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Reggie Jackson

Reggie Jackson: ‘Baseball Still Behind’

On Jackie Robinson Day, Jackson laments low numbers of Blacks in MLB leadership

HOUSTON – Reggie Jackson joined players and executives across Major League Baseball in wearing a “Breaking Barriers” T-shirt to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on Monday. However, the Hall of Fame slugger is adamant that there is still work to be done to ensure the changes Robinson sought in baseball.

When thinking about the changes Robinson sought, Jackson recalls a quote from Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

“You wanna say things that are nice and pleasant,” the baseball icon said. “But we’re still behind. Like Robert Frost said, ‘Miles to go before I sleep.’ We still have a lot of work that needs to be done in order for us to have more participation in the future of the game.”

As the baseball world commemorated the 77th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier, there’s still only a small representation of American-born Blacks in baseball.

Reggie Jackson works to diversify baseball

Only 6 percent of players on Opening Day rosters were black this year. There are only two Black managers – the Angels’ Ron Washington and Dodgers’  Dave Roberts – in MLB. The Astros’ Dana Brown is the only Black GM in the majors, and Jackson played a pivotal role in that hiring as a special advisor to Astros owner Jim Crane.

Although almost 30 percent of the players in MLB are Latino, there are only six Latino managers and no Latino GMs in baseball. African Americans and Latinos need to be more involved in America’s pastime. 

People of color held 21.1% of team administration positions in 2023, a 1.3 percentage increase from 2021. African Americans held 5.6%, while Latinos carried 10.4%. Change is good. Change can develop new innovations, new opportunities, and trailblaze a new path for the next generation as technology continues to play a big role in our everyday lives. 

‘They’re trying,’ Reggie Jackson notes

“I think they’re trying,” Jackson said of MLB leaders. “But there needs to be more of a concerted effort, which is what I like to see. I’ve been there to speak to ownership last year and told (the owners) that I really don’t expect the commissioner to make rules for change because he’s a commissioner, and not an owner. 

“You need owners to want to make change. And I think those requests, the request that I made last year in New York with the owners in the room was, ‘Can you help make the change that Jackie Robinson asked about.’ Adding more minorities participating in the direction and the future of the game.”

Robinson died in 1972. Three years later, Frank Robinson became the first African American manager to manage a major league team with the Cleveland Indians. The following year, Bill Lucas became the first Black general manager in MLB history with the Atlanta Braves.

Nonetheless, there still hasn’t been much progress in MLB. Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey signed Robinson from the Negro Leagues’ Kansas City Monarchs to a minor-league contract in 1945. 

After a stint with the Class AAA Montreal Royals, Jackson became the first African American to play in the majors on April 15, 1947.  Larry Doby followed on July 5, 1947, with the Cleveland Indians, becoming MLB’s second Black player and the first in the American League.


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Jackson and Doby paved the way for African Americans and Afro-Latinos such as Hall of Famers Minnie Miñoso, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez all the way to young stars Juan Soto and Yordan Alvarez.

Low numbers of Blacks in MLB

The Afro-Latino population in baseball has grown, but Robinson would not be pleased about the lack of African American baseball players in the league.

Former Most Valuable Players Mookie Betts of the Dodgers and Aaron Judge of the Yankees are among the biggest stars in baseball. Michael Harris II, the 2022 NL Rookie of the Year, is another African American star who is grateful for Robinson.

“He was one of the bigger reasons why I’m even putting on a jersey tonight,” Harris II said of Jackie Robinson. “Just being able to put on his number (42) means a lot to me and a small group of people around the league that are of color and African American.

“He paved the way for us. There’s no other way to honor him than to wear his number to remember him.”

Last week, Braves’ manager Brian Snitker and the rest of MLB celebrated the 50th anniversary of Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run. 

Hammerin’ Hank, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for promoting Civil Rights in 2002, was an advocate for more African American players in baseball. 

Robinson paved way for Hank Aaron

MLB renamed the Elite Development Invitational to the Hank Aaron Invitational. The program aims to develop and get high school age-players with diverse backgrounds to the next levels of the game. 44 players are broken down into two teams: Team Aaron and Team Robinson.

“One of my good friends wouldn’t be able to probably play in the major leagues, and that’s Hank Aaron,” Snitker said. “I think he’s (Robinson) been big for a lot of different reasons in our game. What he brought to this game, what he endured, and paved the way for a whole bunch of guys that I see here on this field right now.”

Major League Baseball needs to continue to grow the game in African Americans and Latino communities. Whether it’s playing baseball or studying baseball analytics, it’s important to start teaching and educating the next generation now.

“We’re still behind. We have a ways to go to catch up,” Mr. October says. “I always question the efforts. I always question, ‘Do you really want it to happen? What are you doing?’ There is certainly a lot of diversity programs that are going on. I think there needs to be more of a focus on change for minorities to participate.”

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