When the World Series opens Friday night (Oct. 28) something that hasn’t happened for over 70 years is expected to take place.
The Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies will enter their respective dugouts at Minute Maid Park in Houston without a single U.S.-born Black player on either roster. It’s the first time since 1950, just three years after Jackie Robinson broke the MLB color barrier, that such an occurrence has happened.
“That is eye opening,” Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri said, according to the Associated Press. “It is somewhat startling that two cities that have high African American populations, there’s not a single Black player.
“It lets us know there’s obviously a lot of work to be done to create opportunities for Black kids to pursue their dream at the highest level, he added.
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While that may be shocking, there will be plenty of players of color suiting up for the fall classic – Houston’s Jose Altuve and Philly’s Jean Segura just to name a few.
One of the reasons for a lack of U.S.-born Black players in this year’s Series, according to MLB great and former Phillies star Gary Matthews, is that kids in general in America are choosing different sports, like basketball and football.
“Kids started shifting to other sports,” he noted, according to the AP.
Dwindling numbers of U.S.-born Black players in Major League Baseball has long been a discussion among team management. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport reported Black players were only 7.2 percent of all MLB players when the 2022 season began.
Arguably the most successful player in the league has been L.A. Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts, who played in last year’s World Series and was named Most Valuable Player in the 2020 series. He has publicly called for more Black players to enter the league.
Before the start of the MLB All-Star Game, he wore an air-brushed t-shirt that read: “We need more Black people at the stadium.”
“It’s what I signed up for,” he told reporters at the time. “I’ve got to embrace those types of things “I used to kind of shy away from it, but now I think it is my responsibility.”
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Houston and Philadelphia will announce their 26-man rosters several hours before Friday night’s Game 1, where Dusty Baker, a Black outfielder for the 1981 champion Los Angeles Dodgers, manages the Astros.
Ironically, the Phillies played in that 1950 World Series, which was against the New York Yankees, who swept the series 4-0.