"It is very disturbing to see something like this," Aaron said. "And you would think that this ballclub could find at least one or two African Americans, especially in this city. It's very disturbing. I think they need to look at that very carefully. They need to talk to people in the scouting department and everybody else because this needs to be addressed."Perhaps Aaron is galled by the fact that he and other blacks in the 50s, 60s and 70s who worked so hard to break down barriers and make baseball accommodate blacks, now face a league where barely nine percent of players are African-American. Now, that's not counting Latino blacks. I mean just Black Americans. And Houston, in town that's 25 percent black according to the 2000 census, couldn't manage to have any. Neither did Baltimore.
This is not new. For years, the Red Sox had one or two blacks at the most, and given the fact that they were the last MLB team to integrate (Pumpsie Green, in 1959 I think), Boston has a long history characterized by obstructionism at best, racism at worst. Same with Philadelphia, a city that booed Dick Allen unmercifully and where manager Ben Chapman famously refused to shake hands with Jackie Robinson. A few years back Doug Glanville was the "token" African-American. Now that the Phils have Jimmy Rollins at short, Kenny Lofton in center and Ryan Howard (at least part-time) at first, the team doesn't have to face the same racial criticism it once did.
The larger question is whether baseball has fewer American blacks because of design (i.e., by conspiracy to not hire more blacks), because of benign neglect, or because baseball just isn't as popular as it once was in this country among youth, not just black youth, but all youth. These days basketball and football rule, especially in urban areas. There is a growing effort in major cities across the country to make baseball popular again, but this takes time, effort, equipment and space. And desire, which Hammerin' Hank can wish for, but may not happen again.