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No U.S.-Born Black Players in the MLB World Series; MLB Works Toward Change

Philadelphia Phillies star Gary Matthews saw a lot of Black talent in his day.

Matthews is a former left fielder for the Phillies who played 1981-1983 in the City of Brotherly Love. He constantly saw Black players such as Joe Morgan, Eddie Murray, Garry Maddox, Ken Singleton, Al Bumbry and Disco Dan Ford just to name a few.

“There were quite a few of us,” Matthews said to the Associated Press.

With the World Series coming up this Friday pitting the Philadelphia Phillies vs. the Houston Astros, there won’t be any American-born Black players competing for any team.

Sure, there are Houston’s Jose Altuve and Philadelphia’s Jean Segura, but they are among Latin players assisting both teams in trying to win.

Unfortunately for the first time since 1950 — right after legend Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier — there is projected to be no U.S.-born Black players in the World Series.

That isn’t good at all.

“That is eye opening, Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, said. “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 said.

Robinson embarked on his historic run in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers and played in the World Series that same year. And since then, the 1950 matchup between the New York Yankees and the Phillies has been the only World Series that didn’t have a Black player.

The World Series teams will announce their 26-man rosters hours before Game 1 on Friday night at Minute Maid Park, a place where Dusty Baker, a Black outfielder for the 1981-champion Los Angeles Dodgers manages Houston.

In 1954 when Willie Mays and the New York Giants competed against Larry Doby and Cleveland, every team to reach the World Series comprised at least one U.S.-born Black player, until the 2005 Astros did not.

In that historic half-century, Black legends including Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Rickey Henderson, and Frank Robinson owned the October stage. And in 1979, Dave Parker and Willie Stargell were among 10 Black players on the “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirate champions.

Baseball was king in the United States at that time. But over the years, basketball and football have increased in popularity. And baseball has been more expensive with an emphasis on elite showcases and travel teams.

It’s been a perfect storm.

“Kids started shifting to other sports,” Matthews said.

Gary Jr., one of Matthews sons, was an All-Star outfielder, while another works in the commissioner’s office with the diversity program.

By the time 2020 rolled around, Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers was the only Black player when Los Angeles beat the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series.

In the All-Star Game this past summer at Dodger Stadium, Betts donned a T-shirt with the message: “We need more Black people at the stadium.”

Director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at Central Florida, Richard Lapchick, said Black players made up just 7.2% of opening day rosters this year, which dipped from 7.6% last year – a season that marked the lowest since study data was first collected in 1991.

The Phillies didn’t have any Black players on their opening-day roster for the first time since 1959. Black backup outfielder Roman Quinn played just 23 games before being released. Philadelphia’s power-hitting rookie Darick Hall debuted in late June, but he wasn’t on any of the rosters for any of the first three playoff rounds.

Houston had Black outfielder Michael Brantley on its roster last year when the Astros lost in the World Series. But he is out for the season with a shoulder injury.

To get more Black players to play the game, the MLB has pledged $150 million the next decade to the Players Alliance. The organization is made up of current and former players working to increase Black involvement at all levels of the sport.

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