A Legacy Gone South
Submitted by Arizona Phil on Thu, 04/12/2007 - 7:00am
MLB will be observing the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers this coming Sunday, a debut that broke the so-called "color-barrier" that had unofficially prohibited blacks from playing Major League Baseball (MLB) for some 60+ years. A number of MLB players will be wearing number 42 in memory of Jackie, and there will be ceremonies at MLB ball parks. Along with the anniversary celebration, you will probably be reading and hearing comments about MLB's apparent failure to carry-on and fulfill the legacy of Jackie Robinson. And while there does indeed appear to be a growing disinterest in baseball (in general) and MLB (in particular) among younger African-Americans (especially devotees of hip hop and the culture that has flowered with it over the last 15 years or so), is this disconnect with the younger members of Black America really baseball’s fault, or is it mostly beyond baseball’s control? In 1700, persons of African descent made up nearly 20% of the U. S. population (though most were slaves). By 1900, due to heavy European immigration in the latter half of the 19th Century coupled with the end of slavery, the percentage of black population in the U. S. fell to 10%, and remained at that percentage until the end of the post-WWII "Baby Boom" in the 1960's. Professional Negro "major" baseball leagues had been in existence since 1920 when the original Negro National League was formed by Chicago American Giants owner and manager Rube Foster, and the year-round integrated professional Latin beisbol leagues in Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico went back even further than that. And while the Negro Leagues were segregated, they were also at least a bonafide professional black sports enterprise that gave African-American athletes the opportunity to sign a professional baseball contact right out of high school. In the years 1920-1946, there were no "major" black professional football leagues or basketball leagues to compete with the Negro baseball leagues for the most talented black athletes. Before they turned to comedy routines in the 1950's, the all-black Harlem Globetrotters (founded by sports impressario Abe Saperstein in Chicago in 1926) were one of the best basketball teams in the world--they even defeated the NBA champion Minneapolis Lakers two years in a row at one point--but they were just one team, a stand-alone touring barnstorming club that did not belong to a league. There were a handful of African-Americans in the NFL in the 1920's and early 30's, but blacks were unofficially blackballed from the league starting in 1934 and extending through 1945. So the Negro Leagues (black baseball) pretty much took their pick of the best black athletes in the U. S. in the 1920's, 30's and 40's, and even when a black athlete excelled in basketball and was signed by the Globetrotters, that didn't stop Negro League clubs from signing the athlete, too. (One of the Globetrotters best players--"Goose" Tatum--was also a star first-baseman for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League during baseball season). ================================== Lt. Jack Roosevelt Robinson was one of the few African-American officers assigned to Fort Hood's 761st Tank Battalion (the "Black Panthers") during WWII, and he was also probably one of the two or three most-famous black athletes in the World at that time. If there had been Olympic Games in 1940 and 1944 (they were canceled due to WWII), Jackie Robinson might well have received the accolades accorded to African-American track stars Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalf at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. And what sport did Jackie choose to play once he was discharged from the U. S. Army in 1945? Baseball. He signed a contract with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League, played shortstop, and was voted to the Negro Leagues East-West (All-Star) Game played at Chicago's Comiskey Park that August. All the more amazing considering the fact that baseball had only been (by all accounts) Jackie's fourth-best sport at UCLA (behind football, basketball, and track)! So if it wasn't anything more than his 4th-best sport, why did Jackie Robinson choose baseball? Well, professional football was just not an option for African-American athletes in the years 1934-45, since the NFL was (like MLB) all-white during that period. And when the NFL finally did re-integrate in 1946, it was only because Los Angeles County required the Rams to field an "integrated" team (two black players and everybody else was white) in order to get approval to move the franchise from Cleveland to the L. A. Coliseum. But NFL integration was a slow process. (The last NFL team to integrate was the 1963 Washington Redskins). And at the same time (1930's and 40's), professional basketball was in its infancy. The NBA was an all-white operation until the 1950-51 season, and even after the NBA's token integration in 1950, there was not yet a shot clock or three-point line, dunking was not allowed, and the best players were slow white guys specializing in soft hook shots or dead-eye two-handed jumpers. Once the NFL and NBA did begin to admit African-Americans, there was the further hurdle of players having to attend college for four years before getting a chance to play in those leagues (attending college was not necessary to play pro baseball). Jackie Robinson was a college man (UCLA) and so he certainly could have tried his hand at pro football in '46 and/or in the NBA in '50, but he still opted to stick exclusively with baseball. But for a lot of other African-Amercans--especially those from the rural South--college was not a viable option. The segrated black high schools of the South were inferior to all-white high schools, and did not provide the quality of instruction needed to prepare a young man for college. If he was lucky (and a good student), a young African-American from Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana might get accepted into what are now known as "HBCUs" (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) like Grambling, Jackson State, Southern, Morgan State, or Florida A&M, but the better-known and more highly-regarded universities like LSU, Ole Miss, and 'Bama were mostly off-limits to blacks (and especially to black athletes) until well into the 1960's. So for a poor black kid from rural Alabama who happened to also be a superior athlete, pro baseball and the Negro Leagues was often-times the most-attractive option and the best bet. And even as MLB began to integrate 1947-1960, the Negro Leagues remained an option for young black athletes from the South. Youngsters like Willie Mays (who signed with the Birmingham Black Barons at the age of 17 in 1948), Erinie Banks (who signed with the Kansas City Monarchs at age 18 in 1950), and Hank Aaron (who signed with the Indianapolis Clowns at the age of 18 in 1952), could go professional right out of high school and play major league ball (albeit in the Negro Leagues) right away. FIRST BLACK PLAYER BY MLB CLUB: 1. Brooklyn Dodgers - INF Jackie Robinson (Opening Day 1947) NOTE: The Dodgers had four Rookies-of-the-Year in the seven-year period 1947-53, and all four--1B Jackie Robinson (1947), RHP Don Newcombe (1949), RHP Joe Black (1952), and 2B Jim Gilliam (1953)--were veterans of the Negro Leagues. 2. Cleveland Indians - OF Larry Doby (July 1947) NOTE: Bill Veeck was the owner and GM of the Indians at this time, and unlike Dodgers President & GM Branch Rickey, Veeck actually purchased the contracts of the players he acquired from Negro League clubs in the years 1947-49, while Rickey (initially) just signed the players he wanted (Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, and Dan Bankhead) without compensating the Negro League clubs for their loss. 3. St. Louis Browns - OF Willard Brown and INF Hank Thompson (July 1947) NOTE: A few days after Indians owner Bill Veeck purchased the contract of Larry Doby from the Newark Eagles, the Browns purchased two players from the Kansas City Monarchs (Brown and Thompson) and took out a 30-day option on Birmingham Black Barons 2B Lorenzo "Piper" Davis. However, the Browns did not get the spike in attendance with Brown and Thompson that the Dodgers got by adding Jackie Robinson on Opening Day and the Indians got in July after they acquired Larry Doby, so Brown and Thompson were released, and the Browns' option to purchase Piper Davis was not exercised. (Thompson was later acquired by the NY Giants, and was a mainstay on their N. L. pennant winning clubs in '51 amd '54). The Browns did not integrate again until after Bill Veeck bought the franchise in 1951 (he had been forced to sell the Indians and split the profits with his ex-wife after the 1949 season as part of his divorce settlement) and purchased legendary RHP Satchel Paige--who Veeck had orginially acquired in 1948 while he was running the Indians--from the KC Monarchs. 4. New York Giants - OF Monte Irvin (July 1949) NOTE: The Dodgers signed Monte Irvin after the 1948 season, but the contract was voided when Newark Eagles owner Effa Manley demanded financial compensation and threatened to take the Dodgers to court. The Giants did agree to pay something close to market value for Irvin, however, so they ended up with the future Hall of Famer instead. 5. Boston Braves - OF Sam Jethroe (Opening Day 1950) NOTE: Jethroe was the 1950 N. L. Rookie of the Year. He was originally signed by Brooklyn, but was sold to the Braves for $100,000 prior to the 1950 season. (The Dodgers had purchased Jethroe from the NAL's Cleveland Buckeyes for just $5,000 a year earlier). So if the Dodgers had kept Jethroe, they would have had FIVE N. L. ROYs over the seven-year period 1947-1953! (Braves manager Billy Southworth liked to call Jethroe "Sambo," a racial insult that irritated Jethroe, but like all black players in those days, he kept his mouth shut and didn't complain). 6. Chicago White Sox - OF Orestes "Minnie" Minoso (April 1951) and C Sam Hairston (July 1951) NOTE: The White Sox acquired fan-favorite Minnie Minoso from Cleveland in a three-way trade early in the 1951 season that also involved the Philadelphia Athletics. Minoso had been the first Latin player of African descent to play in MLB when he made his debut with the Indians on Opening Day 1949. Sam Hairston was the father of ex-Cub C-OF Johnny Hairston and ex-White Sox OF Jerry Hairston, Sr, and the grandfather of ex-Cub (and current Texas Ranger) IF-OF Jerry Hairston, Jr and Arizona Diamondbacks OF Scott Hairston. 7. Pittsburgh Pirates - OF Carlos Bernier (Opening Day 1953) NOTE: Ex-Brooklyn GM and MLB integration pioneer Branch Rickey took over as Pirates GM after the 1949 season, but for some unknown reason he did not acquire any black players for his new team for more than three years! 8. Philadelphia Athletics - RHP Bob Trice (September 1953) NOTE: A's owner Connie Mack absolutely refused to consider signing black players as long as he was running the show, but his sons had no problem with acquiring African American players after their dad retired. 9. Chicago Cubs - 2B Gene Baker and SS Ernie Banks (September 1953) NOTE: Both Baker and Banks were acquired from the Kansas City Monarchs, with the Cubs outbidding several other MLB clubs for Banks. (The Cubs paid $35,000 to the Monarchs to get Banks). 10. St. Louis Cardinals - 1B Tom Alston (Opening Day 1954) NOTE: Fred Saigh steadfastly refused to add black players to the Cardinals roster while he owned the team, but after August Busch bought the club in 1953, the Cardinals began to pursue African American players. 11. Cincinnati Reds - 3B Chuck Harmon and OF Nino Escalera (Opening Day 1954 - both players made debut in third game of the season) 12. Washington Senators - OF Carlos Paula (September 1954) NOTE: While Clark Griffith refused to add any U. S. born blacks to the Senators while he was alive, he had no problem with Cuban players of African heritage. The Old Fox (as he was known) maintained cordial relations with Cuban baseball people for decades, having acquired a number of white Cuban players (of Spanish descent) for his Washington club over the years. 13. New York Yankees - C Elston Howard (Opening Day 1955) NOTE: Elston Howard was the one member of the Kansas City Monarchs the Cubs somehow failed to acquire in the 1950's, and it's too bad, too, because he sure would have fit nicely in the Cubs lineup circa 1955-1966! The Yankees claimed the reason it took them so long to integrate was because there just weren't any black players good enough to play for the Yankees. 14. Philadelphia Phillies - INFs John Kennedy and Chico Fernandez (Opening Day 1957) NOTE: Kennedy suffered a career-ending shoulder injury in his second big league game. 15. Detroit Tigers - 3B Ozzie Virgil, Sr (June 1958) NOTE: As with fellow long-time A. L. owners Connie Mack and Clark Griffith, Detroit Tigers owner Walter Briggs would not even consider acquiring a black player, so no African-Americans played for the Tigers until after Briggs died. The Tigers acquired Ozzie Virgil from the New York/San Francisco Giants in 1958, and he was the first Dominican player to reach the big leagues. The Giants were the first MLB franchise to "mine" the island of Hispanola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), signing several players from the Dominican Republic in the late 1950's including Virgil, RHP Juan Marichal, and the three Alou brothers (outfielders Felipe, Matty, and Jesus). 16. Boston Red Sox - INF Elijah "Pumpsie" Green (July 1959) NOTE: Hotshot young RHP Earl Wilson (one of the best pitching prospects in baseball at the time) would almost certainly have made the Red Sox Opening Day roster in 1957 and would have been their first black player at that time, but he was called to two years' active duty with the USMC prior to Opening Day. It was another two years before Pumpsie Green would arrive. Some 14 years earlier (April 1945) the Red Sox had given three Negro Leaguers--Kansas City Monarchs INF Jackie Robinson, Cleveland Buckeyes OF Sam Jethroe, and Philadelphia Stars 2B Marvin Williams--a cursory tryout at Fenway Park at the behest of powerful Boston politician Isadore Muchnick. The tryouts went well, but Red Sox GM Joe Cronin decided the three "weren't quite ready" to play in the white major leagues, while at the same time believing they would probably get lynched if they tried to play for the Red Sox AAA club in then-"Jim Crow" Louisville, KY. ========================================= By 1960 the Negro Leagues were doornail-dead, as MLB had scarfed the black leagues' best players while not always providing anything close to market-value compensation to the clubs. There were still only 16 Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, eight in each league (the last year that would be true), and with a 25-man roster limit from May 1st through August 31st, there were only 400 roster spots (not counting players on the Disabled List) for most of the season. (Teams were permitted to carry 28 players on their active roster through April, and up to 40 players after September 1st). By comparison, in 2007 (with 30 teams in operation) there are 750 roster spots available (again, not counting players on the Disabled List) from Opening Day through August 31st. At the mid-point of the 1960 MLB season (July 1960), 363 of the 400 players playing in MLB (91%) were U. S.-born. Of the 363 U. S.-born players active in MLB in July 1960, 36 (10%) were of African descent (and 26 of the 36 U. S. born black players were from the American South). Since blacks made-up 10% of the U. S. population in 1960, the percentage of U. S.-born players of African descent playing in the MLB in July 1960 was the exact same percentage as that of U. S.-born blacks living in the U. S. in 1960 (and for the previous 60+ years). A total of 63 of the 400 players (16%) active in MLB as of July 1960 were of African descent, 36 (9% of all MLB players) being players of African descent born in the U. S., and 27 (7% of all MLB players) players of African descent born in Latin America or the Caribbean. (Of the 27 players of African descent born outside the U. S. active in MLB in 1960, nine were born in pre-Castro Cuba, five were born in the Dominican Republic, five were born in Puerto Rico, three were born in Panama, two were born in the Bahamas, one was born in Mexico, one was born in Venezuela, and one was born in the Virgin Islands... clearly the Dominican Gold Mine had yet to be fully-tapped!). No question the National League was way ahead of the American League as far as MLB integration is concerned. Of the 63 players of African descent playing in MLB in July 1960, 44 (or 70%) were active in the National League (about five-to-six per N. L. club), and 19 (or 30%) were active in the American League (about two-to-three per A. L. club). So 22% of the players playing in the National league in 1960 were of African descent, but only 9% of the players playing in the American League at that time were of African descent. Also, in the 1st MLB All-Star Game played in 1960 (they played two ASGs for a few years back then), nine of the 30 N. L. All-Stars (30%) were of African descent, while only four of the thirty A. L. All-Stars (13%) were black. The National League won 25 out of 29 All-Star Games--there was one tie--in the years 1960-85. Of the 63 black players active in July of 1960, 36 (or 57%) played "significant" roles on their teams, and 27 (or 43%) played "less significant" back-up roles. (I define "significant role" as one of the eight starting position players, one of the four main starting pitchers, and the top relief pitcher, for a ratio of 13 "significant" players to 12 "less significant" players on each 25-man roster, or a 52/48 ratio per every 100 players). The ratio of 36 "significant" to 27 "less significant" black players in 1960 equals a ratio of 57/43 per every 100 players, meaning that a black player was somewhat less-likely to be carried as a back-up player than a white player at that time. Or to say it another way, all things being equal, the most talented black players definitely had jobs, but a white player circa 1960 was more likely to be kept as a back-up position player or middle-reliever over a similarly lesser-talented black player. Below is the list of players of African descent playing in the MLB as of July 1960 (birthplace in parenthesis), with teams listed in the order of most-to-least players of African descent. An asterisk (*) indicates the player played a "significant" role on his team (see above). SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (8 out of 25): 1. Felipe Alou, OF (Dominican Republic) 2. * Orlando Cepeda, LF (Puerto Rico) 3. * Sam Jones, P (U. S. - Ohio) 4. * Willie Kirkland, RF (U. S. - Alabama) 5. Juan Marichal, P (Dominican Republic) 6. * Willie Mays, CF (U. S. - Alabama) 7. * Willie McCovey, 1B (U. S. - Alabama) 8. Andre Rodgers, IF-OF (Bahamas) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (7 out of 25, all seven non-U. S.): 1. * Ruben Amaro, SS (Mexico) 2. Tony Curry, OF (Bahamas) 3. Ruben Gomez, P (Puerto Rico) 4. * Tony Gonzalez, CF (Cuba) 5. * Juan "Pancho" Herrera, 1B (Cuba) 6. Humberto Robinson, P (Panama) 7. * Tony Taylor, 2B (Cuba) NOTE: Although they had seven black players by July 1960, the Phillies were the last N. L. team to integrate (INFs John Kennedy and Chico Fernandez on Opening Day 1958). MILWAUKEE BRAVES (6 out of 25): 1. * Hank Aaron, RF (U. S. - Alabama) 2. * Billy Bruton, CF (U. S. - Alabama) 3. * Wes Covington, LF (U. S. - North Carolina) 4. Felix Mantilla, IF-OF (Puerto Rico) 5. Lee Maye, OF (U. S. - Alabama ) 6. Juan Pizarro, P (Puerto Rico) ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (6 out of 25): 1. George Crowe, 1B (U. S. - Indiana) 2. * Curt Flood, CF (U. S. - Texas) 3. Bob Gibson, P (U. S. - Nebraska) 4. * Julian Javier, 2B (Dominican Republic) 5. Leon Wagner, OF (U. S. - Tennessee) 6. * Bill White, 1B (U. S. - Florida) CINCINNATI REDS (5 out of 25) 1. Leo Cardenas, SS (Cuba) 2. Elio Chacon, 2B (Venezuela) 3. * Frank Robinson, 1B (U. S. - Texas) 4. Don Newcombe, P (U. S. - New Jersey) 5. * Vada Pinson, CF (U. S. - Tennessee) LOS ANGELES DODGERS (5 out of 25): 1. * Tommy Davis, RF (U. S. - Brooklyn, NY) 2. * Jim Gilliam, 3B (U. S. - Tennessee) 3. * Charlie Neal, 2B (U. S. - Texas) 4. * John Roseboro, C (U. S. - Ohio) 5. * Maury Wills, SS (U. S. - Washington, DC) WASHINGTON SENATORS (5 out of 25): 1. * Earl Battey, C (U. S. - Los Angeles, CA) 2. * Julio Becquer, 1B (Cuba) 3. * Lenny Green, CF (U. S. - Michigan) 4. Rudy Hernandez, P (Dominican Republic) 5. * Jose Valdivielso, SS (Cuba) NOTE: Two other Senators from Latin America--Camilo Pascual, P (Cuba) and Pedro Ramos, P (Cuba)--were of Spanish (not African) descent. PITTSBURGH PIRATES (4 out of 25) 1. Gene Baker, INF (U. S. - Iowa) 2. Joe Christopher, OF (Virgin Islands) 3. * Roberto Clemente, RF (Puerto Rico) 4. Bennie Daniels, P (U. S. - Alabama) BOSTON RED SOX (3 out of 25) 1. Elijah "Pumpsie" Green, INF (U. S. - Oakland, CA) 2. * Willie Tasby, CF (U. S. - Louisiana) 3. Earl Wilson, P (U. S. - Louisiana) NOTE: Another Red Sox player was from Latin America--Mike Fornieles, P (Cuba), but he was of Spanish (not African) descent. Also, the Red Sox were the last Major League team to integrate (with Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, on July 21, 1959). CHICAGO CUBS (3 out of 25): 1. * George Altman, LF (U. S. - North Carolina) 2. * Ernie Banks, SS (U. S. - Texas) 3. Lou Johnson, OF (U. S. - Kentucky) NOTE: The Cubs were the first MLB club to name an individual of African descent to its scouting staff (long-time Kansas City Monarchs manager John “Buck” O’Neil, in 1956), and also were the first Major League team to appoint an African-American to its coaching staff (also Buck O’Neil, who was a member of the infamous “College of Coaches” 1962-65). CLEVELAND INDIANS (3 out of 25): 1. Walt Bond, OF (U. S. - Tennessee) 2. * Jim "Mudcat" Grant, P (U. S. - Florida) 3. * Vic Power, 1B (Panama) DETROIT TIGERS (3 out of 25): 1. Sandy Amoros, OF (Cuba) 2. * Humberto "Chico" Fernandez, SS (Cuba) 3. Ozzie Virgil, Sr, 3B (Dominican Republic) CHICAGO WHITE SOX (2 out of 25): 1. * Orestes "Minnie" Minoso, LF (Cuba) 2. * Al Smith, RF (U. S. - Missouri) NOTE: Another White Sox player was from Latin America--Luis Aparicio, SS (Venezuela), but he was of Spanish (not African) descent. NEW YORK YANKEES (2 out of 25): 1. Elston Howard, C (U. S. - Missouri) 2. * Hector Lopez, LF (Panama) NOTE: Another Yankee player was from Latin America--Luis Arroyo, P (Puerto Rico), but he was of Spanish (not African) descent. BALTIMORE ORIOLES (1 out of 25): 1. Bob Boyd, 1B (U. S. - Mississippi) NOTE: The Baltimore Orioles of 1960-62 never had more than one black player on their roster at any given time. Although it wasn’t for an entire season (like with the 1960 Kansas City A’s--see below), there was a period of two months (July-August) in 1962 when the Orioles had no players of African descent on their 25-man roster. (Outfielder Earl Robinson was with the Orioles for only part of the 1962 season). This was the last time such a situation would occur in MLB, where an MLB club had only white players on its 25-man roster. KANSAS CITY ATHLETICS (none) NONE NOTE: Technically, the Boston Red Sox were the last MLB club to integrate (with Elijah “Pumpsie” Green in July 1959), but the Red Sox were not the last team to operate with a roster consisting of only white players for a full season. The Kansas City A’s--who had two or three black players (most notably Harry "Suitcase" Simpson, Vic Power, and Hector Lopez) on their roster at any given time throughout most of the 1950’s--played nearly two full seasons (1959-1960) with only white players on their roster, from the day they traded Hector Lopez to the Yankees (May 25, 1959) until Opening Day 1961. What is strange is that just one year later (1962), the Kansas City A's (with baseball maverick Charles O. Finley having just purchased the club, and with Hank Bauer as the new manager) had seven players of African descent (Norm Bass, Ed Charles, and John Wyatt from the U. S., and Manny Jimenez, Orlando Pena, Diego Segui, and Jose Tartabull from Latin America) among their 25 main players, the most of any American League team, and second only to the National League's San Francisco Giants (who had eight) in all of Major League Baseball! ======================================== By 1970, the percentage of players of African descent in MLB had increased to 23% (16 % U. S. born, and 7% native to Latin America). At Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, September 1st, 1971, all nine players in the Pirates starting lineup were black (five African-Americans and four blacks from Latin America), the first time in the history of MLB that would happen. The Pirates beat the Phillies 10-7. (box score) By 1975 the percentage was 27% (19% U. S. born, and 8% Latin), and by 1995, the percentage was up to 30% (19% U.S. born, and 11% Latin-born). However, since 1995, the percentage of black players in MLB has declined to where it is now (24%). While the percentage of African-American MLB players has indeed fallen from 19% in 1995 to 8% in 2006-07, the percentage of Latin American players of African descent in MLB has progresively been increasing over the decades, from 7-8% in the years 1960-75, to 11% in 1995, to 16% in 2006. So the ratio of U. S.-born black players (African-Americans) to Latin born black players active in MLB in 1975 versus 2006-07 has essentially reversed. The percentage of U. S. born players of African descent active in MLB in 2006-07 (8%) is definitely way down from 1975-95 (when it was consistently 19%)--and that is a startling and troubling fact, but the percentage of players of African descent from Latin America playing in MLB has significantly increased (the 8% of 1975 becoming 16% in 2007). This ratio is reflected in today's Cubs organization as well. The Cubs four full-season minor league affiliates (Iowa, Tennessee, Daytona, and Peoria) have 98 players (combined) on their active rosters, and of those 98 players, eight (8% of the total) are African-Americans, while 16 (16% of the total) are Latin-born players of African descent. At Cubs Minor League Camp and at Extended Spring Training in April-May, it's not unusual to find upwards of two or three dozen black teenagers from Latin America (mostly Dominicans) vying for spots on the DSL Cubs (Dominican Summer League) and the AZL Mesa Cubs (Arizona League) short-season rookie teams. Quite obviously, baseball is alive and well in Latin America (especially in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Venezuela), and is very popular with Latin Americans of all colors and descents. But it's also becoming clear that baseball and MLB cannot compete with football and the NFL and basketball and the NBA in the African-American community. When baseball was #1 with American blacks, it was in large part because the Negro Leagues were seen as a "black thing," a part of the Black Community. But once MLB acquired the Negro Leagues' best players (1947-1960), the Negro Leagues died. That created the first disconnect for black America with baseball, although it was not a death-blow and MLB recovered. But then as the NFL and the NBA developed their leagues into what they are now--where 65-70% of NFL players and 75-80% of NBA players are African-American, that hurt baseball's image (by comparison) in the black community. The greatest African-American athletic heroes in the last ten years or so have probably been NBA and NFL stars, not baseball players. And the hip hop culture and gangsta rappers probably don't see any connection with the perceived traditional mom, apple pie, and lemonade Americana pastiche of baseball, just like they KNOW they have no connnection with hockey, golf, tennis, or bowling. But that's unfortunate, because black baseball and the Negro leagues were NOT "white bread." There was a time when baseball (more than any other sport) was a cherished and revered part of the black community in America. Baseball will probably never again be more than the third most-popular sport in the black communities of the U.S., and there is also probably nothing MLB can do about it. But it’s not baseball’s fault, and it's not true that MLB has failed to carry-on the legacy of Jackie Robinson. A big deal was made over the Houston Astros not having any African-American players on their 2005 World Series team, but the ‘05 Astros DID have four Dominican players of African descent on their WS roster that year. The 2005 Houston Astros were NOT the 1960 Kansas City A’s, and it was wrong for the media to portray them that way. The 2007 Astros still have no African-Americans on their 25-man roster (the Atlanta Braves are the only other one), but all MLB clubs except the Oakland A's have Latin-born players of African descent on their active rosters (the A's do have two U. S.-born black players, though), with the Mets leading all of MLB with 11. The Milwaukee Brewers lead MLB in African-American players with five. So the Legacy of Jackie Robinson IS alive and well, but it has apparently taken a sharp turn and "gone south." It has migrated to Latin America.