Newsday’s Shaun Powell visited the Mets and Yankees respective spring training camps this week, and upon noting the paucity of black faces on the field or in the stands, concludes “come Opening Day, there might be more blacks in the Rush Limbaugh fan club than on the field for both New York teams combined. ”
Last season, less than 4 percent of major-leaguers were black Americans.
Kenny Lofton was the only black player for the Dodgers, Robinson’s team, when the season opened.
Let’s not even try to cite statistics in the stands, where black faces are a novelty in some places and nonexistent in others.
“One thing I’ve definitely noticed,” said Kevin Thompson (above), who played 34 games for the Yankees in 2006, “is that the higher I go in baseball, the fewer blacks I see. I’ve just come to accept it. That’s just the way it is now.”
It will be rather awkward, therefore, when Major League Baseball tries to celebrate the 60-year anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier, knowing full well that Robinson no longer is a Pied Piper for black athletes.
In fact, every time the memory of Robinson is honored with a ceremony, there are more elderly black faces paying homage than young ones.
Mets general manager Omar Minaya places the blame squarely on the colleges, which don’t encourage the poor young black athlete to stick with baseball. Less than 12 scholarships are available per school in Division I, where full scholarships for baseball are rare.
“That’s the beginning and the end of the problem right there,” Minaya said. “How many scholarships are there for football? Forty or 50?”
Forty or 50 sounds like the projected number of black baseball players expected to take the field on Opening Day.
That’s fewer than two per team, or roughly what Robinson saw in his day.