For the first time since 1950, three years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier, there won’t be one Black American player in the World Series. As first reported by the AP, this year’s championship between the Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros will feature no Black players.
The Astros are managed by Dusty Baker, a Black former Atlanta Braves star and long-time MLB manager. The Astros have Michael Brantley, a Black outfielder who is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Astros pitcher Josh James is also Black but had arm surgery in early October. Phillies rookie Darick Hall has a Black mom, White dad and identifies as multiracial, but he’s not expected to be on the World Series roster.
Richard Lapchick, director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at Central Florida, reported Black players made up 7.2 percent of opening day rosters in Major League Baseball this year, the lowest percentage since the data was first collected in 1991, when 18 percent of MLB players were Black.
The league includes a handful of young Black stars who have done their part in promoting diversity within the sport. Athletes like Atlanta Braves outfielder Michael Harris II, Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts, Cleveland Guardians pitcher Triston McKenzie and Cincinnati Reds pitcher Hunter Greene, have all done their parts in bridging the gap. For the first time in league history, four of the 2022 MLB Draft’s first five picks were Black: Termarr Johnson, Druw Jones, Kumar Rocker and Elijah Green.
The MLB has pledged $150 million in the next 10 years to the Players Alliance, an organization of current and former players on a mission to increase Black participation in the sport. The Atlanta Braves, who only sent one Black player to the World Series last year, hosted its fourth annual 44 Classic at Truist Park on Sept. 24-25, where the top 44 players from the Braves’ RBI Fall Development League presented by Nike were selected to participate in an “exclusive pro-style workout.” Pro baseball scouts attended both the workout day and the showcase game day.
Last year at the Braves’ World Series parade, Logan Marshall, who went to high school with Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson in Marietta, Georgia, where the student population is 40 Black and 18 White, according to US News, told rolling out money was a big part of the racial disparity.
“I think there’s such a big gap between travel ball,” Marshall said. “I think it’s so expensive that it cuts out a lot of kids. Black, Hispanic, and a lot of White kids can’t afford it. That’s really how you get fast-tracked to these elite college programs is when you’re playing year-round ball and that’s just expensive as hell. I think it’s almost become too exclusive in a way.”