There was a presentation given yesterday by some of my classmates in our sports and sociology class about that very question. Apparently, the number of black (meaning African-American) baseball players has dropped considerably at all levels since the 1970s. I don't remember the exact statistic but I believe at the peak in the 70's, 27% of the Major Leaguers were black. That number's down to 6%.
The presenting group gave a nice history of the Negro Leagues and Jackie Robinson and the like. They charted out how the numbers have been dropping compared to the NFL and the NBA and demonstrated how interest was dropping in general. It was all very well done.
But then they came up with the conclusion that it actually isn't a problem. No offense to any of them if they happen to read this, but I was a little disappointed in that conclusion. Unfortunately, for my perspective, much of the class seemed to agree with their findings. And what's even more unfortunate is I'm pretty sure that Major League Baseball in general doesn't see it as a problem either.
To me, any time you can't adequately explain why over 20% of your market share and work force has up and disappeared, then there's a huge problem. I'm pretty sure that demographic can be saved, but I'm also pretty sure that the MLB isn't doing a whole lot to try to save it.
The group that presented mentioned that they had actually spoken to Dave Winfield at a recent event where Winfield summed it up by saying, "Kids will do what they see". Basically meaning, since the number of black athletes in the sport has declined, the number of young black fans has declined, and therefore the number of future black baseball players will continue to decline.
In any case, it got me fired up. The rest of the class tried to give reasons for this. Some seemed pretty reasonable to me, others not. One such example is that baseball is boring in general and young black youths are pursuing more exciting forms of entertainment. That's bullshit. I hate the "baseball is boring" argument. The number of Latino and Asian players and fans has steadily risen, not at the cost of the white players and fans, but at the cost of black. Does that mean that Latinos and Asians simply like boring things? Does it mean that African-American consumers somehow know better and avoid things which are boring? Of course not. Baseball's been around for over a hundred years, I'm pretty sure there's something to the game that might interest people a little bit.
Over the next week or so, I'm going to touch on a few of these things and what I think the MLB can do about it. At least I'll try. Off the top of my head I can think of at least three or four things Major League Baseball can do better and things that they've done horribly wrong. I'm also open to ideas from Gaslamp Ballers.
Then, with our findings, I'm going to get a job in the Commissioner's Office and I'll completely turn baseball around and it'll be huge again and football and basketball will be like, what the heck just happened, and I'll be like, the guy who saved baseball from certain doom which will basically make me the guy who saved America and the people will elect me president and then I'll pass a law stating that you have to visit Gaslamp Ball regularly.
It's gonna be great.