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The BASE: Essential for blacks to play ball

10/30/2013, 12:59 p.m.

The World Series is always exciting. It establishes the championship team in “America’s game.” When your hometown team is competing it is difficult to avoid being emotionally involved. However, now that few blacks are competing in the sport, the interest of African Americans is more subdued than in the old days.

Prior to 1947, when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, there were black teams playing in Negro Leagues. The Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw M. Landis was opposed to black players on white teams and he even opposed white teams playing blacks in the off season. With Landis’ death in 1944, his successor Happy Chandler permitted black players in major league baseball, but no black teams were admitted to the MLB.

MLB teams hired black players away for less than they had to pay whites. The loss of top talent eventually contributed to the demise of Negro League baseball. This is another example of how racial integration led to the loss of black institutions. Now with so many black athletes choosing football and basketball over baseball, the number of black players in the game is declining. According to a recent report only one African American player is involved in the present World Series. There are several Latinos.

Robert Lewis has launched an organization in Boston called The BASE, to train young urban athletes in the skills that will enable them to compete in baseball at a high level. The BASE will also motivate the boys to become academically proficient. It is hoped that the success of this program will see players with the talent of Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson and Ernie Banks return to the game.