The Historical Impact Of Mookie Betts’ Inevitable AL MVP Award

If he wins, Betts will become the first African-American to win the American League MVP award since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997.

On November 12th Boston Red Sox multi-skilled Black Knight Mookie Betts will become the first African-American to win the American League MVP award since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997, breaking a 21-year drought. The award will make two epic gifts the new father receives in a week’s span.

Boston Red Sox on Twitter

2018 has been pretty epic for @mookiebetts! Congrats, Mookie! ? ? Mookie’s IG

When I spoke to him about diversity in baseball at the 2017 MLB All-Star Game in Miami,  Betts said he thinks any progress is a step in the right direction. He brought up a great point about how many black athletes participate in sports where they are very confrontational and are paid to inflict pain on one another. He sees stronger black participation in baseball as an inevitable rise.

So far he’s been right. The African-American population increased to 7.8% in 2018, up from 7.1% a year ago, on Major League Baseball’s opening-day rosters and disabled lists, according to USA TODAY Sports’ annual study.

It happened to be baseball’s largest growth since 2007-2008. There were 68 African Americans on rosters, six more than a year ago when baseball had its lowest percentage of black players since 1958.

“I see the All-Star game and even this year’s MLB Draft as a huge positive,” Betts said.  “The more that African-Americans can get into a sport where we are not trying to hurt each other like football, the better. And not everyone is blessed with being 6-foot-8 and can go to the NBA.”

From 1990 to 1995, nine of the 12 American and National League MVP winners were African -American. Between 1990-1997 the American League MVP went to an African-American player in five of those years. Black excellence in baseball was booming as players of color dazzled on the diamond, glistening products of Jackie Robinson’s barrier-breaking heroics.

Pretty Rickey Henderson, MLB’s all-time stolen base king, won it in 1990 with Oakland.

MLB | A Rickey Henderson Tribute

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The “Big Hurt” Frank Thomas won the award in ‘93 and ‘94 with the Chicago White Sox.

Frank Thomas | Career Highlights

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Boston Red Sox slugger Mo Vaughn rode his best season to the MVP in 1995.

Mo Vaughn Boston Red Sox In His Prime! It was exciting to be at a Boston Red Sox game in the 1990’s and anticipate when Mo Vaughn was coming up to the plate because it was something you didn’t want to miss by getting a hot dog or soda!

The last brother to be named the premier player in the American League was Griffey Jr., who many consider the last transcending black baseball player (with all due respect to Barry Bonds).

After leading the Red Sox to the World Series, the baseball world has conceded the AL MVP to Betts. Enhancing Betts’ popularity and accomplishments are the facts that he’s making it happen in Boston, a city that was the last to respect Jackie Robinson’s integration of the sport in 1947.

It wasn’t until 1959 that Boston reluctantly signed its first African-American player, Pumpsie Green.

This Day In Sports: Pumpsie Green Breaks The Red Sox Color Barrier

On July 21,1959, Boston reluctantly became the last MLB team to put brothers on

Soul Patrolling Black To the Future

50 years later and Betts is the toast of the town. He’s also a brother-in-ball with Jackie Bradley Jr., who roams the Boston outfield with Betts. Together they conjure memories of the Soul Patrol, Atlanta’s 2013 all-black outfield featuring The Upton Brothers and Jason Heyward.

The formation of ATL’s multi-skilled clique sparked a once-dormant optimism that Atlanta would recapture its lost black baseball audience.

“For me it’s such a relief to be able to see [the Upton brothers and Heyward] — I call them the Soul Patrol — in the outfield,” said former Braves outfielder Brian Jordan, who in ’00, along with Reggie Sanders and Andruw Jones, comprised the last Braves outfield prominent with shades of brown. “I haven’t seen anything like this since I was playing.”

It’s the last all-black everyday outfield that baseball has seen.

Since Jordan’s prime years with the Braves (’89-’91), Atlanta’s black baseball stars have become almost non-existent. Same thing in Boston. Before the arrival of Betts, the city hadn’t had a Black baseball superhero since Mo Vaughn briefly in the 90s and Hall of Famer Jim Rice in the 80s.

Betts is very aware of the historical and cultural impact of his accomplishments. He’s aware of the history of mythical black ballers who have preceded him and how the numbers of black kids picking up the sport and becoming pros have diminished over the years.

Five MLB Black Panthers To Watch In 2018

These black diamond miners are out to get the bag.

Betts is in the early stages of a legendary career, finishing in the Top 10 in the MVP voting in two of his first three full seasons in the league. Just weeks into this season, everyone had an inkling that this would be the year Betts finally got his ultimate respect. Betts never slowed down and had a rare 30-30 campaign. He also won the Rod Carew batting title award and led the AL in slugging. The three-time All-star matched his offensive prowess with a Gold Glove performance that arguably makes him the game’s premier five-tool player.

“Baseball is a sport where size doesn’t matter,” said Betts who is barely 5-foot-9. “Star athletic ability matters and it’s something that can keep us out of the streets and help us understand that this is a good, safe avenue to explore your athleticism. It’s not boring, it’s fun and all they have to do is give it a chance and we can all play it.”

He’s been proving that all season and in a few days his efforts will be immortalized in baseball lore.

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