When outfielder Justin Williams landed a spot on the St. Louis Cardinals 25-man opening-day roster, he helped make his team an oddity in Major League Baseball.
With Williams joining pitchers Jack Flaherty and Jordan Hicks, the Cardinals had three Black players when the season opened in Cincinnati.
Eighteen of MLB’s 30 teams have two or fewer Black players. The Boston Red Sox (no surprise), Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants were batting .000 when it came to Black players on their respective opening-day rosters.
USA TODAY’s annual study on the number of Black players on rosters when the season begins is released on Jackie Robinson Day, April 15. It showed just 64 Black players were in uniform or on the injured list. Black players comprised just 7.1 percent of MLB players, down from 7.8 percent in 2020.
The percentage has hovered between 7 and 8 percent for a decade.
MLB was correct in moving its All-Star Game from Atlanta in protest of the Jim Crow-style voting laws enacted in the state of Georgia. But it still struggles to present the nation with less than a handful of Black players on most of its teams.
In 2005, Philadelphia Phillies star shortstop Jimmy Rollins let youthful St. Louis native Ryan Howard move in with him after Howard was called up from Triple-A.
The duo earned respective back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards, with Rollins winning in 2006 and Howard following in 2007.
When Rollins played in his first All-Star Game in 2011, Black MLB participation was at 13 percent. It was about 11 percent when Howard was a rookie and has continued to decline.
MLB promoting its Black stars is vital to ending the skein, Rollins recently told the Associated Press.
“Marketing! The NBA and the NFL, those guys’ faces are plastered all over the screen. Baseball, there isn’t really a great deal of marketing,” he said.
“Obviously, everyone knows about Mike Trout (who is white) and rightfully so, but there are some young Black players that deserve some light, too.”
Lack of diversity in MLB is also obvious off the field.
As noted frequently in this column over the past two years, MLB has just two Black managers – Dusty Baker of the Houston Astros and Dave Roberts of the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
No franchise has a Black person with the title of general manager. Kenny Williams of the Chicago White Sox is the lone Black president of baseball operations.
If this is not galling enough, there were eight GM and president of baseball operation jobs opening following the 2020 season. Obviously, none went to a Black person.
The Miami Marlins hire Kim Ng as GM, making her the first woman and first person of Asian descent to hold that title in MLB history.
In October, MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred hired Michele Meyer-Shipp as chief people and culture officer. She directs MLB’s human resources in diversity, inclusion and culture and is the highest-ranking female executive in MLB history.
Meyer-Shipp, who admitted she had not been to a baseball game in a decade when hired, served as chief diversity officer for the firm KPMG.
“The key, just like any large organization, you can’t necessarily expect everybody to get on the bus exactly at the same time, right?” she told USA TODAY.
“You have some people who are like 'Let’s do it, I’m ready right now.’ You have some people that are, “I’m going to see how it shakes out.’
“What I’ve found is that the owners are open to the discussion, “How do we do this differently, and smarter?’’’
In the meantime, let us hope that Williams is not sent to the minors when Harrison Bader comes off the injured list, dropping the Cardinals to two Black players.
The Reid Roundup
A solemn item. I wrote about our dog Riley last November, the guy I watched more sports with than anyone. Our final games were the night of April 22. His almost 14-year-old body finally gave out the next day and we sent him to dog heaven on April 24, 2021. God Bless you, dude. I love you.