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Pittsburgh Pirates’ Matt Joyce, left, celebrates with teammates Jordy Mercer, center, and Josh Harrison after hitting a three-run home run off Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Friday, April 15, 2016. All players wore the No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar/File)

As I watched the recent 2017 MLB Jackie Robinson festivities unfold, one word came to mind. That word was gravekeeper.  Gravekeeper is defined as; Noun, gravekeeper (plural gravekeepers): 1. a graveyard attendant.

Certain people have again in 2017 acknowledged that Jackie Robinson “leaped” over the hurdle of racism and became the first Black athlete in modern American history to compete at the “professional” level as far as MLB is concerned. But technically, those like Robinson who competed in the Negro Leagues were in fact, professional because they played for pay. Hey, maybe being brown-skinned didn’t cut the mustard as far as excellence goes. This one annual MLB event celebrating Jackie Robinson (April 15 of each year) is just like Black History month, the one month per year that past achievements and accomplishments by African Americans are profiled in the continued fight to remain historically relevant.


Aubrey Bruce

An April 9, 2013 article written by Tyler Kepner and posted on nytimes.com stated that “only 8.5 percent of the (MLB) players on the 25-man rosters on opening day were African American. Several teams, including the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, had none. The highest percentage of African Americans playing in the majors, according to new research by Mark Armour from the Society of American Baseball Research, was 19 percent in 1986.”

“I really think our history is so brilliant when it comes to African Americans,” Selig said in that article. “You think about the late 1940s, the 1950s — wow. And you look at that and you say to yourself, ‘Why did it not continue, and what could we do to make sure it does continue?’”

That observation and analysis was more than four years ago and not much, if anything, has changed. Each year we continue to trot out the most astute and illustrious “gravekeepers” we can find to use the “grit” of the past to polish and preserve the tombstones of our great heroes. Black Americans did not follow the “cultural” bouncing ball of baseball and African Americans discontinued the cultural alignment that would have assisted them in indoctrinating Black youth as well. Gold teeth and hip gyrations are not a part of MLB celebrations. The NBA and the NFL have found “ghetto magic” in regards to tapping into the psyche of inner-city youth and using that insight as a brilliant marketing strategy. It is difficult, if not impossible, to market baseball successfully to urban America unless there is a cultural evolution that happens simultaneously. Baseball is a methodical game, almost like a chess game played on grass and dirt. Patience and focus are two of the principal elements. There is no dirty dancing or metal mouth images coming from within or without the dugout.

Let’s fast forward to the community’s support of baseball.

There are many African Americans that confuse supporting a team and rooting for a team. When an individual “roots” for a team he, she or they may buy a particular team’s merchandise, or go and purchase foodstuffs for a party. They may then gather in front of their TV and cheer for their team.

When the same person “supports” a team, they may, along with their friends or co-workers, might say, “Let’s brown bag our lunch for the month of April so that we can purchase a ticket or tickets for the Pirates vs. Reds on July 4.”

Now that is support. Planning two months before a game to pay hard-earned money to “attend” a game.

What about real support from MLB? Instead of putting tons and tons of resources into short lived, celebrated Jackie Robinson “Daze” in early April when many people are not very attentive or even aware of the event, why don’t they try something like this…

Instead of the corny Home Run Derby during the All-Star week festivities, how about creating four games, five innings each featuring the Afro-American All-Stars vs. the Eurocentric All-Stars? And the Asian All-Stars vs. the Caribbean All-Stars? The winner of each game will meet to ultimately establish the champion. All the proceeds would benefit MLB academies all across America, Europe, the Caribbean and Asia. Make these “celebrations” mean something. As long as we continue to polish tombstones, resurrecting baseball in the inner cities will never be revived or restored.

Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com or 412-583-6741.

Follow him on Twitter@ultrascribe


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