Stakes are high in this 2017 World Series for the players, the cities involved and the executives who constructed these two juggernauts. The product on the field has been incredible. MLB is showcasing its elite young talent, some supreme veterans in search of a career-stamping chip and the games are riveting. When analyzing the historical and social importance of this World Series Game 7, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has the most at stake.
If the Dodgers beat the Astros in this years World Series, Roberts would become the second Black manager to lead a team to a championship in the 70 years since Jackie Robinson changed America, broke down baseballs color barrier and opened the floodgates for people of color with his Brooklyn Dodgers debut.
Robinson’s influence led to more players of color, but infiltrating the managerial ranks has been much more difficult. Frank Robinson became the first Black manager in the majors in 1975, but only 29 others have been hired since.
On that topic, here’s Frank Robinson in 1975, handing in a lineup card as MLB’s first black manager.
Former Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston was the first Black manager to win a World Series and he did it back-to-back in 1992 and 1993, so if Roberts were to etch his name into the history books this season, hed still have to come back next season and do it again to equal Gastons excellence.
Dusty Baker and Ron Washington each had chances in 2002 and 2010-11, respectively, but fell short.
Cito takes over the Blue Jays and turns them into studs.
With Bakers recent firing by the Washington Nationals, Roberts is the only African-American manager remaining in the majors. Hes carrying the crown for dolo and the pressure is all on him.
In the last 70 years, according to a study by the Society for American Baseball Research, the number of Black players in the majors went from fewer than 1 per cent in 1947 to a high of 18.7 per cent in 1981. The population plateaued around 16 to 19 percent from 1972-96. However, that percentage has fluctuated between 6 and 8 percent since 2009.
Thats the thing that is the biggest hindrance now, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick told thestar.com. That pool, when it shrinks on the playing field, it ultimately is going to shrink in the ranks of those who become coaches, who become scouts in our game. It has kind of a universal effect across all levels.
Nobody is going to remember Roberts even managed in this World Series if the Dodgers fall in Game 7. And without the championship platform, it’s harder for Roberts to help inspire other blacks to pursue careers as players, managers and front office types.
Former Dodgers skipper Tommy Lasorda let Robert’s know that the Game 6 win meant nothing in the larger scheme of things after the Dodgers beat Justin Verlander and shook elimination in a 3-1 win on Halloween night.
You havent won (expletive) unless you win tomorrow, Lasorda told Roberts, according to numerous accounts.
Tommy Lasorda’s message for Dave Roberts: ‘Haven’t won (expletive) unless you win tomorrow’ https://t.co/wF8F9X6NLv
Lasorda is an expert on the art of World Series wins and losses. The Dodgers won eight division titles and two World Series in his 21 years as manager. He knows how hard they are to come by when you get there and its even harder to get back. The Dodgers lost consecutive World Series to the New York Yankees in 1977 and 1978 before finally beating the Yankees in 1981.
If Roberts wants to be a true legend and not just the pinch runner that sparked the Red Soxs first World Series championship in 86 years, then he has to lead his men to victory tonight. Nobody remembers that Lovie Smith was the African-American coach who opposed Tony Dungy when he became the first black coach to win a Super Bowl. Smith is treated as if hes never won a game. Dungy is a king in the NFL empire.
At a time when African-American participation in baseball is stagnant and brothers in positions of leadership are almost non existent, a victory for Roberts, whose father was African American and mother is Japanese, is a win for all people of color.
also 1st Japanese since half Japanese:Dodgers’ Dave Roberts looks 2b 2nd Black mgr 2win World Series https://t.co/YmO0CzKym7
Asked earlier this week about his racial distinctions, Roberts said its very meaningful for him to represent a lot of people, but said hes trying not to think about what a World Series victory would mean in racial terms until after its won.
Thats a good idea, because like Lasorda said, It dont mean a thing if you aint got that ring.