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American-born Black MLB pitchers: Close to a Vanishing Breed?

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  • American-born Black MLB pitchers: Close to a Vanishing Breed?

    USA Today Sports Weekly did a feature article last year that pointed out that African-American players represented under 10% of the total players in the major leagues early in the 2012 season, for the first time since the early days of integration circa 1950-54. A concurrent trend is the almost complete disappearence of Black
    American-born pitchers. (with just a few notable exceptions). The trend is completely opposite for Black Hispanic pitchers who are flourishing in the major leagues and outnumber their American-born Black pitcher counterparts by a large measure. (probably by 5 times or more).

    A check of players in the 2012 Who's Who In Baseball listing players who played in 2011 revealed only eight American-born black pitchers who competed in the majors in 2011 and since Arthur Rhodes has apparently retired and Dontrelle Willis appeared only briefly in the majors last season that leaves just six American-born black pitchers who completed the 2012 season in the majors (Aside from Tampa Bay's Chris Archer, who joined the Rays for the last six weeks of last season, I can't presently recall any other American-born African-Americn rookie pitchers who debuted n the big leagues in 2012.). The six are: David Price, Edwin Jackson, James McDonald, Jerome Williams, LaTroy Hawkins and Darren Oliver. While Price is a superstar and three others are good pitchers in their primes, Hawkins and Oliver, have shown tremendous career longevity but both have reached age 40 and may not be in the big leagues too much longer. (Also note that Corey Wade has appeared in parts of the last few seasons.)

    A partial explanation may be that black players who show talent both as pitchers and position players are for some reason often encouraged (if they are high school or college players) or directed (if they've been drafted by a major league team) to give up pitching and become a position player/hitter.

    I don't see this trend changing in the short-term future either. As a Phillies fan I checked the Phillies Top 20 Prospects and found that there was just one American Black pitcher on that list, Perci Garner. He didn't have an exceptional 2012 season and his stay among the Top 20 might be in jeopardy when updated prospect lists are issued in 2013. The Phillies situation is appears to be reresentative of the major league clubs in general.
    If there are any exceptional American-born Black pitching prospects in other MLB organizations please include that in your responses.

  • #2
    I was actually thinking of starting a thread about this. For whatever reason, there have never been a lot of black pitchers in MLB. It's the only position in which very few of the all-time greats are black (3B, apropos of nothing that I can identify, seems to be only other position of which that's even partially true). There's Gibson and Jenkins, of course, and the best Negro League pitchers, and Don Newcombe, Vida Blue, Doc Gooden...then I start to get stuck.

    My best theory on why this is is that the Negro Leagues put value on multiple positions, and insisted that most of their pitchers be able to hit and play other positions, later than MLB. Don't know if it's true, but it's the only reason I can think of why it might be the case.

    Black athletes are also, generally, turning more to other sports. I could get into all sorts of sociological reasons as to why this might be, but I'd be grasping at straws at some point, my knowledge in the area just isn't broad enough. But I do think it's interesting. Lots of great AA players at C, 1B and OF, and a fair amount at other infield positions as well. But not a lot of pitchers, and I'm not sure there's ever been.
    Found in a fortune cookie On Thursday, August 18th, 2005: "Hard words break no bones, Kind words butter no parsnips."

    1955 1959 1963 1965 1981 1988 2017?

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    • #3
      What about Robert Carson of the Mets? Debuted last season at age 23.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by toomanyhatz View Post
        I was actually thinking of starting a thread about this. For whatever reason, there have never been a lot of black pitchers in MLB. It's the only position in which very few of the all-time greats are black (3B, apropos of nothing that I can identify, seems to be only other position of which that's even partially true). There's Gibson and Jenkins, of course, and the best Negro League pitchers, and Don Newcombe, Vida Blue, Doc Gooden...then I start to get stuck.

        My best theory on why this is is that the Negro Leagues put value on multiple positions, and insisted that most of their pitchers be able to hit and play other positions, later than MLB. Don't know if it's true, but it's the only reason I can think of why it might be the case.

        Black athletes are also, generally, turning more to other sports. I could get into all sorts of sociological reasons as to why this might be, but I'd be grasping at straws at some point, my knowledge in the area just isn't broad enough. But I do think it's interesting. Lots of great AA players at C, 1B and OF, and a fair amount at other infield positions as well. But not a lot of pitchers, and I'm not sure there's ever been.
        For starters, try Sam Jones and Alvin Jackson in the past, and CC Sabathia at present.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Joe Barrie View Post
          For starters, try Sam Jones and Alvin Jackson in the past, and CC Sabathia at present.
          For starters? I'd say it just about ends there. I know there are others, and it is a generalization, but look at anybody's top players at each position and you'll see fewer at pitcher than anywhere else by far, it seems to me. By comparison, it seems elsewhere there's at least 3 or 4 out of the top ten in most places (other than, for whatever reason, 3B).
          Found in a fortune cookie On Thursday, August 18th, 2005: "Hard words break no bones, Kind words butter no parsnips."

          1955 1959 1963 1965 1981 1988 2017?

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          • #6
            Bob Veale was another good one from the 60s, Oil Can Boyd in more recent years, plus a few others. However, the exceptions seem to be proving the rule.

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            • #7
              Was there ever a time when there were substantial African-American major league pitchers?
              Last edited by Honus Wagner Rules; 12-21-2012, 12:29 PM.
              Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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              • #8
                And don't forget Ferguson Jenkins (yeah, I know he was born in Canada) and Lee Smith.

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                • #9
                  Doc Ellis and Joe Black could be mentioned but I gotta admit the black usa born pitchers are pretty thin. I know Gibson was a top 10-15 pitcher of alltime but sometimes when I talk to baby boomers they act like Gibson was the best pitcher ever. I have to wonder if race plays a part on why they may say that.
                  "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

                  "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by chicagowhitesox1173 View Post
                    Doc Ellis and Joe Black could be mentioned but I gotta admit the black usa born pitchers are pretty thin. I know Gibson was a top 10-15 pitcher of alltime but sometimes when I talk to baby boomers they act like Gibson was the best pitcher ever. I have to wonder if race plays a part on why they may say that.
                    I think it's more like that Bob Gibson was the star pitcher in their youth. Gibson was very famous and of course had lots of World Series highlights.
                    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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                    • #11
                      Taijuan Walker of the Mariners may make his MLB debut in '13.
                      The Ultimate Baseball Look

                      Modern Synthetic Baseball Fields

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                      • #12
                        Black players tend to play more athletic positions, like the outfield. I imagine nearly all black players in the MLB are outfielders, right? Outside a couple second and first basemen, I can't think of a black third basemen, shortstop, or catcher.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by DClutch View Post
                          Black players tend to play more athletic positions, like the outfield. I imagine nearly all black players in the MLB are outfielders, right? Outside a couple second and first basemen, I can't think of a black third basemen, shortstop, or catcher.
                          Ed Charles, Hubie Brooks, Terry Pendleton and maybe Bobby Bonilla although he would probably be considered latino were all decent thirdbasemen. Negro Leagues....Ray Dandridge or Judy Johnson

                          Roy Campanella, Elrod Hendricks, Charles Johnson, Elston Howard and Earl Battey for catcher. Negro Leagues...Josh Gibson

                          Ozzie Smith Shawn Dunston, ErnieBanks and Gary Templeton for shortstops. Negro Leagues...Pops Lloyd.
                          Last edited by chicagowhitesox1173; 12-21-2012, 06:28 PM.
                          "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

                          "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by chicagowhitesox1173 View Post
                            Ozzie Smith Shawn Dunston, ErnieBanks and Gary Templeton for shortstops. Negro Leagues...Pops Lloyd.
                            Jimmy Rollins, Royce Clayton.

                            John Roseboro at catcher, also.

                            Junior Gilliam played about half his games at third base.

                            And Mudcat Grant was a pretty fair pitcher that hasn't been mentioned.
                            They call me Mr. Baseball. Not because of my love for the game; because of all the stitches in my head.

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                            • #15
                              I don't understand why there is always discussion about blacks and baseball, like we need a certain level of African Americans in the sport just because we want to look diverse. Black people don't like baseball as much as basketball and football, so they play those sports more. They don't pitch, bummer. Oh well, who cares. I don't understand the underlying thinking that baseball needs some sort of race quota.

                              You know, there's hardly any white running backs in the NFL. That must be a travesty, and if it's not, let's make it one.
                              Last edited by Cowtipper; 12-22-2012, 03:58 AM.

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