For the first time since shortly after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros does not project to feature any Black players who were born in the United States, according to The Associated Press. (Astros manager Dusty Baker is Black, but will not take the field.)
Robinson played in the World Series in 1947 during his debut season with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Since then, the 1950 series between the New York Yankees and Phillies has been the only World Series without a Black player.
The number of Black players in the major leagues has decreased substantially as more and more potential pro-caliber athletes are drawn to basketball and football growing up. Although 38% of MLB’s opening day rosters were made up of players of color, only 7.2% of those players were Black. That’s down from 7.6% last year and is the lowest mark since the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport first collected data in 1991. “It’s the exclamation point,” said Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport director Richard Lapchick. “It’s been a story that’s been ongoing since the late 1980s, the decline of Black baseball players.”
To help reverse that trend MLB also has pledged $150 million over the next decade to the Players Alliance, an organization of current and former players working to increase Black interest and involvement at all levels of baseball.
In another rarity for the World Series that also ties into the questionable relevancy of Major League Baseball in an NFL world, this year’s Fall Classic will not have any Sunday games for the first time since the Series started being televised in its entirety in 1947.
The Series starts Friday and will then have games on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday followed by games on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday if needed. Given that schedule, the only game that will conflict with an NFL matchup is on Monday during the Bengals-Browns game on Monday Night Football.
Instead of fighting the NFL for ratings, MLB is simply waving the white flag, Fox Sports executive vice president and head of programming and scheduling Bill Wanger told USA Today. “Obviously, we didn’t want to go head to head with the NFL on multiple nights,” he said. “If you said, let’s start the World Series on a Thursday, you’d potentially be going head-to-head with the NFL on four nights. It’s a giant jigsaw puzzle, but every event has its place, and we maneuver the various properties to maximize all of them.”