“Torii Hunter is not alone among players asking that question, but he’s getting close. At a time when the international diversity of players in Major League Baseball has never been greater, the number of African-American players in the game has nose-dived to levels not seen since the earliest days of integration. The commissioner, Bud Selig says, ‘No question about that, and we’ve been concerned.'” Well, there’s that word. You know, when you see liberals or other people civil rights use the word “concerned,” it’s bad, folks. “Concerned” means it’s time for a study, time for a grant, time for a program, time for a plan, time for affirmative action in baseball. Mark my words.
[Reading:]”Although the global popularity of baseball is on the rise, and the number of white players in the U.S. remains strong, black American players are fading from the game. The figures are dramatic enough that on opening night at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, fans likely will witness the only African-American starting pitcher in the American League….” That would be Cleveland’s C.C. Sabathia “…the only all African-American starting outfield in the league in the Twins’ trio of Shannon Stewart, Hunter and Jacque Jones.” Now, dare I get near this again? Who is it talking about this? It’s the media. And what’s their concern? Not enough, not enough, not enough, not enough blacks in baseball, and the ones that are there are not skill position players. Not enough outfielders, not enough infielders; only one pitcher.
I guess I can say this since I’m not on ESPN. I guess I can talk about it since I’m not on ESPN, but this is nothing compared to what was said on ESPN, and it was about Vanderbilt. I’ll just say what it is. Bob Ryan, who’s in the Boston Globe — he has already been suspended once for some sort of comment. They had to punish him for, suspend him from 30 days from ESPN or something. He said Vanderbilt doesn’t have a prayer of winning the NCAAs because this is a black man’s game and they don’t have enough black players, too many white players on their team. That’s exactly what he said. I’m paraphrasing it, but that’s pretty close to what he said. They don’t have a chance, too many white players on their team; it’s a black man’s game; they don’t have enough back players on their team at Vanderbilt.
So everybody go, “Well, Bob…” and Bob will say, Hey, I apologize if I hurt anybody’s feelings, but I think it’s a perfectly pertinent cultural comment. and Rudy Martzke fired back at Ryan, I guess, in some sort of fashion. Rudy Martzke, That’s good. There was a good rejoinder to this so everything is fine. And then Spike Lee, who is professional fan courtside, New York Knicks. He said something about Larry Bird. He said… Let me find it. I don’t want to paraphrase that one because this one is da-da-da-da-da-da-da da-da. There’s the Ryan stuff. Where is… Well, let’s see. Ah, here we go:
“When veteran filmmaker Spike Lee said in a taped segment….” which means it wasn’t live, which means they wanted it to air “…on a taped segement on ABC’s NBA Hangtime on Sunday, ‘Listen to the white media and it is like nobody has ever played basketball before.’ Larry Bird… ‘I don’t care if you talk white, black, green, (Bird) was great.'” Spike Lee went on to say, “Bird, Bird, Bird. If you listen to white media it’s like no black person ever played the game,” [pause] and it was Byron Scott, studio analyst who said, “I don’t care if you talk about black-white-green, Bird was great. Period. End of story.'” So Spike Lee had his lunch handed to him, but still he said it, and the Bob Ryan is thing is a little bit more in depth and detailed.
Well, it seems to me here that if they’re going to start talking about how basketball is a black man’s game and the white teams can’t win, you know, and that’s a culturally relevant — and that’s the media making the statement. Now, if I were to say, therefore, that the media has a certain opinion about blacks in basketball, if I were to say that on ESPN on an NBA or some sort of sports program pre-game show, what would happen to me? (Breathing hard.) I shudder to think. (Laughing.) We already know what would happen to me. So now baseball is in on this. There aren’t enough African-Americans playing. Now, there’s a reason for this, by the way.
All right, let me wrap up this problem here. The latest crisis: not enough black players in Major League Baseball. Cleveland Indians only have one black pitcher. One other team has only one black outfielder, and the reasons given for the decline — this is a story again by Gordon Wittenmyer in the St. Paul Pioneer Press although I got it off the Miami Herald website today. “Reasons given for the decline [in African-American players in baseball[ range from young athletes being drawn away by basketball and football to a disproportionate lack of economic opportunities and visibility.”
Now, what in the world is that? Look, I’m fairly smart, but I don’t understand this. What in the world? When you take your average American black kid who’s out there playing baseball, but also playing basketball and football and deciding between the three, he sits there and says, “Well, I like basketball and football better but you know, there’s really a disproportionate lack of opportunity and visibility in baseball.” What is this? There’s more visibility in baseball than football, they don’t wear helmets. Everybody can see your face in baseball. That’s visibility to me. Maybe there’s too many guys on a team, but no, there’s 53 guys on a football team, 25 on a baseball team. What does is this economic opportunity business? Average major [Program Observer Interruption].
Oh, come on! The average major league salary is $2 million. It’s higher than the average salary in the NFL. Basketball is a different game, but there’s only 12 positions per team in basketball. The opportunities are much more limited. This is not the answer, folks. This is not. I’m going to tell you what. I’m going to take you people back, take you way, way back. I’m going back eight years, nine years, maybe longer than that, could be ten years. On the Rush to Excellence Tour, I’m flying back into New York every Sunday afternoon and I’m flying over New Jersey and I’m looking down out the window. All these baseball feels fields and nobody is on them, not a soul on them. Boy, when I was a kid you couldn’t get on a diamond. Everybody was playing baseball.
I said, “There’s something going on in this game,” and sure enough we’ve got more and more Dominican players, players from other countries, importing or Japanese players — and remember Orel Hershiser who was then pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers called to argue with me. He was doing a good PR stint for baseball, what a great game it is. But the problem here is that somebody looks at this as a “crisis.” This is a free country. Do we have enough blacks in this business or that business? Well, obviously we don’t because that’s what affirmative action is all about, but now it has gotten to baseball. So we’ve got a crisis and people try to figure out a solution to this. Later in the story is this paragraph:
“As recently as 1995, 19% of big-leaguers were black Americans. But that number has steadily gone down – to 15% in 1998, 13% in ’99 and 10% in 2002. Some of this is attributable to the increase in international players joining the major leagues. But even after the percentage of white players dipped to a low of 58% in 1997, their numbers have rebounded to 64% last year.” Okay, so we can’t blame it on the Dominicans. We can’t blame it on the Japanese players, and we got to find somebody to blame. Too many white players, that’s what! We’ve got two [Program Observer Interruption].
No, the answer is right here, Mr. Snerdley. You still don’t get it: 64%, the number of white players is up. That’s too many; 64% are white? That’s just too many. That’s too great a percentage. We got to do something about that. Why else do this story? There is a crisis! The participation by blacks in baseball is dwindling. It’s not that they’re not participating to sports. They’re going to other sports. Just too many whites there taking up [Program Observer Interruption]. Well, hockey is a different game. You know, nobody really cares about hockey. You going to talk about hockey, too many French Canadians versus, you know, Americans. They’re not going to get into race. They haven’t gotten there yet.
All right, now, let me get this out of the way. I’ve actually got two more sports things but they’re actually not sports. There’s the most incredible story in a Delaware News — part of the Philadelphia market — about McNabb. Now that the Eagles have signed Terrell Owens, I read this last night, and I just can’t believe it. I just can’t. You have the headline: “Investment in Owens may expose McNabb.” And as being no good! That story is about how [Program Observer Interruption.] Yes, I’m telling you. Yes, this story is about how Donovan McNabb has gotten a lot of credit that he doesn’t deserve, and they’ve not dumped on him. They’ve dumped on his lack of wide receiver talent. They’re no good. Remember that after the championship game?
Okay now they’ve got Terrell Owens, premiere wide receiver in the game. This column is all about how McNabb has no more excuses. Well, hell’s bells! It is true. The only thing not mentioned in here is me. I will read some of it, but I’m just giving you the gist of it. I mean, what more do you need? This guy: “Investment in Owens May Expose McNabb,” and you said, “For what?” This guy’s opinion is McNabb has been given a lot of credit he doesn’t deserve. He’s not that accurate a passer. He’s been able to get away with it because they don’t have any good wide receivers. Now they’ve got a good wide receiver, and if McNabb keeps throwing at the shoelaces and incompletions result, his days of getting a pass are over.
That’s what this piece is about. The guy that wrote the piece is named Jack McCaffrey, and it’s in the Delaware Times. Delaware Times sports columnist. And then, try this. I didn’t even mention this to you people, but during the Super Bowl, Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer — who was the ringleader of the Philadelphia media on the McNabb business. He was the one that started throwing the first bombs. He talked to Warren Moon. Warren Moon a former quarterback in the NFL for the Houston Oilers and the Minnesota Vikings and even the Kansas City Chiefs.
His piece on the Super Bowl, Sheridan’s piece started, “Warren Moon agrees with Rush Limbaugh on this much, at least. The progress of African American quarterbacks in the NFL has been a media-driven issue. ” And then he goes on to say too bad we couldn’t have had this reasonable discussion because of all the shouting that had been going on the whole four months previous in the season. And I’m reading this, and I said, “Well, who was shouting? It wasn’t me. It was you guys in the media did all the shouting! It was you guys in the media that stopped any reasonable discussion of what I had said because you jumped to a stereotypical conclusion. Now everybody is out there saying what I said, in one way or the other.
So once again, you know, pioneers take the arrows. It’s amazing. Now, here’s the Bob Ryan story. Bob “Ryan, a Boston Globe columnist and a regular on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters, drew attention when he tried to be funny on the Tony Kornheiser Show on ESPN Radio (last) Thursday by saying Vanderbilt had ‘too many white guys’ to beat Western Michigan. The Commodores, who start three black players, defeated Western Michigan on Friday and rallied to stun North Carolina State on Sunday. (Ryan said) ‘I was making an obvious joke… am truly sorry if anyone took offense. It’s been endemic in basketball for decades that white players are trying to make it in what has been perceived as a black man’s game.’
“Ryan had little room for the benefit of the doubt. He was suspended for a month last year by the Globe after telling a Boston TV station that someone should ‘smack’ Joumana Kidd, wife of the New Jersey Nets’ Jason Kidd, as Ryan felt she used her son, T.J., as a prop to get on camera. Asked why he made the Vanderbilt remark given the Kidd incident, (Bob) Ryan said, ‘I was so secure in the belief that what I was saying was 100% harmless in the context of the basketball culture that I would have said the same thing on (National Public Radio) as on the Tony Kornheiser Show.’ Said Globe sports editor Don Skwar: ‘I think Bob was attempting humor there, and sometimes humor can be misinterpreted. If there was any misinterpretation, we apologize.'”
Mike Soltys, ESPN vice president for PR, who is a good guy, by the way, said, “It was inappropriate and we’ve talked to Bob about his comments.” [Reading:] “ESPN will not disclipline Ryan, and the Globe’s Skwar said, ‘He’s at the (Boston College) game today,'” meaning he will not be disciplined. So he’s out there saying the Vanderbilt guys can’t win; they don’t have enough black guys; too many white guys on their team. [paraphrased] “Hey, I’m just being culturally correct,” he says. Anyway, folks, let’s take a brief [Program Observer Interruption]. No, no, that’s not sour grapes. I’m just pointing out the different standards that exist. These guys are all from the same side of the aisle then you couple it with what Spike Lee said, that if you listen to the white media and there weren’t any black players before Larry Bird came along. It’s the liberal sports media, and when they’re talking among themselves they can say whatever they want.