. On the men's tour, the only African-American is Tiger Woods, but he is actually half-Thai. Vijay Singh is also "dark-skinned" but he's from Fiji so he really doesn't count either. Like baseball, pro golf wasn't always so pale. Back in the 1970s the PGA tour sported high-profile black players such as Lee Elder, Charlie Sifford, Jim Dent, Jim Thorpe, and Calvin Peete.

"There's a perception among African-American kids that they're not welcome here, that baseball is not for inner city kids," said hall of fame member Joe Morgan. "It's a daunting task to get African-American kids into baseball, and I don't see the trend changing."

Is it a coincidence that both baseball and golf use white balls?

7 comments:

Tom said...

Uh.. that's a little strange...

Professional sports is really the ONLY place you'll find very little racial descrimination these days. They want to win so bad they take the best players.

And claiming golf as some sort of "whites only" game is absurd. It's not even a team sport. You could be a pink midget with a mohawk, but if you can shoot low enough to make the cuts, you end up on Sunday tv. It's all about one person on a golf course hitting a white ball. It's really a stupid sport, but it doesn't descriminate.

Of COURSE there will be racial dominance in different sports. There's only a few blacks in hockey, but that's because the black kids would rather shoot hoops then ice skate. It's not because the hockey establishment doesn't want them there.

Bangkok Bertha said...

Well, golf IS pretty much a "whites only" sport. That's just the nature of the beast. Mainly, it's due to economics more than any thing else. Golf is - and has always been - pretty much an elite rich man's sport. Yes, most competition is on an individual level, and thereotically anyone with the ability CAN compete, but it takes money to do it. You wanna shoot hoops? It doesn't cost an arm and a leg to hike over to the court and play. Shoot a round of golf? Gotta buy the clubs and the balls, and then pay the greens fees, and maybe more money for an electric court. Very expensive. Poor kids ain't got a chance, and due to the boring perception of the game, must kids have no desire to play either. So it stays a rich white man's sport.

Tom said...

I hate to sound like a conservative here, but I still don't agree with the argument.

Your point seems to be that since golf costs more than basketball, blacks are somehow disadvantaged because they are inherently more "poor" then whites.

I happen to think that a white kid that grows up in the trailer park has as much chance to be the next Arnold Palmer as a black kid in the ghetto has of being the next Tiger Woods.

Being poor is not a matter of race, and it bothers me when liberals make appologies for blacks being poor when everyone has equal chance in this country to achieve. The onus is on the individual and until we give up this notion that race plays a factor in ones ability to achieve, we will always be racists - but in the reverse sense.

A black kid chooses to be a gansta instead of studying and achieving to go to college. The same goes for the white kid in the trailer park who buys a 4x4 and a 6 pack of Bud. It may not be quite as easy as it is for the rich kid, but life will never be fair for everyone.

Golf is such a stupid game anyway.. and maybe blacks are the smart ones to stay away from it..

But.. if you want to talk about the private golf courses that deny partners of gays and lesbians the right to use the course as a "spouse" then you have a valid criticism..

Bangkok Bertha said...

Golf is a "stupid" game,huh? That's a very enlightened comment. I'm not sure how this odd discourse started but I'll keep it going...
I would ammend your statement and say that being poor is not a matter of race. Of course it's not. But the reality - and the statistics - make the climb out of poverty much more difficult for those of color. In a perfect world, the color of your skin or your race or sexual orientation should not be a handicap or an obstacle to success or doing what you want to do. But all too often that still happens.
I didn't really start off to make any "points." My original post detailed the strange decline in the number of blacks in pro baseball the past couple of decades. The total opposite of what's happened in the rest of society, where it's now common to see a black person working at jobs/positions that were previously not open to them. Of course, blacks still have the option to play baseball (or golf) but they are opting not to do so - and that's what sparked my curiosity.

Tom said...

You said "disturbing exception" as if the notion that there is a sport that blacks are not dominating is somehow racist because blacks dominate all sports.

Why is the decline of the number of black players in baseball "disturbing"? Athletes pick whatever sport they want.

Then you called golf a "good old white boys" club, where in fact, golf is a game of skill, and it is an individual game. I don't see how it could possibly be racist, as you claim with the "white boys" comment. It's just like shooting pool, except you have to chase the ball a lot farther. It's a skill and not a sport anyway.. that's why it's a "stupid game" and not a "stupid sport". Sorry for not being so "enlightened".

Perhaps I interepreted the original post to mean you believe that there is racism in sports where clearly none exists. Perhaps you are just perplexed why black kids don't want to play baseball.

The "odd discourse" is merely my disagreement with your unsupported hypothesis as I viewed it.

Bangkok Bertha said...

I wouldn't call that an unsupported "hypothesis" at all. The statistics don't lie in regards to the numbers of blacks playing professional baseball and golf. They have declined. And obviously there are reasons for this. On the surface, it doesn't appear to be caused by racism, no. In the past several years, pro baseball has set new attendance records. This indicates the sport is more popular than ever. So why are the number of black playing the game declining? It's not just lack of interest, I think, but the lack of opportunity.
As for the fascinating sport of golf; in the very recent past many golf courses HAVE had racist policies, not allowing blacks to play or hold memberships at the club. Even the famous Masters Golf Tournement did not allow black golf pros to play until Lee Elder finally was invited in the 1970s. Once again, that lack of opportunity is an obstacle for blacks that want to learn the game. Indeed, skill is color blind. But racism DOES exist in sports to a certain degree. Ask the black majority of NBA players why more teams don't have black coaches, owners or management - or why most fans in the stands are white. Another very odd discrepency.

Tom said...

Okay.. well, I hate to really dissect a point of view, but sometimes that needs to be done.

Anyway.. here goes..

I wouldn't call that an unsupported "hypothesis" at all

Well, yes, I do call it unsupported because it is nothing but conjecture surrounded by unsubstantiated assumptions. That's a tool of the right wing, and I'm not a fan of that being used by the left.

Your argument basically says, "So why are the number of black playing the game declining? It's not just lack of interest, I think, but the lack of opportunity."

Which I don't get. What lack of opportunity are you talking about? Some people have less opportunity because of their color? You argument is fundamentally racist in itself because you assume that most blacks grow up in slums, are poor, and don't have the same chance as white kids. That's ridiculous.

I went to school with a bunch of black kids that lived in the same neighborhood. We played basketball in the fall, and in the spring, I played baseball and they ran track. The reason? They were just a hell of a lot faster than me, and I grew up playing baseball and they didn't. The sports just fit that way.

As for the fascinating sport of golf; in the very recent past many golf courses HAVE had racist policies

I'm afraid that's an irrelevant point. We weren't talking about the past, or golf clubs. We were talking about professional sports. Everyone knows that the private clubs were probably racist in some cases, but that has nothing to do with professional golf. There are very very few professional sports in this world that are, by it's very nature, completely blind to every condition. There is no Russian judge scoring you a 3.4. There is no referee calling a foul. There is no team owner saying he doesn't like blacks, therefore he won't hire any. Professional golf is about 1 person hitting a ball in a hole - and it's blind to any circumstance beyond that.

Again, saying black kids are too poor to buy clubs or pay a green fee is a racist comment. I've got a black engineer sitting 3 cubes down from me that keeps bugging me to go hit balls with him during lunch. The only reason he's not on the PGA Tour is because he's not good enough at hitting the ball in the hole.

Once again, that lack of opportunity is an obstacle for blacks that want to learn the game.

Again, completely unsupported and untrue. Poor white kids have no more opportunity to play the sport then poor black kids. It's not a race issue at all.

But, for all the poor white kids, and all the poor black kids, they CAN do it if they want.

Your fundamental assumption is defeatest, and not in keeping with the spirit of the United States, where all things truly are possible.

Ask the black majority of NBA players why more teams don't have black coaches, owners or management

Now that's a different topic entirely. You've shifted it from professional athletes to employment discrimination. You can't simply shift the topic to fit your argument because you couldn't make the argument in the first place.

But, and this is the important point, one thing has nothing to do with the other. I doubt anybody will argue that there may have been, and may continue to be racist attitudes towards hiring staff in professional sports. And that's all that needs to be said about that, because it's off topic.

or why most fans in the stands are white

Because most people are white? Or, do you have some sort of statistic that breaks down the racial populations of a sports town versus the racial population at a game?

Okay.. here's the deal..

You seem to want cultural homogeneity where White is the same is black is the same as Asian is the same as Hispanic, and so on. That's never going to be the case because each culture is different. That's a good thing!

Black kids have their own sports heroes, and they have their own interest, and they have their own points of view on what is cool and what is not. Frankly, I'd imagine most all of them would rather be doing 360 slam dunks in an NBA game then hitting a 350 yard tee shot. I know I would.. but I'm a 5'10 white guy so that's never going to happen.

But - and this is the important part - there is no limit in the United States to what you can do if you want to do it. There is none. All beyond that is just a lame excuse..