Huh?…

So, the headline over at ESPN.com says this:

Astros first W.S. team in 52 years without black player

Um, has anyone looked at Willy Taveres lately? Dude’s not exactly white.

The point of the article I get – that there are no US-born African-Americans on the Astros’ World Series roster. And yes, that would be troubling if you were, say, Joe Morgan, a prominant US-born African-American Hall Of Fame residing former MLB star. Of course on the other hand Joe Morgan is also troubled by the Designated Hitter rule and spends a third of every ESPN broadcast he’s involved in describing one player after another as a “good fastball hitter.” One wonders if anyone has ever mentioned to Joe that no one makes it into the big leagues unless he’s a “good fastball hitter.” One wonders.

Anyway, yes, there are fewer and fewer US-born black players in professional baseball. Why this puzzles anyone at all is beyond me. Blacks in the US live, primarily, in the big cities. When was the last time you saw a baseball diamond in the vicinity of a black neighborhood in a big city in the US? The largest city proximate to where I live, San Francisco, has ball fields, but they’re in the more affluent neighborhoods, and even those are poorly maintained. In Oakland, with the largets black population in the bay area I have seen a grand total of one ball field, and it was in terrible shape.

Even in the suburb I live in there are very few baseball diamonds. There’s one community park with several well-maintained diamonds, but it’s specifically set up for organized Babe Ruth league, little league and adult organized softball use. The one informal diamond near where we live is rutted and torn up something fierce. What do kids use it for? Kickball. Why? Because it’s on school grounds and baseball is dangerous.

If you look at where the white American players in MLB come from an inordinate number of them hail from the San Diego area. On a business trip to San Diego a few years ago I peered out the window of the plane and counted no fewer than 90 baseball diamonds. That was only what I could see from one side of the plane. The abundance of facilities and year-round baseball-conducive weather in San Diego make it easy to be a home-grown baseball player in San Diego. This is not true of New York, Detroit, Chicago, Washington D.C., or any of the other cities with large black populations where winter shuts down most outdoor activities for more than half the year. A lack of decent places to play the game and weather that doesn’t welcome pick-up games will spoil a kids interest in any sport. So why be surprised when more and more players come from the DR, Venezuela, the Dutch Antilles or other ports of call here the weather stays warm all year.

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