Top officials of Major League Baseball expressed frustration and alarm yesterday at the failure of many teams to hire and promote members of minority groups for management positions on the field and in the front office.
The officials, commissioner Fay Vincent and National League president Bill White, voiced their concerns on a day when two teams, the New York Mets and the Detroit Tigers, appointed new general managers, both of them white, and two days after Vincent and White attended the first organizational meeting of the Colorado Rockies, one of two new franchises set to join the National League in 1993.
The Denver-based team has hired more than a half-dozen top-level officials, none of them minorities. White said the move surprised him because "promises were made along these lines by these two new clubs." He added, "From what I see, they have not been carried through so far."
White and Vincent said they were also concerned that members of minority groups were not even being interviewed for some of the vacancies with major-league clubs.
"I am surprised and disappointed about what I'm hearing, that no black people, no Hispanic people have been interviewed for any of these jobs," said White, the highest-ranking black in professional sports.
Since August 1990, 11 general managers, three club presidents and eight field managers have been hired and, in only one instance, was the new hire a member of a minority group. That was Hal McRae, manager of the Kansas City Royals, who is black.
"We're not even in the interview process; we don't even get considered as a courtesy," said Frank Robinson of the Orioles, one of three black assistant general managers, and a former field manager.
Ever since Al Campanis, the former vice president of the Los Angeles Dodgers, said in a television interview in 1987 that many blacks were successful as players but they lacked the "necessities" to hold management positions in major-league baseball, officials in the sport have tried using gentle persuasion to coax its 26 existing clubs and two expansion franchises to erase the game's "old boy" network and establish an equal hiring policy.
But the ripple of activity set in motion by Campanis' statements, which led to his dismissal by the Dodgers, now seems a distant memory.
White said officials of the teams were told in 1989 by then commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti that they must consider qualified people of all races when filling vacancies, and issued a set of standards for tracking candidate hiring by the teams.
But, says White, "I am not sure that people are listening to the mandate left by Bart Giamatti, a mandate the present commissioner has endorsed."
Vincent agreed, saying: "It's very disappointing. I'm frustrated. I speak. I write. I wheedle. I cajole. If somebody has a better idea, I would be glad to hear it because it's a really serious problem."
Paul Jacobs, the Rockies executive vice president and general counsel, said team officials were far from finished in naming top officials. Therefore, Jacobs said, "jumping to conclusions at this point is not exactly fair."
"We still have plenty of leadership jobs to be filled and we are aware of and sensitive to those mandates," Jacobs said. "We are going to respond to them."
Jacobs also pointed out that there is a Hispanic woman among the team's limited partners, therefore bringing to the game minority ownership.
Jacobs also said that the team is sensitive to the issue, given Denver's large minority population, which is approximately 30 percent Hispanic and 8 percent black.
"We have already in our infancy met with Hispanic leadership from this area and have implemented a program to identify jobs so that they could feed back to us qualified candidates," he said.