No. 42 Shows Range

From The Toy Department...

April 16, 2009|By RICK MAESE

Let's hope every play-by-play man has memorized the rosters by now. The amateur announcer is stuck Wednesday night babbling, "No. 42 lets loose a fastball to No. 42 at the plate, who pulls the ball. It's a grounder to 42 at short who whips it across the diamond to No. 42 to beat 42 at first."

It's Jackie Robinson Day in baseball, which means every player, manager and coach is expected to wear No. 42 in honor of Jackie's first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers, including the Orioles in Wednesday night's series finale at Texas.

Also Wednesday comes the annual Racial and Gender Report Card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports out of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and the results are a bit surprising - in a good way.

MLB's grades were, in fact, good across the board, but the most noteworthy statistic is the number of African-American players. This marks the first year since 1995 that the percentage of African-American players has increased from the preceding year. The report found that in the 2008 season, 10.2 percent of all players were African-American, an increase of 2 percentage points from 2007.

"While we need to wait to see if this a one-year adjustment or a trend, this is more good news for MLB that its grass roots programs might be taking effect," said Dr. Richard Lapchick, who authors the annual study.

On the Orioles' roster, Adam Jones is the lone African-American player. In fact, he was the only African-American player in camp at spring training.

"It doesn't bother me," Jones said last month, "but I'd like to see more black athletes playing baseball. ... Most kids were playing basketball and football. I don't know why I chose baseball. I guess because I was just better at it. I love baseball."

The Orioles sent out a release Wednesday morning saying that each player's game-worn, autographed No. 42 jersey will be auctioned at orioles.com starting at 6 [Wednesday] night. The auction will conclude at noon Tuesday, and the proceeds will benefit the Baltimore Orioles Charitable Foundation and the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

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