MLB gets best grade for diversity in hiring; number of blacks on field drops

Updated: April 15, 2008, 5:16 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball received its best grade for racial diversity in hiring, even as the percentage of black players dropped again last year.

Lapchick: Jackie Would Shake His Head

The number of African-Americans in baseball is down on the field, and up off the field. Who'd have thunk it? Not Jackie Robinson, writes Richard Lapchick. Story

MLB received its first A-minus for race Tuesday from Richard Lapchick, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports. Its grade was B-plus in last year's study.

Among major leaguers, though, just 8.2 percent were black players, down from 8.4 percent in 2006 and the lowest level in at least two decades.

"I'm very disappointed by that fact," said Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson. "Competition from other sports is certainly a big factor, but they're many factors. We've got to work on it in terms of getting younger children playing, into the game, and getting communities behind the programs, like the RBI programs and the academies."

Lapchick released the study on Jackie Robinson Day, the 61st anniversary of when Robinson broke the major league color barrier.

The percentage of black pitchers remained at 3 percent last year.

"Baseball has probably lost a whole generation here," Lapchick said. "African-Americans just aren't playing it at this point. They're going to have to increase their efforts."

Although MLB has established its Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program and urban youth academies, Lapchick said it will take many years for those efforts to pay off.

MLB Firsts For Blacks

1884: Moses Fleetwood Walker is first black player in majors (Toledo Blue Stockings)

1947: Jackie Robinson (pictured) breaks baseball's color barrier (Brooklyn Dodgers)

1962: Buck O'Neil is first black coach in major league history (Chicago Cubs)

1966: Emmett Ashford is the first black umpire in the majors

1975: Frank Robinson makes debut as first black manager in major league history (Cleveland Indians)

1976: Bill Lucas is first black general manager in MLB history (Atlanta Braves)

1989: Bill White becomes first black league president (National League)

-- ESPN Research

MLB received a C-plus for gender hiring, up from a C last year. Its overall grade remained at B.

Lapchick said 28 percent of employees at baseball's central offices were nonwhite, including 20 percent among senior executives. Women were 42 percent of employees, but 26 percent of the senior executives.

He suggested baseball commissioner Bud Selig pressure clubs more to consider minority candidates. He also said MLB should institute a rule that a woman be considered for all senior job openings, similar to the rule that minority candidates must be interviewed.

Lapchick would make an exception for general manager -- there has never been a woman GM, and there are relatively few high-ranking women in baseball operations. Kim Ng of the Dodgers (vice president and assistant general manager) and Jean Afterman of the Yankees (assistant GM) have been the exceptions.

"They would have token interviews until we have that one case that a woman is successful," he said.

He gave baseball a B-plus for race and a C for gender for its senior administration hiring, the same as last year. For team vice presidents, the grade was B for race -- the same as last year -- and D-minus for gender, up from an F.

General managers were given a C for 2007, and Lapchick noted the Los Angeles Angels promoted Tony Reagins to GM, where he joins Kenny Williams of the Chicago White Sox and Omar Minaya of the New York Mets as the only minorities.

Managers received an A, with six minority managers last year. The total increased to eight at the start of this season.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press