How Blacks in baseball get pigeonholed

Chris Archer
Photo by Charles Hallman

First of a two-part story

Six years ago, no Major League Baseball team had more than one Black pitcher on its staff. Six seasons later, there are less than 10 Black hurlers in the majors, and the Minnesota Twins’ Chris Archer is among that paltry number as the club’s only Black pitcher this season.

The 33-year-old veteran—Archer’s birthday is Sept. 26—is finishing up his first season with Minnesota, his 10th season overall. The Twins is his third MLB club (Tampa Bay, 2012-18, 2021; Pittsburgh, 2018-19).  

He told the MSR that if not for his junior varsity baseball coach back in high school, Archer might not have ever taken the mound at all. “When I was in ninth grade, the JV coach for the baseball team was Black,” he recalled. “I was the only Black kid out there.”

The coach watched the youngster throw and quickly invited him to pitch: “We’re gonna put you on the mountain and see how you do,” Archer said his coach told him. “I threw, made the team, and he said, ‘You’re starting the first game for the JV season.”

“If I didn’t have a Black coach,” continued Archer, “he probably wouldn’t have taken that extra look and thought deeper.” In other words, baseball is a sport that too often sees some positions—the so-called “thinking man’s positions”—as virtually off limits for Blacks, with few exceptions. Pitcher is one of them.

“I think if a Black kid is playing baseball,” said Archer, “his athleticism is usually through the roof. Rather than have him on the mound, they’re gonna put him at a more versatile position where he can impact the game.”

Blacks sadly are pigeonholed simply because they may be more athletic or better suited for the outfield. “You’re an athlete, they put you in the most athletic positions” such as outfielder, noted Archer. “It’s still like that to this day.”

Since being drafted by Cleveland in the fifth round of the 2006 draft, Archer said he has been a starting pitcher at every level from preps to pros, minor leagues and the majors. “It’s been my role for the last 10 years or so. This is what I’ve done, and I like doing it.”

“I just love the challenge,” said Archer. “There’s a human element that you have to be able to read the game with your eyes and pitch to that, but also know what your strength is with the hitters’ weaknesses.”

Asked if he intends to stay in baseball after his playing days wind down, he said perhaps in coaching. “I don’t know about a full-time coach,” adding that being a special assistant, a position that former MLB pitcher LaTroy Hawkins currently holds with the Twins, might be something he could do. 

He recently has been working with St. Paul Saints pitcher Simeon Woods Richardson on his pitching—one Black pitcher to another. “I got a lot of fulfillment out of that,” said Archer.

Next – Our interview with Simeon Woods Richardson