FanDuel - WFBC

March 14, 2007

C.C. Sabathia looks around Cleveland's clubhouse and sees something missing: "There aren't very many African-American players, and it's not just in here, it's everywhere. It's not just a problem -- it's a crisis."

posted by justgary to baseball at 06:37 PM - 65 comments

Maybe they're gravitating toward hockey.

posted by tommytrump at 07:47 PM on March 14

The phrase "it's a crisis" in relation to any sporting issue is the most ridiculous hyperbole unless players are dying. In fact, could his argument be perceived as racist? He says about Carlos Delgado and people "assume they're black". So he's making a race distinction. Why does the region of the world the skin colour came from make any difference? I'm quite sure the bling and lifestyle of the NBA is a hell of a lot more attractive than a game which involves scratching your balls a lot on TV. That's the perception a lot of people I know have. Baseball is boring. An old farts game. Basketball is cool. (Heathens.) It always bugs me when I see race stuff being bought into sport like this. I'm quite certain there is no great sabotage going on. It's simply cultural trends.

posted by Drood at 07:48 PM on March 14

What are you going to do,C.C.? If blacks want to play in the NFL and NBA let them. This whole racial thing gets very old real quick.It all makes as much sense as tommytrump's suggestion.

posted by sickleguy at 09:11 PM on March 14

I think it comes down to a matter of choice for the kids. I don't think it's because baseball is not offered to them in the "inner cities". Look at all the stick ball going on in the Dominican Republic. If the kids "can't afford" baseball equipment they grab a stick, a tennis ball, and a couple of pizza boxes because that's what they want to do. If he thinks baseball is bad, check out this long list. If he presented this argument to black NHL players, it would be like complaining about your poison ivy to someone with skin cancer.

posted by Bishop at 09:36 PM on March 14

It always bugs me when I see race stuff being bought into sport like this. This whole racial thing gets very old real quick. And yet he never said it was because of racism, or accused the lack of black players resulted from racism. He pointed to the lack of black players, which is undeniable. He pointed out several possible reasons, a couple that have to do with the black community. It seems to me the first few comments here bring race into the equation much more blatantly than anything Sabathia said. If he thinks baseball is bad, check out this long list. Surely you can see the difference bishop. You're comparing a sport that has never had success with black players to one that was at least partly built on black players. Some of baseball's biggest records are held by black players. That same sport is almost now devoid of black players, which means it part of baseball's history will become just that, history. Apples and oranges. As for the article, Sabathia isn't just talking, he's back it up with action. Growing up some of the best players I ever saw were black. That wasn't that long ago. Today, those kids wouldn't be playing baseball. Think about it, only two black starting pitchers. That's amazing. Looking back, bob gibson, hank aaron, frank robinson, vida blue, willie mays, ernie banks, on and on. Great players who wouldn't be playing today. I love baseball. I like seeing the best players, the highest level of competition. Losing half of the population as a possible source of talent is bad for the game. I'm not saying there's an easy answer, but I think it's worth looking into. and at this stage, crisis is the perfect word for the situation.

posted by justgary at 11:51 PM on March 14

justgary said "Losing half of the population as a possible source of talent is bad for the game" Where did you get this insane number from? It just smacked of racism when I read it. In 2005 12.8 of the population in the United States was "Black or African American". 50% of that number would stand to be female and therefore not major candidates for a MLB team. So we are at 6.4% of the population. Actually the number is 97.1 males for every 100 females in 2005, so the number would fall closer to 6%. “Hispanic or Latinos” make up 14.4% of the United States population in 2005 Yes there are MORE of the same race of people he is so upset about having more players in Baseball. How is that 50%??? Source http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0762156.html If you want to talk about minorities, take a look at my “race” American Indian and Alaska Native 1.0%, funny how you don’t hear us calling for 1% of players and owners of all sports be of our “race”.

posted by vipers-pit at 01:03 AM on March 15

Where did you get this insane number from? It just smacked of racism when I read it. You're right. I was throwing out a number without thought. I should have said "Losing african americans as a possible source of talent is bad for the game". (not sure how you consider misspeaking racism, but whatever) If you want to talk about minorities, take a look at my “race” American Indian and Alaska Native 1.0%, funny how you don’t hear us calling for 1% of players and owners of all sports be of our “race”. Not funny at all. Your choice. But if you said "I think major league baseball should look into the lack of american indians in the game and what if anything they could do to improve the situation" I'd support you. Again, however, it's not a good comparison. There's never been a deep history of american indians in mlb. But some of the greatest players to ever play the game have been black. Losing those players affects the game. And the article never says anything about owners nor anything about demanding any percentage of players. I guess you're just adding that on your own. It's a player looking at a sport with a history of great black players losing that part of the game and asking why. He didn't make demands, and he's also taking action on his own. Not sure where your hate is coming from.

posted by justgary at 01:17 AM on March 15

(For a quick look at the numbers, I am copying this comment from Baseball Think Factory discussion on the same subject) From the 2005 Racial and Gender Report Card: "In the 2005 MLB season 59.9% of the players were white, 8.5% were African-American, 28.7% were Latino and 2.5% were of Asian descent...The percentage of international players in MLB was 30.3%, up three percentage points. According to MLB, players born outside of the 50 United States represent 27.4% of those surveyed on the 2006 Opening Day rosters of Major League Baseball." "The 8.5% African-American player total was the lowest percentage since the Report was initiated in the mid-1980s." The report also shows that a decade earlier, in 1995, 19% of MLB was African-American. By your measure, a representative percentage of African-Americans would be (69.7% American) x (12% African-American) = 8.4%. The actual percentage is 8.5%. One could interpret this as proper representation and the previous few decades as drastic over-representation. Alternately, using the other major US sports as a guide, one could say the fact that African-Americans do not play baseball at a rate exceeding their place in the general population is potentially a cause for concern.

posted by grum@work at 01:36 AM on March 15

Why are people responding to Sabathia's comments as if they were a threat? He's lamenting the disappearance of his race from the game because he loves the game. Wanting young black kids to follow in Jackie Robinson's footsteps isn't a controversial stance.

posted by rcade at 01:44 AM on March 15

I guess I kind of viewed the entire issue instead of his comments or feelings about it. At least he is doing something about it. Also if he wants MLB to match what he (and others) are doing, I don't see anything wrong with that. If you want to talk about minorities, take a look at my “race” American Indian and Alaska Native 1.0%, funny how you don’t hear us calling for 1% of players and owners of all sports be of our “race”. Why not call for it (if you are truly concerned). Or someone of your "cultural background" could become a MLB player, then do something like this guy is doing. I honestly didn't want to chime in on the whole "this whole racial thing gets old quick" business or the "bling or heathens" comments either.

posted by Bishop at 02:24 AM on March 15

Since it was brought up... Native American athletes face imposing hurdles This kind of shows what scares me about me about baseball, that younger kids just don't care about it. But then I'd get on my soap-box about no days games in the World Series, etc. It's kinda like what Mark Cuban said on ESPN on Sunday. These leagues will spend a fortune to get a kid in China to watch a game, but don't care about kids back here. I guess anything that gets kids interested in baseball is good stuff in my book, whether they're black, white, purple or pink.

posted by SummersEve at 03:26 AM on March 15

My heathens comment was meant somewhat in jest because I loathe basketball. I find it tedious, and being very tall, I have to deal with wankers constantly asking me if I play basketball. Seriously, complete strangers come up to me on the street and ask me, so basketball is forever poisoned. It just seems weird to me what CC says about Delgado etc... That's mainly my issue with it. I perceive his comments as being "They're the wrong sort of black". As for bling, I dunno, if someone asked me which sport I'd associate with lavish lifestyle, and all that tedious bling nonsense, I'd say basketball, and if I was an impressionable kid I would imagine that would be pretty alluring. And in a society that is becoming more and more insular, you can practice basketball on your own. Kinda hard to play baseball on your own. I'm a racing nut mostly. I mean a column I wrote about racing is on the front page right now. F1 just got it's first black driver. NASCAR has been crying about diversity for so many years, but F1 is a GLOBAL sport, only behind the Olympics and soccer World Cup in viewing figures (allegedly, though Bernie cooks the books on the viewing figures. If you see F1 on the sports news, he counts your eyes)... A GLOBAL sport, and only now has a black driver made it. I've never heard anyone complain about race issues in F1. I mean you look in the pitlane, and when you see the mechanics, I only ever recall seeing one black mechanic. (At Ferrari.) I guess having somewhat diverse taste in sports, and being a fan of a sport that was exclusively a white boys playground until this year, hearing someone talk on about poor black representation, in a sport that whenever I've watched has had quite a few black players, just comes across as completely absurd. And from the numbers people have been posting here, the stats seem to back up that absurdity.

posted by Drood at 03:33 AM on March 15

being a fan of a sport that was exclusively a white boys playground until this year, hearing someone talk on about poor black representation, in a sport that whenever I've watched has had quite a few black players Doesn't that difference make your comparison rather pointless? You're a fan of sports that, by your own words, are almost entirely white. You haven't heard any complaining. Then you compare it to Baseball, a sport that has a long history of african-americans participating and doing very well. A sport that has the negro leagues in it's past. A sport that has a history with civil rights in the u.s. And you think it's absurd for an african-american player to question the vanishing of black players in mlb? Why would not complaining about sports they have no connection have any bearing on their raising a voice in one in which they have a long history and have excelled but are now vanishing in rapid fashion? And from the numbers people have been posting here, the stats seem to back up that absurdity. 3 decades ago african-americans were at 30%. In 1995 19% of mlb players were black. A decade later it's at 8.5. At what point would you not consider it absurd to look at the issue? 5 percent? 2? Sabathia didn't call for a quota, and I'm certainly against that type thinking. But if african-americans have given up on the game baseball loses an important pool of talent and a part of its history. Not to mention that less black players means less black fans. "Enjoy that 8 percent on the field now," said Harry Edwards, an East St Louis, Illinois, native and sociologist and an outspoken voice on race in sports for decades. "Because more than likely before we get to the first quarter of the 21st century, you'll be looking out there on the field and we'll be right back where we were when Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella and those guys were the only ones out there."

posted by justgary at 04:16 AM on March 15

I think the talk about percentages and quotas for players/coaches/etc. comes from outside of this article. For example, I've heard and read more than a few stories about the lack of black head coaches in football at the college and pro level. I hate to see the talent pool shrink no matter where it comes from. It's good that Sabathia's trying to do something to keep his sport popular in his community.

posted by cabuki at 05:35 AM on March 15

In a recent Newsday column, Omar Minaya had a theory. He says there are only a very few full scholarships for baseball players, compared to 40 or 50 for football. So for someone who's lower middle class or below, who wants to get to college, it makes more sense to go for football or even basketball since there are still full scholarships available. If you don't have much money, a partial scholarship might not be enough. I don't think there's just one answer, but still thought that was an interesting point from a socio-economic angle. Doesn't explain why blacks from other areas don't get into baseball, though.

posted by SummersEve at 05:47 AM on March 15

Why are people responding to Sabathia's comments as if they were a threat? He's lamenting the disappearance of his race from the game because he loves the game. Well said, rcade. "I don't think people understand that there is a problem. They see players like Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado and just assume that they're black." I believe that's true. Quite a few people watch games and see people of color playing and often probably assume many are African-American. But this topic has been discussed in the past, and there are dwindling numbers of this group of people getting involved in baseball. In some ways you can understand it. Baseball requires a lot of equipment to play, and if you get any type of organized game going, you're losing baseballs, or getting them ruined or completely water-logged (and baseballs aren't cheap). Metal bats (which some groups are attempting to ban in youth and high school leagues) are not inexpensive, and by the time you get to higher-level competition, the bats you want to use are around the $200 to $300 level. Gloves, spikes, it all adds up. I realize kids can start with a ball and cheap glove to throw it around between them, but if you have shoes and someone has a basketball, you have what's necessary for a game in that sport. So many youth sports are going year-round these days, also, with summer league basketball, for instance. Baseball's not a game where you can grab a bat for a couple months a year and think you'll be able to compete. All these things add up to dwindling interest. In my opinion, I don't see it ever getting back to where it was (with regards to this issue) in the late '60s, the '70s and '80s.

posted by dyams at 09:30 AM on March 15

But why is this a problem? If kids want to play other sports, so be it. I don't understand why races need to be equally represented.

posted by yerfatma at 09:32 AM on March 15

A big part is quite simple. Baseball requires a lot of room and big infrastructure. Fields, equipment, umpires, and endless supply of balls at 8 bucks a pop. Inner city? Difficult. The lack of fields in my areas constricts many teams from forming. Also, with a rising Hispanic influence, you have the emergence of soccer. Lacrosse is competeing strongly for the best athletes any wayLastly, again in my area, all of the baseball leagues are run by white people, with very little participation by black men. I know htere is a very subtle racism that enters into this, although I do not think it would stand in the way of a determined black player, more like they do not seek out or recruit good black athletes like they might a young white player.

posted by sfts2 at 09:44 AM on March 15

I think part of the problem might be how little league has changed. Leagues have tournaments now where travel and expense is involved. Kids are doing so much more training and preparation now, when it used to be show up and play. That's a barrier to poor folks, who don't have money and time to spend on sports.

posted by bperk at 09:45 AM on March 15

If kids want to play other sports, so be it. I don't understand why races need to be equally represented. I don't think Sabathia is saying "why aren't African-Americans equally represented?" He's lamenting the loss of baseball passion in the black community. The crisis, in his mind, is the lack of interest in his favorite game among the people in his community, not the lack of some kind of quota system. Right?

posted by Venicemenace at 10:11 AM on March 15

It's something of a disturbing trend. It's an important part of baseball's culture. The talent will come from elsewhere (Aisa) to be sure - but it's played in the good ol' USA and I would think that there is an important connection between having good ol' USAians watching USAians playing the national pastime. Fabric of the game, etc., etc. In the long term - less Americans playing baseball as there No. 1 sport is an issue. It means their less likely to consume it and continue passing it on to the next generation.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:32 AM on March 15

We always hear talk about there needing to be a higher number of a certain group in sports as athletes and also as coaches. Too many times when it is a minority which is perceived to be to low in numbers it is attributed to racism. Why is this only the fact when it comes to certain groups? Why are people not screaming there are not enough Hispanics playing football or basketball? Is the proportion of white head coaches in the NFL matching up with the percentage of the overall population? Just because blacks don't play in the NHL or there are not that many Hispanics in the NBA doesn't mean racism is involved Maybe they just are not interested in the sport for other reasons. People try and make racism an issue even when it is not.

posted by scottypup at 11:30 AM on March 15

Someday this Race thing has to end sorry I'm not racist but nowdays you can't say anything without offending someone some of these problems have to do with inner cities not keeping up their local baseball fields you know in the parks and losing sandlots to urban sprawl hey it's gotta suck and I don't blame kids for playing basketball or football it's a lot more fun to play those sports when your a kid I'm going to go back to the cycle it will turn around again but I hate for this to be a racial thing some day in my life I hope to never hear about race the color of a person's skin should mean no more than the color of their eyes

posted by luther70 at 11:39 AM on March 15

Too many times when it is a minority which is perceived to be to low in numbers it is attributed to racism. Too many times it is racism. We just had a thread about the small number of black players in the NHL and no one attributed that to racism. No one in the article or the thread has said racism is to blame for the decreasing number of blacks playing baseball. However, when you take a sport like football in which there are lots of black players and assistant coaches and still a small number of head coaches, that's when people start using words like racism. Whenever people so much as mention race, some people want to assume that people are blaming racism for something new.

posted by bperk at 11:49 AM on March 15

Well said Luther70. There is a greater genetic difference between those with attached ear lobes as those with unattached ear lobes, than there is in the color of skin. Hey, best man/woman gets the job. One thing I haven't seen is the outrage that there aren't more white players in basketball or football, or that x % of the starters must be white or any other race based on society's percentages. Again, I don't care if you're purple, green, or yellow, if you're the best, you should take the position. Really, though, NASCAR is trying more diversification.

posted by bavarianmotorworker at 12:00 PM on March 15

Luther has nothing against minorities, but he sure hates punctuation.

posted by hawkguy at 12:19 PM on March 15

I grew up playing baseball. My family did not have the funds to go out and buy me the best equipment out at the time so me and my friends invented gloves and sometimes, the ball itself. Baseball, basketball, football, well pretty much just about any sport that actually needed some sort of equipment to play was created by our own imaginations. I understand where C.C. Sabathia is coming from because in today's society, most athletes are interested in making big $$, not about the love of the game. I'm not going to say that all black athletes are only interested in having the largest contracts because if you were to look into baseball, Alex Rodriguez is of latin descent and he is the highest paid baseball player. In basketball, an athlete doesn't even have to set one foot on an NBA court and still get paid handsomely (re: LeBron James' $100 million dollar Nike contract before he even played a second in the NBA). If someone is getting paid like royalty to play a game and someone is more than willing to dish out millions more, so be it. By no means was C.C. Sabathia's comments out of line or even borderline racist. The man was honest, upfront and from my perspective, absolutly correct. Being that in the 2005-2006 season, he was the only black player on the Cleveland Indians roster, if that was me, I'll probably be thinking the very same thing. BTW, Joes Reyes and Carlos Delgado do look black because the color of their skin just like my grandmother does even though she's from Puerto Rico like Delgado. That's not racist, just true.

posted by BornIcon at 12:35 PM on March 15

Well said Luther70. BMWer, you've got to be kidding. I mean, agree with the content if you want, but please don't call it "well said".

posted by lil_brown_bat at 12:35 PM on March 15

Wow, talk about a boring read. I swear we need some inside info on some of you people. Baseball hasnt been hot for a while. Hip hop dominates not just black culture but American culture. Hiphop= football and basketball. Thats why blacks play those sports more. More contact, more skill, more speed. Full scholly's help but only an idiot still thinks that coaches dont work out financial aid packages for every kid he wants. You guys are so funny. Let me break it down.....Baseball is not what's hot in the streets, period.

posted by Drallig9399 at 12:36 PM on March 15

But why is this a problem? If kids want to play other sports, so be it. I don't understand why races need to be equally represented. I don't really think it's necessarily a "problem" and I definitely don't see it as a "crisis" (although Sabathia has the right to label it any way he feels). Looking back on the history of the game, though, so many of the all-time greats were African-American (Mays, McCovey, Aaron, Bob Gibson, Frank Robinsion (to name a VERY few), that it's just sad to see the game seeming to lose it's interest with the young black population. And it's obvious many are looking to read between each and every word typed on this thread in order to put a "racism" slant on it. It's not necessary. A black major league baseball player made a comment about the dwindling number of black players in major league baseball. It's a fact, and it's the topic, and it doesn't have to turn into something it's not. I realize each and every individual has the choice of playing baseball, or any sport, but that's not really the point.

posted by dyams at 12:47 PM on March 15

More contact, more skill, more speed. Fine, if "contact" is where it's at, then I'll give you that one. As for more "skill" in football or basketball, I'm not buying it. And with respect to "speed," I assume you're talking about the pace of play, not the speed of the plays or players.

posted by dyams at 12:55 PM on March 15

But why is this a problem? If kids want to play other sports, so be it. I don't understand why races need to be equally represented. posted by yerfatma I don't think Sabathia is saying "why aren't African-Americans equally represented?" He's lamenting the loss of baseball passion in the black community. The crisis, in his mind, is the lack of interest in his favorite game among the people in his community, not the lack of some kind of quota system. posted by Venicemenace Exactly. I'm not sure how people are reading the article and concluding it's about equal representation. I'm guessing it's the stats, but they're just being used to show the decline of black players in mlb, no one's pointing to a national figure and claiming it should be that exact number repesented. From Major League Baseball's perspective, this is bad because they'd rather not lose an entire pool of athletes to other sports, and as they're fighting the other big sports in the U.S., an entire pool of viewers. From Sabathia's side, I can certainly see how someone who grew up looking up to black players now looks around him and questions their absence. Even if as a fan you don't care if the sport is devoid of black players, I don't think it's hard to realize why others might have an interest in bringing black kids back to the sport and are starting to ask questions. Now's the time, not when the numbers dwindle even further. Just because blacks don't play in the NHL or there are not that many Hispanics in the NBA doesn't mean racism is involved Maybe they just are not interested in the sport for other reasons. People try and make racism an issue even when it is not. posted by scottypup Racism wasn't a topic in the article. You're bringing racism into it. And you're right, maybe they're just not interested. But there's no harm in looking into the subject is there? One thing I haven't seen is the outrage that there aren't more white players in basketball or football, or that x % of the starters must be white or any other race based on society's percentages. posted by bavarianmotorworker Again, you're reading more into the article than is actually there. And I've read plenty of articles questioning the lack of white players in the NBA. Is it because white players aren't playing the game? Don't have enough money for the equipment? Then the situations are similar. and I definitely don't see it as a "crisis" posted by dyams Crisis: A crucial or decisive point or situation; a turning point. An unstable condition, as in political, social, or economic affairs, involving an impending abrupt or decisive change. From 30 percent to 8. Two starting black pitchers. In the context of the subject, how is that not a crisis? At what point is it a crisis? Should we wait until there's zero black pitchers to call it a crisis? If one doesn't care sure it's not a crisis. But if you do, as Sabathia does, it's absolutely at a critical point. Look, I've probably said too much on the subject. I grew up playing baseball in an inner city league and I hate to see the sport lose part of it's past and many future great players. If Sabathia had said "10 percent of the population being black means 10 of baseball should be black" I'd be ready to dismiss his comments also. But that's not what he's saying, and I think painting his comments as such is a knee-jerk reaction and short-sighted in its dismissiveness.

posted by justgary at 01:03 PM on March 15

Too many times when it is a minority which is perceived to be to low in numbers it is attributed to racism. This isn't one of those times. If you're so sensitive to frank discussions of racism that you find them in non-accusatory discussions of race, avoid the subject. Sabathia's comments were not a condemnation of other people for the lack of blacks in baseball.

posted by rcade at 02:40 PM on March 15

Exactly. I'm not sure how people are reading the article and concluding it's about equal representation. I get the sense that some might be commenting without reading (though, I could be wrong). And as for this:

"That's amazing. That's unbelievable," he said. "I don't think people understand that there is a problem. They see players like Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado and just assume that they're black."
A great deal of Dominicans, or Latin Americans for that matter don't identify themselves as black. They identify themselves with their country, or their hometown, not with the color of their skin. The U.S. Government agrees, hence the Nixon administration's employment of the catch-all term "hispanic". A term which we are all familiar with, and often find completely seperate from Caucasian and African-American on the census, Drivers License apps, etc. And yet Hispanic's are considered to be: Argentinian, Bolivian, Chilean, Colombian, Costa Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Ecuadorian, El Salvadorian, Guatemalan, Honduran, Mexican, Nicaraguan, Panamanian, Paraguayan, Peruvian, Puerto Rican, Spanish, Uruguayan, or Venezuelan. All nations whose peoples are represented by various skin tones. So in short, no Vladimir Guerrero is not African-Dominican (Afro-Dominican?). He's Dominican.

posted by lilnemo at 02:52 PM on March 15

So Vlad is not black because he was raised in Spanish outside of the USA? Man, these labels get absurd quickly.

posted by qbert72 at 04:02 PM on March 15

Could it be that there is an issue with the length of the "apprenticeship" period involved in the several sports? Baseball: Drafted out of high school, 3 or more years in the minor leagues before even having a cup of coffee in the bigs. Low wages, poor living conditions, bad travel arrangements. Football: At least 3 years of college before being eligible for the NFL draft. Privileged status among your peers at the university. Good travel arrangements at the major college level. Decent living quarters. No wages to speak of, but there is always the value of the education you have a chance to get. Basketball: One year in college, then it's time for the big bucks. No minor league to speak of, save for perhaps a few months in the NBDL. High pay scale. If I were a black inner city kid with the attendant economic disadvantages, I know which way I would try to go. It's not a racist plot among the team owners, players' union, Hall of Fame voters, peanut vendors, or those wearing pink Red Sox caps. Nor did Sabathia suggest such. MLB learned its lesson with Jackie Robinson. It's just simple economics dictating the choices of black athletes.

posted by Howard_T at 04:18 PM on March 15

People look at Delgado or Reyes and think they are black. The are black but not Americans. The whole African-American label is ludicrous. I have a friend whose father was Egyptian, why isn't he African-American (his heritage is African and now he's an American). It's like the long list of peoples under the label "hispanic". Just as dumb. I noticed "Brazilian" was missing from the group only because they speak Portuguese instead of Spanish. Dumb!

posted by rchugh at 05:57 PM on March 15

Wow. Props to Howard T. I hadn't thought of it in those terms. Puts a new perspective on it, at least for me.

posted by hawkguy at 06:15 PM on March 15

I agree with the point.

posted by bavarianmotorworker at 07:58 PM on March 15

To be honest, I have to agree with: Let me break it down.....Baseball is not what's hot in the streets, period. This has a lot to do with. It is not just "it cost to much for inner-city kids." Baseball: Drafted out of high school, 3 or more years in the minor leagues before even having a cup of coffee in the bigs. Low wages, poor living conditions, bad travel arrangements. Football: At least 3 years of college before being eligible for the NFL draft. Privileged status among your peers at the university. Good travel arrangements at the major college level. Decent living quarters. No wages to speak of, but there is always the value of the education you have a chance to get. Basketball: One year in college, then it's time for the big bucks. No minor league to speak of, save for perhaps a few months in the NBDL. High pay scale. This plays a big part in it as well, but not just for the monetary reasons. It's the immediate status and respect you get among your peers. You also don't see Jay-z buying baseball teams. Street culture has a big influence on Black children (not just in the cities either) everywhere. Then there's the whole steroid thing. When was the last time you heard about an NBA player being suspected of juicing? Then there's the marketing. Until you see Ryan Howard selling shoes and hanging out on MTV2, you will not see a lot of kids wearing his jersey. No matter how good he is. Then there's the team aspect. Me and my boy can go find a pick up game anywhere or we can go shoot around. Whens the last time you heard of 2 kids walking onto a baseball diamond and saying, "we got next". You either play on your school's team or not at all. Then there's the umpire/ref concept. In a game of basketball you call your own fouls. I drive to the basket, I get fouled, I call ball, I take it out at the top. Whens the last time you heard someone say, strike 3, I'M out. There are a lot of factors here, I don't see any of them changing until MLB gets involved with what the players are trying to do. They should take some notes from David Stern. He had half of China wearing jerseys well before Yao came into the league.

posted by Bishop at 10:26 PM on March 15

Bishop's post made me think of something else... Me and my boy can go find a pick up game anywhere or we can go shoot around. That's it. Two guys, by themselves, can play basketball. Hell, one guy by himself can shoot hoop. All you need is a basketball and a hoop. You need at least ten guys just to play a half-ass game of baseball. Plus, everybody needs gloves, and a bat and ball. Baseball just doesn't have that spontaneity, and that's just one of the factors that's killing the game.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 06:03 AM on March 16

So Vlad is not black because he was raised in Spanish outside of the USA? Raised in Spanish? What the hell does that mean? He was raised in the Dominican Republic and he speaks spanish. I'm Puerto Rican and hate it with a passion when some dumbass says to me, "You know how to speak Puerto Rican, don't you?" I'm like,"Hey asshole, I am Puerto Rican and I speak fucking spanish". What's so hard about that? Tu sabe?

posted by BornIcon at 08:01 AM on March 16

If I were a black inner city kid with the attendant economic disadvantages, I know which way I would try to go. I diasgree. This is not the issue. 6 year old kids don't fall in love with their favorite sport because they're considering the status they'll receive in their late teens and early twenties in college - even the poorer inner city kids (and let's not forget those poor rural kids, with no money either, but plenty of wide open spaces... Hello! makeshift baseball field!). This is likely the case with uber-athetes who play numerous sports at a high level - but I am sure they are hardly legion. No - kids choose to play a particular sport because: a) It looks like fun b) They have older role models who like it c) It's cool and their friends are playing it Then there's the team aspect. Me and my boy can go find a pick up game anywhere or we can go shoot around. Whens the last time you heard of 2 kids walking onto a baseball diamond and saying, "we got next". Good point, but again - I don't think this is the problem. Example - Me and my friends would play 3 man baseball. We had a wall with a strike zone outlined - one batter, one pitcher and one fielder. Each would take turns at each position after a batter got three outs. Where you hit the ball would determine whether you hit a single, double, triple or homer. All you needed was one ball, one bat and one glove (actually - the fielder was basically the ball fetcher - he didn't even really need a glove except for those rare occassions when the ball was hit right to him). Kids are smart and resourceful when it comes to playing. They can make hybrid games from sports with great ease. No - for me it basically comes down to Michael Jordan. If you notice that it's the generation of black athletes who grew up watching Jordan play as kids that are the age of pro atheltes now. This is the generation that abandoned baseball. Jordan ensured that every neighbourhood kid wanted to play basketball.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:08 AM on March 16

Raised in Spanish? What the hell does that mean? It means what it says: that his mother spoke Spanish to him while raising him. What's so hard about that?

posted by qbert72 at 08:47 AM on March 16

It means what it says qbert72, don't try and justify a ridiculous comment like that. What you should have said was that he was raise speaking spanish, not raised in spanish. Now, if you can't understand that, maybe you should have been raised in english.

posted by BornIcon at 08:57 AM on March 16

I don't think qbert was raised in English, although he does speak it fluently. Il est quebecois, tu sabes?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:24 AM on March 16

Now, if you can't understand that, maybe you should have been raised in english. Pardon a gringo, but shouldn't it be: Tu sabes?

posted by yerfatma at 09:24 AM on March 16

Je pense que tu es une gateaux. That's right... I think you're a cake.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:19 AM on March 16

Hey man, I'm sorry if I used a formulation that was unclear. "élevé en anglais" is a common formula in French, and it's really what I meant. Maybe if I had written "raised in Spanish and outside the US" it would have been clearer that I was talking about language and geography. In any case, I know what I meant, and it's not at all what you're complaining about. I was raised in French, in Canada. Conozco la diferencia entre una idioma y un pais.

posted by qbert72 at 10:53 AM on March 16

Sorry, it's just said differently here in the United States. When someone is raised speaking spanish (as is the case when speaking of Vladimir Guerrero), it is not said that he's raised spanish, it's he's raised speaking spanish. Spanish is what his nationality consists of (Dominican). I wasn't trying to go off topic here, it's just that I've had people ask me if I spoke Puerto Rican and had to clarify to them that I am Puerto Rican and so happen to speak spanish.

posted by BornIcon at 11:24 AM on March 16

Some really good points above. I really should have brought up Weedy's point about different types of baseball-related games that can be played without having to have all the people, equipment, etc. We actually had a two-on-two game, played against a wall in a schoolyard, called fastpitch, played with a bat, tennis ball(s), and glove. All you needed on each team was a pitcher and a fielder. We had stepball, which was also played with a tennis ball (or rubber ball) and involved throwing the ball against a set of concrete steps, requiring the opponent to field the bouncing (or flying) ball in order to record an out; and also Throw-It-Up-And-Hit-It, which was played with a few guys, a big whiffle ball bat, and a taped-up whiffle ball. You'd throw the ball up, hit it, and try to hit it over a fence for a home run without flying out or having your homer robbed. We had others, but you get the idea. There's different ways to develop skills and play the game. I also agree, though, that hip-hop culture (if you want to call it that) has an impact on guys either choosing baseball or sticking with baseball as they get older. You're right, baseball doesn't have the same image that appeals to some of these kids. I remember, not too long ago, seeing something on TV about a young black, inner-city kid who was into baseball, and him saying his friends actually picked on him because he liked (and played) baseball. It's sad, but I probably overlook the obvious because I have grown up with such a love for baseball that it makes it hard to imagine more people couldn't recognize it's appeal.

posted by dyams at 11:41 AM on March 16

Me and my brother could play baseball just between the two of us, in the narrow aisle between our house and the neigbour's. The aisle had a descending slope, so we had a de facto mound. At the bottom of the slope was a sewer plate that served as, well, home plate. We put the batter's glove on the lowest stair of the stairway behind the plate, to give a target to the pitcher. Strikes were called by the batter. Since the space was really narrow, we played with a tennis ball, to avoid breaking windows. The narrowness allowed the pitcher to field almost any ground ball. Fly balls were good for a double, or a home run if they crossed the street. We had "invisible runners" that followed the actual runner no matter what, so you could tag the guy at third before the hitter touched first base. If a drive hit both enclosing wall, it was a foul ball. And that was it. So, in essence, Weedy's right. Kids are wonderfully resourceful, if they have interest in a game.

posted by qbert72 at 12:24 PM on March 16

Bishop, You are right when you suggest that peer respect and "what's hot" play a big role in the selection of one's sport. Weedy, I partly disagree with you. When I was six, I liked all sports. I was fortunate that my oldest sister would take me to her high school games and to Boston Braves games (yes, I'm that old). I grew up with sports. I loved baseball, even though it was the sport that I played most poorly. We could get a game going in the vacant lot across the street with 4 kids. By the time a young man is old enough to make a decision about his sport, he has likely been exposed to many of them, and is probably good enough at more than one to have a real choice. Economically, a disadvantaged kid will lean to the quickest way to the big bucks.

posted by Howard_T at 02:38 PM on March 16

No - for me it basically comes down to Michael Jordan. If you notice that it's the generation of black athletes who grew up watching Jordan play as kids that are the age of pro atheltes now. This is the generation that abandoned baseball. Jordan ensured that every neighbourhood kid wanted to play basketball. And yet MJ did give Minor league Baseball a shot for a few (yet not impressive) years down here with the Barons (White Sox Affiliate). As luck would have it the electrical contractor I was working for at the time had done the wireing in the house (ok REALLY BIG house) MJ leased while in town, so it came down to me to move fixtures, socketts, switches and install the wireing for his new fridge and dishwasher. OK I understand that this alone in no way makes me an MJ expert but he and I did have a few great conversations. I HATE Basketball, which he took in stride with a grin and shake of a finger as if to say shame shame. Point being I guess is that he funnelled a shit-load of money into the poor black and rural areas to help carry on youth baseball programs or start new ones. This didnt happen for the Basketball programs here and that pissed alot of those folks off. Michales responce to me about it all was the need for more black players to be exposed to and have organized leagues to build skill confidence and love for the game of Baseball (his FIRST love in sports from what I understood him to say) So even almost 15 or so years ago MJ was awear of the decline of blacks in youth baseball programs. Somewhere in that long-winded explination I lost my original train of thought but WTF. I totally agree with my alter ego "just"Gary and others who are trying, albeit in vein it seems that this situation is NOT raceist but goes even deeper to a place where there are just not many professional black players for the kids today to look up to. Along with lifestyle changes and what it means to be a black or white man in todays society. Norms are changeing and the old ways are despritly trying to compete with the new times and attitudes attributed to all Major/Professional league. My first pick for a nic was JustJamey, a name I got ih high school from several female friends when their parents wanted too know who they were going out with. Hince the phrase, don't worry dad its "JustJamey". Damn that was long-winded for me and I appolagize for the misspellings, puntuation errors and poor or lack of grammer.

posted by Folkways at 03:27 PM on March 16

Cool story Folkways. I have an eigth grader that just finished his little league carreer and I can tell you, baseball is a dying sport among ALL youth today, whites included. We live in a small town where everyone knows everyone. Kids that were playing with him in tee-ball have been dropping baseball every year for summer basketball and soccer leagues. In our last 2 yrs of little league, there were no black kids left playing and even a larger number of white kids that had quit. Two teams had to be dropped from the league. My son will be starting on the Freshman baseball team this year. I'd love to tell you that it's because he is an elite baseball all-star...but I can't. He'll contribute and be a solid player. But the reason he's playing high school ball while in middle school is because we have only 3 true freshman on the team. This is out of a class of probably well over 100. Kids that were all-stars in little league and babe ruth have passed over baseball for track and tennis. Nothing against track or tennis....but this is BASEBALL for christ's sake! Our kids are not growing up with the passion that we had for baseball, and for me...that just really sucks.

posted by louisville_slugger at 04:15 PM on March 16

I think Louisville's right. I don't think it's just Black kids; it's White kids, Asian kids, even Hispanic kids. It's a shame, too...with all the sports I've been lucky enough to play, baseball will always hold a special place in my heart for that perfect second. Arms at full extension, wrists breaking just like they're supposed to, just when they're supposed to, hit the sweet spot, and it's the most effortless swing you've ever attempted in your life. That perfect millisecond in time when ball meets bat and you just know...it's gone.* The screaming line drive that you have no business catching, but which somehow ends up dying in your webbing is nice, too, but that perfect moment of synchronicity when it all goes right, then watching the center fielder turn and run a few steps...but just a few, and he really only gave kind of a half-hearted jogging effort as it was. I've played football, basketball, golf, threw the discus and shot, did a little boxing in the Navy, and even gave competitive swimming a shot, but hitting the sweet spot on a baseball bat is as good as it gets. I feel a column rattling around in my brain. At least, I hope that's what that rattling is. *Of course, then there's that other sensation; that of a baseball hitting me in the face at about 75 mph and breaking my orbital bone. Thus endeth the baseball career.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 05:00 PM on March 16

TBH, I'd like to see that column. I feel the same way about baseball. I played most everything else, but that's the only one I really miss from childhood. I can still see us scattered across the cut-down cornfield next door, diving for balls in spite of the sharp stalk ends on the ground. To get all Field of Dreams about it, the cornfield shrank, the houses and I sprung up and none of those kids exist anymore. But I miss the hell out of it in a Catcher in the Rye, timeless happiness sort of way where it's always late afternoon but dinner's not even close to ready anymore. That's enough of that or I'll be hanging myself with old sanitary stirrups. My all-time favorite baseball sensation is the one time I had a bat sawed off at the handle. Like an empty suitcase or jug of milk, for a fleeting second I was sure I'd become amazingly strong overnight. Weightless.

posted by yerfatma at 05:54 PM on March 16

They can make hybrid games from sports with great ease. You are certainly correct here ( as i indicated in my first post when I said, kids can get a tennis ball, a stick, and a couple of pizza boxes.) We also played a version of home run derby, we called it fast pitch. You will find that these mock games are a lot different then the actual game. Not so much for Basketball and Football. Jordan ensured that every neighbourhood kid wanted to play basketball. It's funny, I was going to say blame the lack of interest on the saying, "be like Mike". As TBH pointed out, all you needed was a ball and yourself to try and do that. So, in essence, Weedy's right. Kids are wonderfully resourceful, if they have interest in a game. How true. We(my 2 brothers) use to put our roller skates on, grab our sticks, and play hockey every day after school on the tennis court surface at the playground. We would lay 2 sticks down pointing against the net (this was the goal opening) and use a tennis ball (if no ball was available, a smashed beer/soda can would do). It actually helped us develop great shot control as none of us wanted to go get the ball if we shot it over the tennis net. We had 2 friends of ours join us all the time. It got to the point where we all had to be separated (my 1 brother and our best friend, the goalie (haha) in our gym class after our 1st hockey intramural season because we were that much better than all the kids at our school. We (the sixth graders) smoked the 8th graders 12-3 for the championship. We were so into it that we had our gym teacher upgrade from those flimsy "J" sticks to actual blades. (he was very shocked to kids from the local housing project so into hockey) We also had our shop teacher insert wooden dowels in the shafts because they would bend under the force of a decent wrist shot (he wasn't as shocked, he made us sweep the shop). I was the only player at Elkton middle to ever score while playing Goalie (our goalie got injured), and my brother holds the record for most goals scored in a 15 minute game (11), he broke my record of 9 just after I set it. ( I went Bob Probert on him for like 2 weeks after that). To this kid from the bricks, finding the "sweet spot" on a tennis ball during a game of fast pitch could never compare to putting that bad boy just above the goalies shoulder on the short side, (while he was down in the butterfly because he saw me looking 5 hole and figured thats where I was going), then watching him look in his baseball glove only to find it empty. All the while hearing Gene Hart's voice in my head......"he shoot's....he scoresssss".

posted by Bishop at 05:55 PM on March 16

My son will be starting on the Freshman baseball team this year. I'd love to tell you that it's because he is an elite baseball all-star...but I can't. He'll contribute and be a solid player. But the reason he's playing high school ball while in middle school is because we have only 3 true freshman on the team. This is out of a class of probably well over 100. Kids that were all-stars in little league and babe ruth have passed over baseball for track and tennis. I'll offer a different perspective here, from a rural community. We don't have a lot of summer baseball or soccer here -- here it is baseball, Cal Ripkin, Mickey Mantle, Connie Mack, you name it. The difference, though, is that in the summer, if they've got more kids, they just make more teams and everybody plays -- it's common for just this locale to have two Mickey Mantle teams or two Connie Macks or both. With the high school varsity, there are nine guys total who will get significant playing time. Kids here who go out for sports want to play; they don't want to ride the bench. If they join the track team, they know that they will get a chance to compete.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 06:39 PM on March 16

Bishop, awesome story.

posted by yerfatma at 09:37 PM on March 16

I think baseball highlights come up short on the ESPN scale, and kids have picked up on this. With baseball's minor league system, the payoff takes too long to achieve. Football and baseketball seem like instant money by comparision. It's cheaper for MLB to develop the rich stream of Latin America's baseball talent. The Dodgers have a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, not South Central L.A. If there is a crisis, baseball is only the first sport to undergo it. Boxing may be next.

posted by Newbie Walker at 01:33 AM on March 17

Not to hate on a Newbie, but I don't think I agree with a single word of that. Baseball doesn't have Sportscenter-friendly highlights? Home runs, strikeouts and "Web Gems" seem to work alright. Baseball teams don't have developmental academies in the US because there's a whole network of schools and organized leagues they can scout for free. If anything, boxing's "crisis" is a lack of Great White Hopes, not the other way round.

posted by yerfatma at 07:01 AM on March 17

I think baseball highlights come up short on the ESPN scale, and kids have picked up on this. I don't agree. As yerfatma has pointed out, baseball highlights just as well on the small screen as any other sport. The difference is one of personal connection. If you grow up watching baseball games live, or playing in them, the sport has a personal immediacy; if you grow up watching on TV or listening on the radio with your family, it has time to grow on you. When I go out on a summer evening to go to a collegiate league game, I'm surrounded by adults who have all watched a lot of baseball games. Their kids are not exactly sitting rapt in their seats, they're jumping up and down and running around as kids do, but the sport will grow on them too, and they're likely to be passionate fans as adults. I don't think kids' interest in a sport, as participants, comes mostly from the highlight reel -- that's just the icing on the cake. Kids' interest in a sport comes from the whole breadth of the experience, as player or spectator -- not just the home run hit over the fence, but seeing (and learning to watch for) the catcher beat a base-stealer, and that goofy play at the plate in the third when the umpire got all confused and had to ask the third base coach what had happened, and the taste of the hot dogs. For kids who play, it's a rich experience, not a bare-bones sport -- it's about sitting in the dugout goofing on your friends, and stuffing yourself with brownies after the game, and feeling absurdly proud of the scrape you got on your elbow sliding into third. The interest comes from somehow being there. There's about a foot and a half of new snow at my house right now, and more coming. I'm pretty happy about that -- I love to ski, and tomorrow will be a great late-season powder day. But on April 2nd, I'm going to want that snow to be mostly gone from my yard, so that I can turn on the radio and do yardwork to the sound of a baseball game, just like my dad did when I was a kid.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:09 AM on March 17

Loved that, Bishop. Great stuff.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:48 AM on March 19

With baseball's minor league system, the payoff takes too long to achieve. Football and baseketball seem like instant money by comparision. That's only because the kids don't know (or aren't told) the truth about contracts. MLB contracts are guaranteed. If you sign for 4 years and $15million, you'll get $15million. In the NFL, if you sign for 4 years and $15million, you will get your signing bonus and a minimum of one year of that deal (so about $8million). Then, if the team finds a better option or has salary cap problems, they'll cut you in the offseason, leaving you with no more income. In baseball, you can sign a big money contract coming right out of high school (18 years old). Then, if you suffer an injury or just aren't good enough, you'll still have that money you made in the first 4 years, even if it's in the minors. In basketball and football, unless you are a star, you won't be making money until you are 22 years old (college). If you get injured or just plain suck in those 4 years, you'll never see a big pay day in your life.

posted by grum@work at 12:13 PM on March 19

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