Maese Space

Maese Space

The Kickoff

March 30, 2007|By RICK MAESE

Oh, the irony. And I'm not talking about that warm, fuzzy last-two-minutes-of-Seinfeld irony, either.

In a little more than two weeks -- April 15, to be exact -- Major League Baseball will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's breaking the game's color barrier. He opened the door for generations of African-Americans, who 60 years later don't seem especially interested in what's on the other side of the doorway.

Now, obviously more than just African-Americans followed Robinson into the majors. In fact, a report released yesterday morning revealed that 40.5 percent of today's players are persons of color. That means baseball is close to its all-time high of 42.5 percent, which was achieved 10 years ago when we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier.

But that year, 17 percent of MLB players were black. Barely 10 years later, the figure is less than half that -- 8.4 percent, the lowest it has been in at least 27 years, according to the 2006 Racial and Gender Report Card, compiled annually by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Ethics and Diversity in Sport. ...

Baseball officials have been scrambling over the past decade to figure out why they're losing some of the country's top athletes to other sports.

I have to guess that there was a cultural shift for many African-Americans in the past 20 years, where baseball took a back seat to sports such as basketball. And as long as hoops is romanticized in urban America, it's going to be difficult to make serious inroads with black youths.

rick.maese@baltsun.com

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