Baseball is reportedly replete with racism. Apparently concentrating on the World Series-bound Atlanta Braves was not enough for the Atlanta Constitution, for it came to the conclusion late last summer that the “White Game Is Alienating Many Blacks.” The white game? The problem, said the newspaper, is that while black players are a satisfying 72 percent of the NBA and an OK 61 percent of the NFL, they are “only” 18 percent of Major League Baseball. Worse, only 6 percent of the fans are black.
The answer? Affirmative action, of course. Ball clubs, starting with the Atlanta Braves, were consequently being asked to recruit black fans, in part with cheaper tickets than whites can buy. And black players should be paid higher salaries than whites to raise that “low” 18 percent figure. Why the “under-representation” of blacks in baseball? Montreal Expos scouting director Gary Hughes said, “You just don’t go play baseball. It’s not enough to be naturally gifted like track or football. To be honest, I don’t know how many black kids are willing to work hard enough at it to excel.”
Racism! said Richard Lapchick, director of the Center for the Study of Sports in Society at Northeastern University. “That sounds typical of the stereotype that studies show have long been held about blacks: that they’re too lazy, they can’t swim, and they are innately less intelligent.” But black Detroit Tigers farm club player Eric Mangham, who played high school ball near Atlanta, agreed with Hughes. “Baseball is a complex game. Football is a game of strength, but baseball requires certain fundamentals, like hitting the cutoff man. Baseball is totally different from the rest of sports.” Most black kids, he notes, prefer the “action” of basketball and football. As to the black attendance, the UCLA School of Management, which did a study for Major League Baseball, said that many clubs don’t recruit black fans because “too many” would scare away whites.
Not that everyone has worried about black attendance. In 1978, former Minnesota Twins owner Galvin Griffin told the Lions Club in Waseca, Minnesota, that he moved his team from Washington, D.G., to Minnesota when he “found out that you only had 15,000 blacks here. Blacks don’t go to baseball games.”
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