Bud Selig is creating a task force to look at the historically low number of African-Americans in Major League Baseball and find ways to bring more of these players into the game.
This year just 7.7 percent of opening -day rosters were made up of African-American players, a number that has been steadily declining in the past decade. To study the decline of African-American players, MLB commissioner Bud Selig is reportedly putting together a formal task force, which is expected to be announced on Wednesday.
The 17-member committee will include owners, executives and coaches, including Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, Chicago White Sox vice president Kenny Williams, Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg and baseball coach Roger Cador of the historically black Southern University.
African-American players once made up 27 percent of team rosters in 1975, and as recently as 1995 rosters were 19 percent Africa-American. But the percentage of African-American players today is at its lowest since 1959, when the Boston Red Sox became the last MLB team to integrate its roster.
Bud Selig reportedly wants the task force to find ways to increase the pipeline of African-American players to baseball.
“I don’t want to miss any opportunity here,” Selig told the New York Times in a telephone interview from his office in Milwaukee. “We want to find out if we’re not doing well, why not, and what we need to do better. We’ll meet as many times as we need to to come to meaningful decisions.”
Major League Baseball has tried to introduce baseball into urban areas, creating the RBI program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) in 1989. Though baseball has become very popular outside the United States, leading to a healthy pipeline of Latin American players, its popularity has dwindled in American cities.
“I never thought I’d see anything like this,” Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan told USA Today Sports. “But I’ve seen it coming. There, for a long time, there were a lot of African-American players to look up to and emulate, but there’s not enough big stars now to dissuade them from basketball and football.”
There could still be some outside help for Bud Selig and his task force to increase the number of African-Americans in Major League Baseball. As USA Today writer Bob Nightengale notes, the growing concern of head injuries in football may filter more young players into baseball, leading to a gradual increase in the number of African-American players in the future.