Dusty Baker, second most winning active manager in Major League Baseball, as of the writing of this column, is the only African American manager in Major League Baseball (of 30 Major League Baseball mangers, 29 are White). Obviously there is still a color line that baseball doesn’t want to talk about, let alone act upon.
Major League Baseball recently held its traditional, annual honoring of #42, Jackie Robinson. African Americans have played professional baseball for as long as White Americans, ever since it became an organized sport in the second half of the 19th century. Then the door was slammed shut at the turn of the 20th century, not to be opened again until Jackie Robinson was allowed to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers at the old Ebbets Field, April 15, 1947. Sadly, they let the Jackie Robinson school on the old Ebbets Field site in Brooklyn, fail its Black children.
MLB’s Selig Rule and NFL’s Rooney Rule urging professional teams to “consider” Black players, managers and coaches, confirms the door is not wide open, for if teams were seeking the best managers, coaches and players, not just the best White managers, coaches and players, there would be no need for separate rules when Blacks are already among the best managers, coaches and players.
Baseball’s second period of purposeful integration began after its second period of purposeful segregation, when a man named Branch Rickey took the bold step of signing Jackie Robinson to a major league contract. History was not as kind to a Black ball player named Willard Brown, who was signed at the same time by the St. Louis Browns of the then American League. That is how people use history selectively, for their own purposes.
Even before Branch Rickey, there was Rueben Foster, a very respected and effective African American who owned a team in the old Negro League, proving Blacks could successfully own and operate a franchise. And yet, Blacks are still not “allowed” in the owners suites. There is only one majority owner among the MLB, NFL, and NBA: three leagues, 92 teams and only one Black principal owner.
As one who has enjoyed many an hour in the Negro Baseball Hall of Fame in Kansas, Missouri, I urge all who can to visit the Hall to get reacquainted with past successes of the Negro in America and use it to inspire decisions for the future. As a Black historian, I again extend my appreciation to a man named John “Buck” O’Neil, and his role in preserving that history. Buck passed from this life in October of 2006.
There were many heroes who made it possible to allow reestablishing Negroes in America’s “great past time.” We personally question baseball as America’s great past time when it excludes certain Americans, a sport still trying to be a part of White privilege.
That brings us back to Dusty Baker, the last African American standing, the only one allowed to manage a 25-player team roster.
It seems we pursue our level of perfection and knowledge in and regarding the game of baseball. Not meaning any disrespect for our dark-skinned Latin brothers, but it is quite clear that some people in Major League Baseball, White owners among them, have begun to make the decision again that there is no longer a place in White major league baseball for Black Americans, despite the many who have fought and died for this country in many conflicts.
I believe that those good enough to die for their country are also good enough to benefit from this “great” American pastime.