Looking around Memorial Stadium before Game 1 of the 1983 World Series, Philadelphia Phillies star Gary Matthews saw a lot of Black talent.
Joe Morgan. Eddie Murray. Garry Maddox. Ken Singleton. Al Bumbry. Disco Dan Ford. And plenty more that night in Baltimore.
“There were quite a few of us,” Matthews recalled.
When fans watch the Houston Astros and Phillies line up this week to begin the Fall Classic, it will be a much different picture.
To be sure, Houston’s Jose Altuve and Philadelphia’s Jean Segura are among scores of Latin players helping keep big league rosters diverse.
But for the first time since 1950, shortly after Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier, there project to be no U.S.-born Black players in this World Series.
“That is eye opening,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. “It is somewhat startling that two cities that have high African American populations, there’s not a single Black player.”
Baseball’s determined whiteness–not in policy anymore but in culture–has made a huge difference here. Let’s create a tremendously slow game that turns old guys who play too long like Cal Ripken into icons of middle-aged whiteness, combine with a lack of investment in Black communities, and then make any expression of joy or individualism a “violation of unwritten rules” and you lose an entire race of people for whom baseball was once home of icon after icon, not to mention its key role in the civil rights movement. Sad, awful stuff that says a lot about the state of race in America.