HOUSTON (AP) — Dusty Baker grew up watching black stars shine in the World Series, paving his path to a career devoted to baseball.
When he leads the Houston Astros into the first game of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night, the AL and NL champions are expected to play without any American-born black players. Shortly after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier for the first time since 1950.
It’s a fact that deeply bothers the 73-year-old Baker, one of two black MLB managers who has spent his entire career either playing or coaching baseball.
“What hurts, I don’t know how much hope it gives to some young African-American kids,” Baker told The Associated Press on Thursday. “Because when I was their age, I had (Willie) Mays, (Hank) Aaron, Frank Robinson, Tommy Davis — my hero — Maury Wills, all of them. We’ve got to do something before we lose them.
Jackie Robinson debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and played in the World Series that year. Since then, the 1950 game between the New York Yankees and Phillies is the only World Series without an American-born black player.
Houston and Philadelphia will announce their 26-man rosters hours before Game 1 on Friday night at Minute Maid Park, and neither is expected to have any American-born black players. Michael Brantley, Houston’s black outfielder, is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
“I don’t think baseball is really something to be proud of,” said Baker, who won a World Series as an outfielder with the Dodgers in 1981 and is looking for his first championship as a manager.. “It looks bad. It lets people know that it didn’t take a year or even a decade to get to this point.
In fact, the declining number of Black MLB players has been an issue for years. Richard Lapczyk, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports in Central Florida, is the lead author for his group’s annual reports on diversity hiring practices in sports. He said black players made up just 7.2% of this year’s Opening Day roster, the lowest percentage since survey data were first collected in 1991, when 18% of MLB players were black.
Beginning in 1954, when Mays and the New York Giants played against Larry Toby and Cleveland, the Astros did not have at least one American-born black player on every team reach the World Series until 2005.
For the first time since 1959, the Phillies had no black players on their starting roster this year. Roman Quinn, a black backup outfielder, played in 23 games before being released.
Philadelphia power-hitting rookie Derrick Hall debuted in late June and has played 41 games — his mother is white and his father is black and white, and he identifies with multiple races. Hall was not on the Phillies’ roster for any of the first three rounds of this postseason and is not expected to be on the World Series roster.
Last summer, for the first time in MLB draft history, four of the first five players selected were black.
The four, along with more than 300 other major leaguers, including Atlanta’s Michael Harris II, Cincinnati’s Hunter Greene, Pittsburgh’s Kebrian Hayes and Milwaukee’s Devin Williams, have participated in MLB diversity-based initiatives such as the MLB Youth Academy and DREVAM Academy. Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI) Program.
While this year’s situation is “very disappointing and discouraging,” Baker believes the top makeup of the most recent draft will be the last World Series where American-born black players are not represented.
“Help is on the way,” he said. “You can tell by the number of African-American number one draft picks. Academies produce players. So hopefully in the future we won’t have to talk about this or be in this situation.
AP baseball writer Ben Walker contributed to this story.
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