The same week that civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks dies, the Associated Press provides a report on the number of black players in Major League Baseball. The headline is "Astros first W.S. team in 52 years without black player".
First off, this article shows how far we have come in this country. The last World Series team without a black player was the NY Yankees in 1953. At that point, just six years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, the team had never employed a single black player. Half a century later we're no longer concerned about prejudice preventing an individual from taking full advantage of his gifts and participating in society. No serious person believes that the Astros have no black players because they are racist. Today the concern is whether we have the "right" number of each group in a given profession and how to achieve that elusive goal, even when the causes may have very little to do with race.
Second, I fail to see how the lack of blacks in MLB is a "huge, huge problem for baseball", as Astros GM Tim Purpura is quoted as saying. At this point in time professional sports are about as close to a meritocracy as anything is in our society. People of all races have the opportunity to play if they're good enough to be there. Even if there are pockets of lingering racism in sports (and no doubt there are) there are enough open minded executives to sign and play anyone who can hit a ball, or throw a pass, or shoot a basket.
I agree that if there truly is "a perception among African-American kids that they're not welcome here, that baseball is not for inner-city kids," as Joe Morgan says then this is a problem. You want your talent pool to be as broad as possible and the same goes for your customer base. But I wonder if the lack of interest in baseball in cities has more to do with the development of organized youth sports in this country than anything else. Growing up in the city I played stickball or pickup games in the streets or school yards. These days there is more of an emphasis on organized leagues, with uniforms and coaches and facilities and away from pickup sports for fun. It's a lot harder for a kid growing up in a city, where space is short, to play baseball when there's a perception that you have to have all of the trappings rather than just playing with what you've got.
I can also understand how a great ballplayer like Morgan can be very disappointed when the community he identifies with doesn't embrace the sport that he loves. I hate the fact that baseball is no longer the prime sport in this country. But this is a marketing problem, not a race problem.