Burgos: To honor Jackie Robinson, MLB must invest in next generation of African-Americans

From SABR member Adrian Burgos Jr. at The Sporting News on April 15, 2015:

Major League Baseball today is once again commemorating its most significant moment of the 20th century: the 1947 debut of Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The success of Robinson as an integration pioneer in MLB galvanized many across the nation in the push for racial integration and the march for civil rights. The launching of what historian Jules Tygiel labeled “Baseball’s Great Experiment” reverberated well beyond the baseball world. Over the next several decades, Americans everywhere confronted the prospect of integration coming to their team, neighborhood, school, or workplace.

Journalists, baseball insiders and scholars offer multiple readings on the fading away of the African-American presence and the factors contributing to the lower percentage of African-American players. They miss the point. While they point to changes in the sporting world that can lead to the decline in black baseball players, they simultaneously ignore that Major League Baseball stripped the black baseball community of its infrastructure and subsequently failed to reinvest. The result: an annual conversation surrounding the lack of African-American interest in America’s game.

Some suggest too much is made of the situation: that African-Americans have more sporting and non-athletic pursuits from which to choose. Thus, the decline in African-American players might even be seen as a sign of progress.

Others note Jackie Robinson was a multisport athlete at UCLA — that baseball was arguably his fourth-best sport behind football, basketball and track and field. Robinson, they note, chose baseball because the other sports lacked strong professional circuits that included black athletes and provided them a somewhat stable livelihood as the Negro Leagues did in baseball.

These perspectives hint at the complex sporting world of Jim Crow that affected baseball and other major sports. That sporting world was one where whiteness was privileged above all else; where Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Fritz Pollard and Paul Robeson would not be afforded the place that their athletic excellence merited professionally.

Read the full article here: http://www.sportingnews.com/mlb/story/2015-04-15/jackie-robinson-day-african-americans-in-baseball

Originally published: April 15, 2015. Last Updated: April 15, 2015.