Jackie Robinson was allowed to play Major League Baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers 72 years ago on April 15, 1947.
He would have celebrated his 100th birthday in 2019 and, had he become a centurion, he certainly would question the lack of African American players, managers and front-office personnel in the game he helped transform.
According to USA TODAY’s annual report, only 68 black men were among the 882 players on Opening Day MLB rosters. This is a meager 7.7 percent.
Three teams didn’t have a black player, 11 teams didn’t have more than one. The National League West – comprised of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants – had just three black players among the 100 men on their respective 25-man rosters.
While it is not visible on the field, Major League Baseball has slightly improved its hiring practices when it comes to minorities working for MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred, according to the 2019 Major League Baseball Racial and Gender Report Card (RGRC).
The report, released annually by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida (UCF), concludes there was a slight increase in racial hiring practices and a slight decrease in gender hiring practices.
MLB earned an A- on the issue of racial hiring, a C for gender hiring practices and an overall grade of B- in the 2019 RGRC. Racial hiring scored an 88 in 2018 and jumped a point to 89 in 2019. However, gender dipped from 71 last year to 70 in 2019. The combined grade of 79 points is the same score as 2018.
Richard Lapchick, TIDES director and the report’s primary author, said “Jackie Robinson’s legacy and vision carries on 72 years after he broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
“He played for a future of baseball where all people can participate on and off the field. The Report Card shows baseball is moving in the right direction, but there must be more urgency to make Jackie’s vision a reality.”
Manfred’s League Office is setting a standard that is not being matched by MLB franchises.
It received an A+ for racial hiring and a C for gender hiring practices, which were the same grades as in 2018.
According to the report, people of color comprised 33.3 percent and women comprised 30.8 percent of the total Central Office professional staff.
There were 13 people of color and 15 women in positions of vice president or higher at the Commissioner’s Office. Lapchick credited Renée Tirado, MLB’s vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer, for “effectively (leading) the efforts since assuming this critical leadership position.”
However, “the team levels remain far behind the League Office,” says the study.
Of the six grades for race at the team level, the only A grade was for coaches, which is at 43.9 percent. The teams received a B for racial hiring at the senior administration levels and a B+ at the professional administration levels, but a C- and a D+ for gender hiring at the same positions.
The team grade for managers increased from a C in 2018 to a B in 2019. The five managers of color include just one man who identifies himself as black, Dave Roberts of the L.A. Dodgers. The other managers are Alex Cora, Boston Red Sox, Dave Martinez, Washington Nationals, Charlie Montoyo, Toronto Blue Jays and Rick Renteria, Chicago White Sox. All are Latino and the total of four matches the highest level in MLB history. This number has been reached in 2004 and 2011.
The number of minority executives serving in the role of GM/Head of Baseball Operations remained at four, earning MLB teams a C-minus.
The four are Michael Hill, president of Baseball Operations, Miami Marlins (African-American); Kenny Williams, executive vice president, Baseball Operations for the Chicago White Sox (African-American); Farhan Zaidi, president of Baseball Operations, San Francisco Giants (Asian); Al Avila, executive vice president, Baseball Operations/ General Manager, Detroit Tigers (Latino).
“Though the percentage of managers of color continued to increase this year, the lack of diversity in this key position throughout MLB is of utmost concern, especially when looking at the level of diversity among the players,” Lapchick said.
“The 2019 season opened with only five managers of color, which is half of the all-time high of 10 reached in 2002 and 2009.
“Major League Baseball’s teams must improve inclusive hiring practices in order to accurately represent the players who play the game and the communities they serve.”
So where does the St. Louis Cardinals front office fall in the study?
According to the report, the franchise has one of only 28 black people serving in a role as executive vice-president, senior vice president or vice president on MLB teams
Michael Hall serves as vice president of Cardinals Care and Community Affairs.
All the data for the report comes directly from the MLB Central Office. The report is reviewed for accuracy by that office.
By the way, TIDES operates out of the UCF DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program. This is the same family of Richard DeVos, husband of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
No Cardinals, few blacks
MLB All-Star Game voting has been divided into a primary round (to determine the top three vote getters at each position) and a final round.
Initial results were released this week and it does not look good for the Cardinals or for black player participation.
Josh Bell of the Pittsburgh Pirates is the National League leader at first base, but is followed closely Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves and Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs.
George Springer and Michael Brantley of the Houston Astros are second and third in American League outfield voting behind Mike Trout of the Anaheim Angels. This would be the starting AL outfield if the numbers hold. Mookie Betts, the league’s reigning MVP is fifth.
Betts and White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson are solid bets to be named to the All-Star team if they are not selected by fans.
But it looks like the game will be very short of black players.
As for the Cardinals, Yadier Molina is distant fifth at catcher, Paul Goldschmidt is seventh at first base, Kolten Wong is eighth at second base, Matt Carpenter 10th at third base, Paul DeJong eighth at shortstop and Marcell Ozuna is 15th in outfield balloting.
A former Cardinal, Luke Voit, is the solid leader at first base in the American League.
The Reid Roundup
Give credit to the Toronto Raptors for winning the NBA Finals championship. But without Kevin Durant for all but a few minutes of the series, two injuries to Klay Thompson and nagging injuries plaguing “Boogie” Cousins and Andre Iguodala, the Golden State Warriors were about the 15th best team in the NBA during the series … More than 1.5 million people attended the championship parade in Toronto – and four people were shot … The word is that Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott wants to top the deal that Carson Wentz just signed with the Eagles and is seeking $34 million a season … Former Memphis running back Tony Pollard was drafted in the fourth round by the Cowboys. He got to show his stuff in the Birmingham Bowl because starting running back Darrell Henderson skipped the game. Why do you care? I’m hearing that Ezekiel Elliott might be suspended for the season’s first game against the New York Giants because of his antics involving a security guard in Las Vegas a few weeks ago.
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.