Bigotry in the Professional Sport of Baseball
Recently, Brewers’ reliever Josh Hader, Braves’ starting pitcher Sean Newcomb, and Nationals’ shortstop Trea Turner have been “outed” for racist and homophobic tweets.
Perhaps even more distressing, Milwaukee fans actually gave Hader, who also included the KKK and White Power in his rants, a standing ovation. Former star player Reggie Jackson wrote that he was not surprised by Milwaukee fans’ ovations, “I felt a very strong vibe that I was out of place and not welcomed by some fans.”
Hader, Newcomb, and Turner have, of course, apologized. MLB’s strongest reaction has been to require sensitivity training.
Beyond that, the attitude has been “play ball” on behalf of the league and each team. However, Nationals’ reliever Sean Doolittle did speak out, chiding the trio on Twitter: “it’s not like you can accidentally post a slur.” Cubs’ pitcher Jon Lester also responded on Twitter, advising players to undo any damage they’d done on the site or “better yet, don’t say stupid things in the first place.”
To its credit, Major League Baseball has acknowledged its problem with homophobia by naming Billy Bean its ambassador for inclusion. Bean played for the Tigers, Dodgers, and Padres but quit in his prime, because he couldn’t reconcile the anti-gay vibe in the clubhouse with his own sexual identity. However, the league obviously has a largely unacknowledged problem with racism.
According to “Major League Baseball’s Racial and Gender Report Card”, an annual publication of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, aka TIDES, baseball has the oldest and most Caucasian of all viewers of major sports. Although 42.5 percent of MLB players were people of color on Opening Day in 2017, African Americans made up only 7.7 percent of combined rosters. That’s the lowest percentage since TIDES began tracking. By comparison, in 1991 18 percent of players were African American. Ten years earlier, MLB reached its highest percentage at 18.7. That year’s all-star team had a total of 14 black players.
Until 1947, MLB had no African American players. That year, Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby integrated baseball at great personal sacrifice.
In fact, MLB’s first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, commissioner from 1920 to 1944, wanted to keep the league color-free. As it turned out though, some of the best players in the history of the sport (Bob Gibson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, to name a few) and the Padres (Tony Gwynn) have been African American. By 1950, all pro sports teams had added black players, but the percentage in baseball obviously doesn’t come close to the NFL’s 64 percent or the NBA’s 75 percent.
Adam Jones, who grew up in San Diego and plays center field for the Baltimore Orioles has called baseball “a white man’s sport.” Jones has experienced the venom first hand in Boston when fans flung racial taunts at him.
Of course, baseball operates within the larger culture of the United States in which racism lives on and affects all aspects of American life. For example, increasing numbers of higher-income white Americans have moved to the suburbs where youth leagues flourish. Many young, white players have the advantage of playing for higher-level travel teams. Their parents even hire private coaches. Lower-income African American players don’t have those same advantages. To try to combat the inequities, MLB has taken over Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, a program started in 1989 by former player John Young in Los Angeles at Boys and Girls Clubs. But MLB needs to step up and become much more proactive, as do the Padres.
A.J. Preller has concentrated on scouting and signing players from Latin American countries not from the South or inner cities. Currently there are no black players on the 40-man roster, nor does it appear there will be any time soon. Expanding the search for talent should include areas in which African American kids have the opportunity to play.
In the meantime, Turner’s tweets should end the debate about the winner of the trade that brought Wil Myers to San Diego. As far as we know, Myers’ most egregious prejudice is his preference for East Coast over West Coast Mexican food.
Baseball has been a part of Diane’s life since her father played professionally (mostly at the minor league level). She has written for a number of publications and concentrated on companion animal welfare. She welcomes the opportunity to write about the sport she loves. Diane shares her home with her husband and a house full of rescued animals.
“Turner’s tweets should end the debate about the winner of the trade that brought Wil Myers to San Diego.” While this whole article is filled many problems, let’s address this one thing here. Even if Turner was not even a part of that trade, that trade was still horrible for the Padres. Even the addition of Myers, by himself, has been harmful to the Padres [if we look at the extension, the money and years, and his frequent injuries and unreliability]. But apart from that, I much rather have Jake Bauer, by himself, than 5 Wil Myers. Also, I’d take Joe Ross, by himself, over Myers [and maybe others who were in the trade, but I can’t remember them]. Either way, your premise is that one tweet, as bad as it was, 8 years ago, from a superior player to Myers, who plays a far more important position [a position the Padres have always struggled to fill] “should end the debate about the winner of the trade”? I’m thrilled you want to condemn racism, but we still must be objective. And we still must take responsibility for our own failures. Turner admitted his failures, how about you?
It seems that as long as you are zealous for a good cause then you have complete immunity from wrongdoing or having to own up to how you harm others.
“For example [of racism in America], increasing numbers of higher-income white Americans have moved to the suburbs where youth leagues flourish. Many young, white players have … ”
Can you [Diane/East Village Times] explain to us how that is racism? Don’t you think that if you cannot [and clearly you cannot] then you should make a correction, and an admission of wrongdoing, and apologize to all you have hurt? And if you do not, then you have zero credibility … ZERO.
Given that millions of people of various backgrounds, races, countries, etc. , play and watch baseball together peacefully every day in this country, your so called evidence of so much racism, which is mostly a few bad jokes written by teenagers years ago, is pretty lame.
Yes, it is not evidence, and that fact does not matter at all to the author, to EVT, or to individuals like TT.
“Of course, baseball operates within the larger culture of the United States in which racism lives on and affects all aspects of American life. For example, increasing numbers of higher income white Americans have moved to the suburbs where youth leagues flourish. Many young white players have the advantage of playing for higher-level travel teams. Their parents even hire private coaches. Lower income African American players don’t have those same advantages.” This is your example of racism? That an “increasing numbers of higher income white Americans have moved to the suburbs where youth leagues flourish.”? Who, exactly, is being racist in this scenario? This is a false accusation, a distortion. This hurts the actual fight against racism. Accuracy matters, and false accusations hurt everyone. And why are you focusing on just one minority group? Why just African Americans? What is the right ratio of ethnicities in MLB, and who gets to decide? And there are so many more questions, for which there will be no answers.
Is a sweeping generalization of the people in a specific race, that is false, still considered racism?
Not all races, of course. Nor is this limited to races or groups. There is a shifting, non-absolute standard where (only) certain people can falsely condemn others, but only for a certain, select cause.
What I do see are several false accusations made, with no pretense of any concern for truth, or concern about falsehoods and their false accusations. The people who truly care, not only care about truth, they care about and are deeply alarmed by false accusations made of others. Yet we see none of *that* concern here. : ( I a person truly cared and, for whatever reason, falsely accused someone else, then they would do all they could to make things right. But we are seeing the opposite.
Again, I am glad you want to address racism (and “bigotry”). But at the heart of the problem of these harmful things are false accusations made of others. Ironically, you directly or indirectly judge and condemn Trea Turner. “In the meantime, Turner’s tweets should end the debate about the winner of the trade that brought Wil Myers to San Diego. As far as we know, Myers’ most egregious prejudice is his preference for East Coast over West Coast Mexican food. ” What he tweeted was obviously wrong, and perhaps I will get falsely accused of supporting what he did (not by you, Diane), but it happened several years ago, at age 18. As for me, I know I changed profoundly between 17 and 20. Those who knew me at 17 would not recognize me at 21, let alone at 25. Yet you summarily condemn him as some horrible person not worth being on the Padres because of his wrongdoing 7-8 years ago? If that is STILL who he is, then that is another matter, but there is nothing that we know of to suggest that it is who he is. When does the statute of limitations run out? And do we hold other people to the exact same standard? False accusations and false accusations, and it seems you are condemning them (and rightly so), but then going on to do the very same thing.