‘Talking About African American Ballplayers, We Need To Do Better’ | LA Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts Calls Out Baseball On Jackie Robinson Day

Photo by Dustin Bradford/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Major League Baseball’s color line was bravely crossed by Jackie Robinson on April 15, 1947, when he started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

However, on the 75th anniversary of that historical moment, has real progress been made across the majors, or is Robinson’s legacy the touchpoint that many hold on to stagnate future progress across other game areas?

Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts revealed his opinions on the subject recently.

Dave Roberts Platform

“When you’re talking about African American ballplayers, we need to do better,” Roberts said to the Los Angeles Times. “I think about it all the time. It’s really getting uncomfortable.”

Roberts, who joined his players in sitting out one game in 2020, after Jacob Blake was shot in the back in front of his children in Wisconsin by the police, realized he had a greater responsibility; that is majorly part of Jackie Robinson’s legacy.

Roberts’ Legacy

“In years past, it would have been, ‘My job is to manage, and everything outside that is not my concern,’ ” he continued. “In years past, I probably would not have even voiced that but it’s bigger than just my job.
“If Jackie were just a baseball player, I wouldn’t be here today, and the world would look different. And so I encourage our players to speak up and be advocates about the issues they believe in, and I have to follow that.”

Diamond Anniversary Meet Change In The Diamond

Yesterday, on the Diamond or 75th Anniversary of Robinson’s achievement, Jackie Robinson had his name emblazoned on a New York City street sign, and the “World’s Most Famous Building,” the Empire State Building, was lit up in blue and white with a rotating No. 42 in the mast.

Not to mention his legacy and contributions to baseball relived within Major League and Little League ballparks across the country.

However, for Roberts, it is not enough, and it is because decades earlier, it also wasn’t enough for Jackie Robinson.

Revisionist History

Revisionist history states that Martin Luther King Jr. only had one dream, but he had multiple that involved righting the wrongs done to the underserved.

Jackie Robinson was no different, and he let the world know on the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 15, 1972, on the field of Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium during Game Two of the World Series between the Oakland As and the Cincinnati Reds. It was the 25th anniversary of his racial barrier-breaking accomplishment.

“I’d like to live to see a black manager. I’d like to live to see the day when there’s a black man coaching at third base,” Robinson said.

Managerial Progress

However, there are only two Black managers in the major leagues after 50 years — currently: Roberts for the Dodgers and Dusty Baker for the Houston Astros.

Reports are that the percentage of African-American players in MLB fell from 19 percent in 1986, according to the Society for American Baseball Research, to 7 percent in this season’s opening-day rosters.

Draft-Day Woes

“When you’re talking about undeveloped, raw, talented African-American players, that process takes time,” said Roberts. “It always has.

“When the draft is shortened, it just doesn’t give those same guys the opportunities. It also doesn’t give the organizations the opportunity to seek those guys or identify those guys.

“For me, you’re shortening the draft, you’re eliminating farm teams, you’re looking for more turnkey guys. The way the game has been for the last 20 years, those are people not of color.”

Roberts understands that progress only occurs if forced into reality. During this iteration of Jackie Robinson Day, he is not allowing the status quo of the anniversary’s commemoration to cloud the journey still left to travel.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.