Programming note: Watch “Race in America: A Candid Conversation” on NBC Sports Bay Area Friday, July 3 at 2 p.m. 20
Limited to 750 highly qualified men, it is one of the best jobs in the world. There is no 8-to-5 grinding, no heavy lifting and the setting is mostly outdoors. Paycheck is plush, lifestyle amazing.
However, a small proportion of them in the Major League Baseball workforce seem to operate under a strict code of conduct and must therefore be precise with every step, watering over every word and perhaps above all hiding joy.
The black ballplayer is in a crowded box. And the man who dares to step outside that box risks being upgraded, downgraded, and maybe even laced.
“Yes, sometimes you can’t really be yourself, you have to be this model that they put, and you have to go past it.”
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Davis was a member of a panel with four-time winner Dave Stewart and free-agent pitcher Edwin Jackson in the latest episode of NBC Sports Bay Area’s “Race in America: A Candid Conversation,” scheduled for Friday at 1 p.m. 20 African Americans, all three have experienced life on the box.
Davis realizes that his career is on a thin line. As a 26-year-old, he hopes to one day achieve the status that can give him the right to comment. Meanwhile, he feels marginalized by his complexion.
Dr. Richard Lapchick, founder and head of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, first took on being a breed and gender watchdog in MLB in 1991. In the three decades since his first annual report card, which revealed the MLB competitions, 19 percent were black, the lines have decreased. In his latest race and gender report card, the proportion was 8.4 – which is an increase compared to the 7.7 percent published in the previous report.
For every 16 white players and seven Latino players, there are two black players – 40 percent of what they once were. Being a member of a vanishing race creates a psychological burden.
When someone, in any profession, realizes that they represent a rare demographic, many of their emotions are internalized.
“It is frustrating to sit back and not be able to speak your mind, about a fact of being black and American,” Jackson said. “Because of how it can affect our job, when everyone else has the freedom of speech to go ahead and speak their mind how they want. How when we say it, it comes from a bad place and frowns. It’s that part of the game that makes you damn sure you can’t speak your mind when it comes from the heart. “
Rickey Henderson, the gold-standard leader and certainly among the top 10 players in history, was criticized for a number of things, most falling under the vanity category. He entered the Hall of Fame on the first ballot even though 28 voters thought him unworthy. Chipper Jones, a great player but hardly at Rickey’s level, went in with a higher proportion of votes.
Henderson’s career was parallel to the end of the black players’ golden era, when most teams had four or five or more; The Pittsburgh Pirates became the first team to start nine color players in 1971. Rickey played beyond the box. So did Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson and Ken Griffey Jr., to name three.
The lone current Black player who crosses the line, Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, has already picked up a “reputation” for self-promotion that may be hampered if not for the fact that he led both leagues in batting last season.
All other? Quite staying in that box, worried not to do so could jeopardize his career. A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell fought far from the box in 2017 and fell to one knee during the national anthem to protest against racial justice and police brutality. He now plays in Mexico. And still get threats from “fans”.
“I just think that the condition that the black players are playing under today, we always have something behind us that if I do something it is outside the system. If I say something, it’s outside the system, ”Stewart said. “I will lose my job and will lose the ability to play this game, and I will lose the ability to have income to take care of my family and my family’s.
“Because we’re at a point now in this game where two or three good contracts and you make a legacy for the whole family. So I think that’s what happened to Bruce. This sport has not been tolerant of change. It has not been tolerant of militancy or freedom of speech or a black man saying what he thinks. “
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Maybe this change with the sudden racial awakening in previously ignorant or uncontrolled corners of America? Perhaps.
But baseball is the most conservative of our three major sports. It is hard to imagine dramatic progress when 100 percent of CEOs and 87 percent of CEOs are white.
Put another way, seven decades after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, Black ballplayer doesn’t feel fully emancipated. He actually goes to the ball court every day and is aware of the decreasing numbers. To believe that oppression is a requirement for survival.