Blackistone: Integration brought an unsurpassed legion of talent to baseball in the 1950s

From Kevin Blackistone at the Washington Post on February 25, 2019, with mention of SABR member Mark Armour:

No larger asterisk could be placed on the achievements of anyone in Cooperstown than that which is due all those enshrined who didn’t compete against players of color such as [Don] Newcombe. The racial segregation in baseball that they embraced and upheld damaged not only the aspirations of men of color but the athletic reputations that white players crafted for themselves with the aid of all-white sports media as well. They played among themselves; they didn’t play among the best.

To be sure, the mid-20th-century wave of black players hit the game running — running off with awards, records and statistics that before were the purview solely of segregated white baseball personalities.

What Newcombe, along with Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, Frank Robinson (who also died this month), Roy Campanella and the rest of the first wave of black major league players, did 70 years ago was legend.

In the 11-year span after Jackie Robinson’s rookie campaign, the percentage of black major leaguers grew from 0 to 10. But the impact that minority players had in those few short years on a game that then was nearly four scores old was and is unprecedented.

A 2007 study published by the Society for American Baseball Research and conducted by Mark Armour used as a metric Bill James’s Win Shares, which estimate the number of wins a player produces for his team. Armour found that 20 percent of the National League’s star players were of color by the dawn of the 1950s.

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Originally published: February 26, 2019. Last Updated: February 26, 2019.