The Pirates resurgence has brought back memories of the good old days when when there were Black Little Leagues and Pony Leagues throughout the city. But to my surprise I found out recently that there is no more summer baseball for young Black kids, when they need it most.
Summer is the most critical time for our young Black youth, especially boys. And summer is when most activists are constantly talking about the lack of things to do. Yet I was very surprised when I tried to run a series of articles during the summer, (June, July and August,) of some of the Black Little League Baseball teams. There were none. There was either nothing at all or everyone was concentrating on football.
Summer baseball is actually spring baseball and it may last a month maybe two with practically nothing doing the months of July and August, with little league football starting in August.
Most people I talked to said because most adult Black men are into football they direct their kids and other kids in that direction, which really isn’t that intelligent. There’s big, big, big money to be made in baseball. Plus most baseball players’ careers are much longer than football, and far less wear and tear on the body.
For some reason I just can’t get into having my son out in that hot blistering sun in full football dress. That has to be hot as hell. Why don’t we keep football in the fall and winter, basketball during the winter and spring, and baseball during the spring and summer?
The percentage of U.S. born Blacks in baseball has never been that great but at one time it was growing, but now that football has become so popular, every Black father and mother is trying to get their kids into the game. So the decline of North American Blacks in the game is most likely not because of racism, because Latinos, and other Blacks from the Islands understand the rewards of baseball. Just ask Alex Rodriguez, Derrick Jeter.
Back when the Pirates fielded nine Blacks, four to five were Latinos.
After watching “42” again it was sad to think of what Jackie Robinson went through to get us in, and how we are ignoring one of the most lucrative fields in pro sports.
If I were raising a son, I would buy him a basketball, football, and a baseball, bat and glove, and then let him decide which sport he would eventually play.
I’m guilty however of falling into the same trap as most Black men, even though I grew up on Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Bob Gibson, Warren Marichal, Frank Robinson, Maury Wills, Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente and many, many more. And when I came to Pittsburgh even though both the Steelers and Pirates were winning my first love was the Pirates. I really enjoyed interviewing and following the careers of Al Oliver, Willie Stargell, Manny Sanguillen, Rennie Stennet, Bill Madlock, Bill Robinson, Dave Parker and Dock Ellis, just to name a few.
Most people talk about the Pirates during the Barry Bonds era of the 1990s but actually the Pirates during the ’70s had the greatest teams and talent. But because there were so many Blacks on these teams they never got their due respect and of course the Big Red Machine, the Cincinnati Reds were around at that time. I still believe that all these Black players more than anything else led to them becoming whiter, and whiter to the point that after the Bonds, Bobbie Bonilla era one could barely find a Black face on the Pirates, which helped in their dive into deep, deep inferior play.
I still remember the batteries being thrown at Dave Parker, because he dared to ask for superstar money. He was one of the greatest players in the game and the fans should have been giving him their full support compared to what he was doing on the field offensively as well as several golden gloves as the best defensive right fielder in the game.
Little League baseball could also take the place of some of the boxing programs people are using to keep kids off the streets. It’s not that I don’t like boxing, but I just don’t think hitting someone up side their head, and being hit is good for young kids. There has to be a better way to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble. Baseball pays better, there’s more positions, 25 compared to one, and you never get hit. Instead you hit the ball. The same is true in comparison to football. There are far fewer injuries and less violence.
My challenge to Black fathers, mothers and recreational facility leaders is to bring baseball back. I know it’s not as exciting as basketball and football. But it keeps our kids off the streets, and it pays very well. These guys are averaging $3.2 million a year in contracts as of 2012 and that’s up a million from 10 years ago; the minimum wage is $480,000. Did I hear that A-Rod had a $120 million contract? There is no salary cap in baseball.
There are plenty baseball fields in the Black communities. We just need the adults to take on the responsibility of training the kids. Hopefully the Pirates and Major League Baseball will take on a more active role as well.
(Ulish Carter is the managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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