The Undefeated Wants Another Campanis Racism Moment for Baseball

Left-stream writers love to criticize conservatives as people who are stuck in the past. But truth be known, they are mired in yesteryear as it relates to race. One of their pet narratives is to claim we are as racist a nation today as we were in the long ago past. They’re doing it again now in conjunction with the recent start of the major-league baseball season and baseball’s annual observance of Jackie Robinson Day.

Richard Harris, writing for ESPN’s satellite blog, The Undefeated, claims baseball hasn’t changed nearly enough since former L.A. Dodgers’ general manager uttered regrettable racist remarks to Ted Koppel on a 1987 Nightline broadcast.

That general manager was Al Campanis, and his name went down in racist infamy for saying of African-Americans: “I truly believe they may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager or perhaps a general manager.”

Campanis later worked with Black activist Harry Edwards to encourage the hiring of Black coaches and managers. MLB leadership has also made many efforts to increase the number of Blacks in positions of leadership on and off the field.

Yet it is customary for the media to complain about the declining number of Blacks in baseball – players, managers and general managers. Harris bemoans a 2017 MLB report that “shows decreases in both racial and gender hiring. There are only three managers of color, 10 percent of all managers who began the 2017 MLB season: just two African-Americans, (Dusty) Baker of the Nationals and Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers … and one Latino, Rick Renteria of the Chicago White Sox. That earned the 30 MLB teams an ‘F’ for the position of manager. In contrast, Commissioner Rob Manfred’s office earned an ‘A-‘ for hiring people of color.”

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Harris also quoted Sharon Robinson, daughter of the late Jackie, who said at the unveiling of her father’s statue Saturday at Dodger Stadium: “It has to be that we really believe in being a diverse society and want to be inclusive, and that’s just not the direction that we’re going in currently. So I think baseball is symbolic of America. We have a lot of work to do.”

To which Harris added: “But sadly, 70 years after Robinson first endured the taunts and boos of being the first, as baseball again marked Jackie Robinson Day, the game in some ways looks even less like America. … Baseball might just need another Al Campanis moment.”

While Harris hearkens for more old time Jim Crow racism to fan the flames, he completely overlooked crucial factors for the decline of Blacks in pro baseball.

Interest in baseball has declined substantially over the years, especially among African-Americans. Participation in school basketball is leaving other sports in the dust. Baseball declined precipitously, from second to a flat-footed tie with football and soccer. According to Gallup polling, in 1960 some 43 percent of African-Americans pegged baseball as their favorite sport. By 2003, that number had fallen to just five percent.

Latin ball players are making greater gains in MLB roster spots than any race, Whites included. Bob Cook, writer for Forbes magazine, wrote in 2013 that “basketball seems to have little difficulty attracting African-American players of meager backgrounds. For that matter, baseball is thick with Latin players from impoverished backgrounds in poor nations.”

That same year, ESPN’s Tim Keown wrote structural issues in baseball make it less appealing to African-American athletes who increasingly prefer quick arrivals – for big money -- at the top levels of football and basketball over a few years of seasoning in baseball’s unglamorous minor leagues.

So despite Harris’s attempt to dial up old time racism, the facts just don’t support his case.

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