*This year’s World Series featuring the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals will mark the first time in Major League Baseball’s 112-year history in which the two teams have never fielded all-white, segregated rosters, The Nation points out.
Both teams entered the league after Jackie Robinson broke the game’s color line in 1947: the Mets in 1962; the Royals in 1969.
But the major league still has a ways to go. The Nation notes:
Even with the absence of a segregated past, the Mets have just one black American player on their playoff roster, Curtis Granderson. The Royals will be starting, barring injury, one black American player, Lorenzo Cain. Both teams employ several players of African descent from Latin America.
This all speaks to the oft-discussed issue of the work baseball needs to do if it is going to find purchase in the black community in the United States. I refer all questions on this to Chris Rock [referring to Rock’s commentary on HBO’s “Real Sports”], although I’ll also add that baseball’s rush to invest billions in the Dominican Republic to develop players cheaply while publicly funded urban baseball programs are being slashed plays a major role in this.
Here is that pitiless mirror baseball holds up: The National Pastime has become perhaps our clearest cultural reflection of how globalization, de-industrialization, and the subsequent gentrified looting of urban America have wrung so many US cities dry. Baseball, with its need for leagues, coaching, equipment, and players has suffered more than any other urban endeavor. This game that was once a cohesive glue, a “great teacher” of integration and the values of immigration, should never be a symbol of what divides us, but this is where we are. At least within the borders of the continental United States, baseball has, tragically, become the new lacrosse.