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Republicans Need to Break Baseball’s “Color Line”

June 16, 2017

Try to imagine the outrage that would follow a 2017 major league baseball team that included no African-American players on its roster.

After Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, major league baseball integrated at a pace slightly faster than one team per year. By the end of the 1958 season, the Boston Red Sox were the last holdout of what was then 16 major league teams. In 1959, a race discrimination lawsuit against the Red Sox and a scheduled public hearing of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination forced the issue, and the Sox signed second-baseman Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, who debuted as a pinch runner on July 21, 1959. He started at second base the next day, and the Sox signed African-American pitcher Earl Wilson a week later.

On June 15, 2017, Republican and Democratic congressional teams played their 79th annual charity benefit game. The 33-member Republican roster included no African-American players. Indeed, it is entirely possible that, in all of the years since that first game in 1909, the Republicans have never fielded an African-American player.

Of course, it’s hard for Congressional Republicans to field an African-American ballplayer as long as Congressional Republicans remain a nearly all-white club. There are today just three African-American Republicans in Congress – Representatives Mia Love of Utah and Will Hurd of Texas, and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Three is a post-Reconstruction record for Republicans – a record Republicans topped only from 1871 to 1877, peaking at eight African-American Republicans representing former Confederate states in Congress, from March 1875 to April 1876.

Republicans might protest that it’s not fair to expect a fully integrated baseball team from a party delegation that consists of less than one percent African-Americans. But then whose fault is that?

 

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2 Comments
  1. It’s interesting that after Jackie Robinson, African Americans have preferred to go into basketball or football instead of baseball.

    • The NBA, which only dates to 1946, included no African-American players until 1950 – three years after Jackie Robinson’s major league baseball debut. African-Americans now account for nearly 75 percent of NBA players. Professional football had been nominally integrated from 1902 to 1933, but was resegregated until the Los Angeles Rams signed two African-American players for the 1946 season. (The Rams acted under pressure. The team wanted to lease the Coliseum, which was publicly owned, and the deal was conditioned on integration of the team.) As I’ve written elsewhere, African-American representation in the NFL now approaches 70 percent – although African-Americans are considerably less well represented among quarterbacks, centers and special teams positions.

      African-American representation in the major leagues increased slowly but steadily until 1994, peaking at 17 percent that year, then dwindling to about eight percent this year – even as minority representation generally hit a new record of 42 percent. It’s actually reached the point that two teams, the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies, have no African-American players – which blunts the point I was trying to make in my post.

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