ST. LOUIS -- In the year that the movie “42" dramatized the story of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier, the number of African Americans playing in the World Series is the same as the number playing in the major leagues when Robinson made his debut in 1947: one.
“It’s sad to see,” said Boston Red Sox outfielder Quintin Berry, the only African American on the roster of either team.
The percentage of African Americans in the major leagues has declined from about 19% in 1984 to about 8% today.
When the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies met in the World Series five years ago, baseball officials were optimistic about turning the tide. The Rays alone had five African Americans on their roster, and the series featured such engaging stars as Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, David Price and B.J. Upton.
At the time, Commissioner Bud Selig said he hoped the showcase would help attract African American athletes to the inner-city academies and recreational leagues established by Major League Baseball. On Saturday, Selig said those efforts take time to bear fruit and, as a result, he was not disappointed that this World Series features a single African American player.
“I’m proud of what we have done. This is not an overnight job,” Selig said.
“We have all the academies. They are very productive. I do feel very much that we are on the right track. So, no, I am not disappointed.
Berry said he was inspired to play baseball by Dave Roberts, the 2004 Red Sox hero. Roberts, like Berry, grew up in the San Diego area.
“I’m definitely blessed and honored [to represent] he African American community,” Berry said. “Hopefully, I can get in there and do something that might spark somebody else to do something, just like Dave Roberts did for me.”
Mike Napoli took ground balls at third base during batting practice Saturday, fueling speculation that the Red Sox might play him there in games at Busch Stadium. Napoli, who broke in with the Angels as a catcher, has played first base and been a designated hitter the last three seasons. He has played mostly first base for the Red Sox, but because there is no DH in games at the National League park, slugger David Ortiz has taken over at first base.