The state of the black manager in Major League Baseball would disgust Jackie Robinson
We examined the numbers since Robinson called out the MLB in the 1972 World Series
It took Gary Jones absolutely no time to find success as a baseball manager. At 30 years old and in his first season as skipper of the Madison (Wisconsin) Muskies, he led the Class-A ballclub to a 77-61 record and to the 1991 Midwest League championship game.
The team would fall to the Clinton (Iowa) Giants, 3-0, but Jones received the Midwest League Manager of the Year award for his team’s success. Four years later and coming off a 1994 Southern League championship with the Double-A Huntsville (Alabama) Stars, Jones decided to interview for the Oakland Athletics’ managerial opening left by Hall of Famer Tony La Russa in 1995.
At two different levels, he had shown he was capable of guiding teams to the title game. But Oakland ultimately picked Art Howe for his experience, Jones recalled. So he went back to work in the minors, winning back-to-back Pacific Coast League championships with Edmonton (Alberta, Canada) in 1996 and 1997. He moved up to the major leagues in 2013 as third-base coach of the Chicago Cubs.
After 27 years as a manager or coach, four minor league Manager of the Year awards and a World Series title in 2016 with the Cubs, the 57-year-old has yet to become a manager with a Major League Baseball team. Jones is still holding out hope that one day he’ll get the call.
“It’s still an aspiration of mine to manage at the major league level,” Jones said. “I feel like I’ve paid my dues. You pull up my bio and my history and most of the teams I’ve been involved with have normally been winning teams, whether it be at the minor league level or major league level. I’ve never been one to toot my own horn, but I feel like I’ve been a big part of those situations.
“Not getting opportunities, not getting interviews. … I don’t have an agent. I just do my thing and hope my work will speak for itself. Sometimes, you sit back and see other guys getting opportunities with way less experience, and I’m not going to lie, sometimes I do shake my head and wonder, ‘Why don’t I get an opportunity to be put in that situation?'”
Jones, who is managing the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Philadelphia Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate, after the Cubs let him go in 2017, is asking a question that many African-Americans aspiring to manage at the highest level have been asking for the past 50 years.
The Undefeated, in collaboration with ESPN Stats & Information, studied the opportunities that black skippers and minority managers have been afforded since Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson called out MLB for its lack of black managers on Oct. 15, 1972, at Game 2 of the World Series.
“I am extremely proud and pleased to be here this afternoon,” Robinson, who died nine days later, said before 53,224 people at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, “but must admit, I am going to be tremendously more pleased and more proud when I look at the third-base coaching line one day and see a black face managing in baseball.”
It’s likely Robinson would be disgusted by how little has changed and how this problem has uniquely affected African-Americans. Sixteen black men have ascended to manager since he spoke out, filling 27 jobs — 10 interim and 17 full-time. Over that period, 224 men were hired to fill 470 openings (many jobs came open several times).
Two of the 27 openings were with teams that finished above .500 the previous season. Winning ballclubs have had substantially fewer issues extending managing opportunities to Latinx (nine of 31 openings) or Asian (one of two) skippers, by contrast. The average record of the teams that non-interim black managers inherited is 73-89.
For comparison, there have been 17 managerial jobs filled by individuals who didn’t have managerial or coaching experience at either the major league or minor league level. Frank Robinson and Buck Martinez are the lone people of color to manage with no prior experience.
Six of those opportunities (35.3 percent) were with winning teams, and white men filled five of those six openings. Aaron Boone of the New York Yankees is the latest example. Martinez was the lone minority without experience to take over a winning team, when the Blue Jays hired him in 2000.
Of the 27 times when a black manager has been hired, only two involved an organization with a winning record. But among the 15 white managers with no previous coaching experience at any level who were hired, five of them were handed the reins to an above .500 team at the time of their hiring.
Managers without experience who have taken over winning teams (since 1972 World Series)
|Manager||Team (Year)||Record at time of hire|
|Jim Fregosi||Los Angeles Angels (1978)||25-21|
|Larry Dierker||Houston Astros (1996)||82-80|
|Buck Martinez||Toronto Blue Jays (2000)||83-79|
|Mike Matheny||St. Louis Cardinals (2011)||90-72|
|Brad Ausmus||Detroit Tigers (2013)||93-69|
|Aaron Boone||New York Yankees (2017)||91-71|
What MLB has done since Robinson called out the league on its biggest stage is commit to the image of change in the absence of real change. If Robinson’s only request had been that black managers be in the game, then MLB could pat itself on the back.
But Robinson and other black players and coaches were asking for equal opportunity to succeed when they get those jobs. And when one considers that 25 of the 27 jobs black managers have come into are on losing teams, and men who have been toiling for nearly 30 years aren’t getting callbacks or are beaten out by others with less experience, then that’s not real progress.
In 1999, MLB established the Selig Rule, named after former commissioner Bud Selig, which requires teams to interview a person of color for high-ranking positions. Two years ago, former Pittsburgh Pirates director of player personnel Tyrone Brooks helped the league create a front-office and field staff diversity pipeline program in the hopes of expanding the pool of qualified minorities and women.
Just before the start of last season’s World Series, the inaugural Major League Baseball Diversity Fellowship Program was launched. Its goal is to attract, recruit and retain people of color and women and help them establish roots in the league.
“I actually think it’s so revealing that it was Jackie Robinson calling them out, because it speaks to how Major League Baseball has and continues to rely on the symbols of racial progress in absence of racial progress,” said David J. Leonard, a professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University. “So here we have Jackie Robinson pointing out the persistence of the color line in baseball, and he continues to be used by Major League Baseball as a symbol of change, yet he isn’t even heard. That his concerns and protests and demands weren’t heard over the last 46 years, and so I think it speaks to an investment in the symbolic change in absence of actual change or the embrace of a truly equitable playing field.”
When Ernie Banks filled in for Cubs manager Whitey Lockman after Lockman was ejected on May 8, 1973, Banks became the first African-American to manage an MLB game in any capacity. For this study, men who managed in a single game will be acknowledged, but if they weren’t credited with a win or loss for the game, they aren’t counted in the study’s statistics.
MLB didn’t have a full-time black manager until two years after Robinson died, when Cleveland named Frank Robinson in 1974. Forty-one years after Frank Robinson, Dusty Baker became the first black manager hired by a team above .500. He did so in his fourth managerial job with the 83-79 Washington Nationals in 2015. Dave Roberts, who took over the 92-70 Los Angeles Dodgers that same year, was the second African-American and first Asian manager to come into a winning ballclub.
So a manager with Baker’s credentials — seven winning seasons in his decade with the San Francisco Giants, three National League Manager of the Year awards and a World Series appearance in 2002 — didn’t inherit his first winning team until he was 20 years into his managerial career.
And even after taking on that winning team, improving its win total by 12 the first season and two more games the second season and leading it to back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history, Baker finds himself out of managing.
“Look at Dusty Baker,” Jones said. “This guy has done everything he needed to do. He’s always been successful, and they find a way to get rid of him for whatever reason. And now, he’s not even managing in the major leagues.
“Tell me why he’s not managing one of these major league clubs. You look at it, it doesn’t really make sense.”
Most occurrences of winning 90-plus games in final season (regardless of race)
Dusty Baker: 3
- 97 wins with 2017 Nationals
- 90 wins with 2013 Reds
- 95 wins with 2002 Giants
Bobby Cox: 2
- 91 wins with 2010 Braves
- 99 wins with 1985 Blue Jays
Lou Piniella: 2
- 93 wins with 2002 Mariners
- 90 wins with 1992 Reds
Alvin Dark: 2
- 98 wins with 1975 A’s
- 90 wins with 1964 Giants
Source: Elias Sports Bureau
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Baker is the only manager to coach three teams to 90-plus wins in his final season. Felipe Alou took over the 95-66 Giants team that Baker coached to the 2002 World Series, while Dave Martinez, in his first managerial job, took over the 97-65 Nationals.
“I’m not surprised by that at all,” Baker said of his distinction. “At some point, I started wondering, ‘What do I have to do to not get fired?'”
A black manager is more likely to lose a team he led to a winning record than inherit one. African-Americans have taken on winning teams twice (Baker and Roberts) while relinquishing the reins five times. Aside from Baker, Cito Gaston managed the 2010 Blue Jays to an 85-77 record in his last season and Jerry Manuel led the 2003 White Sox to an 86-76 mark in his final season.
No Asian managers have ever given up a winning ball club. Two Latinx managers — Corrales (43-42 Phillies, 1983) and Pinella (90-72 Reds, 1992, and 93-69 Mariners, 2002) — have not been brought back to teams they coached to an above .500 record.
“I don’t think one can look at the landscape and see one, progress, and two, a system and a culture of meritocracy, something that sports likes to describe itself as,” Leonard said. “In reality, we see example after example where success doesn’t translate into opportunity.
“Baker … [speaks] to how black managers and black coaches across different sports are not given credit for success. The success that they had is attributed to other factors — the general manager, the player performance — that it’s not about their ability to motivate. It’s not about their in-game moves.
“You’ll hear people who will justify the persistent color line and they’ll say, ‘Well, black managers haven’t been successful.’ When has anyone ever said, ‘Look at all those white managers who weren’t successful, I guess we’ll not hire any white managers this year.’ The lack of success of a black manager is used to make wide commentary about other black managers, whereas white managers that aren’t successful, that is about them as individuals or other factors.”
There are perks to being a white man with no managing or coaching experience when it comes to big league manager positions. That hiring trend has taken off since 2012, with eight men being hired to take over as skipper in the past six years.
Six managers of color, all of whom have coaching or managing experience, have been hired, on a non-interim basis, in that same span. All but three of the job searches since 2012 have had a candidate of color with coaching experience considered (Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers).
It should be noted that no one else was considered for the job in Miami where general manager Dan Jennings took over, and when Craig Counsell, the team’s special assistant, took over the reins, the other potential hire in Milwaukee was white. Only the Rockies have had a traditional job search where a candidate of color was not in consideration. (This information was determined by reviewing news articles about the coaching searches.)
The last eight managers with no experience and those who weren’t picked
CHICAGO WHITE SOX, 2012: Robin Ventura Not picked:
- Dave Martinez, bench coach (Tampa Bay Rays)
- Sandy Alomar, first base (Cleveland)
- Terry Francona, two-time World Series champion as manager (Boston Red Sox)
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS, 2012: Mike Matheny Not picked:
- Joe McEwing, manager (Charlotte Knights, White Sox’s Triple-A affiliate)
- Chris Maloney, manager (Memphis Redbirds, Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate)
- Jose Oquendo, two-time World Series champion as third base coach (Cardinals)
- Ryne Sandberg, manager, (Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A affiliate)
COLORADO ROCKIES, 2013: Walt Weiss Not picked:
- Tim Runnells, bench coach (Rockies)
- Jason Giambi, active player/free agent
- Matt Williams, third base (Arizona Diamondbacks)
DETROIT TIGERS, 2014: Brad Ausmus Not picked:
- Rick Renteria, bench coach (San Diego Padres)
- Lloyd McClendon, hitting coach (Tigers)
- Dusty Baker, three-time National League Manager of the Year, former manager (Cincinnati Reds)
- Eric Wedge, former manager (Seattle Mariners)
- Tim Wallach, third base (Los Angeles Dodgers)
MILWAUKEE BREWERS, 2015: Craig Counsell Not picked:
- Ron Gardenhire, World Series champion as third base coach and former manager (Minnesota Twins)
MIAMI MARLINS, 2015: Dan Jennings Not picked:
- No other candidates
SEATTLE MARINERS, 2016: Scott Servais Not picked:
- Jason Varitek, special assistant to the general manager (Red Sox)
- Tim Bogar, interim manager (Texas Rangers) and special assistant to the general manager (Los Angeles Angels)
- Charlie Montoyo, manager (Durham Bulls, Rays Triple-A affiliate)
NEW YORK YANKEES, 2017: Aaron Boone Not picked:
- Hensley Meulens, three-time World Series champion as hitting coach (San Francisco Giants)
- Carlos Beltran, retired player (Houston Astros)
- Rob Thompson, World Series champion as third base coach, bench coach (Yankees)
- Eric Wedge, player development advisor (Toronto Blue Jays)
- Chris Woodard, third base coach (Dodgers)
Leonard, along with Richard Lapchick, director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES), and Peggy McIntosh, author of the famous 1988 and 1989 papers that dissected white privilege and male privilege, have studied the way in which race shapes the perception of whose playing experience best prepares one to be a manager. Where black athletes are viewed as athletic and celebrated for their physical gifts, the language of white baseball players has historically and continues to be about leadership, being a hard worker and playing the game the right way.
“One white privilege is to know that if you are seen by whites as managing things well in any respect, you will be seen by those whites as a potential manager,” McIntosh, founder of the National SEED Project (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) and a senior research scientist at Wellesley College, said via email. “Another white privilege is to know that if you as a white person are appointed as a manager, others will feel it is appropriate to do what you ask. Very bad picture, isn’t it? Whites have been given the conviction that they are cut out to be [i.e. created to be] managers and are good at it.”
To this end, Leonard doesn’t believe there’s a way to justify the hiring of Boone over Meulens, who won three World Series in five years as the hitting coach for the Giants, speaks five languages and is a former Yankee. It does, however, spotlight the absurdity of those who argue the way to become a manager is to pay one’s dues, and that if a person of color just toils away — as position coaches, going to the minor leagues, Latin American or Caribbean leagues — and proves his value, then in due time a managerial job will open up to him.
If anything, Leonard said, this situation speaks to something he’s seen in his research, which is the centering of white players and the idea that a manager of color isn’t capable of relating to them. White managers, meanwhile, don’t have their ability to connect across racial, national and linguistic boundaries challenged, and their ability to connect with white players is of central importance. Black people and other minorities in baseball are often contorting themselves to fit into white space. That’s in contrast to their white counterparts, who have rarely had to function in an environment where they weren’t in the majority.
A perception that minorities may relate to one another because of potentially shared experiences, such as dealing with racism or discrimination on and off the field, is somehow viewed as they may not be able to relate to others who don’t deal with discrimination. Therefore, Leonard said, Meulens’ ability to connect with players from Japan, the Caribbean and throughout Latin America, as well as African-American players, isn’t viewed as an asset.
One of the biggest consequences of the Boone hiring is the message that the Yankees, the most recognizable brand in baseball, sent to minority candidates looking to apply to big league teams.
“It says that the long expression that transcends sports, that [black people] have to be twice as good as their white counterparts, is not only true, but maybe it’s three times as good. Maybe it’s four times as good. Maybe it doesn’t even matter,” Leonard said. “What we’ve seen is that every pathway that’s said to be ‘the pathway’ — whether it’s go to the minor leagues, be a bench coach or be a hitting coach — that those are not pathways that lead to managerial spots.”
Before 2012, just nine men without a coaching or managing résumé became skipper. Of the 17 total managers hired without coaching experience, just two were minorities: Buck Martinez and Frank Robinson. It’s worth noting that Robinson’s initial managerial experience was as player-manager, and therefore it would’ve been impossible for him to have had coaching experience because he was still playing when his managerial career started.
There were some other oddities in this group, including a special assistant to the general manager (Counsell, Brewers), a general manager (Jennings, Marlins) and Atlanta Braves team owner Ted Turner, who took over for a game.
Even though the total number of individuals (0.076 percent) and total number of jobs these men have held (0.034 percent) are extremely low, the number of successful teams these men have been hired for is substantially better than their black colleagues with experience.
“I definitely feel like black coaches and black managers in the minor leagues and black managers in the major leagues, sometimes it just seems like they get the short end of the stick,” said Jones. “I’m not blaming anybody, I’m just saying from our perspective, looking at it from our eyes, that’s the way it seems. I think if you ask most black coaches and managers that are in this game, most of them will tell you the same thing and feel the same way.”
Since the conclusion of the 1972 season, only 38 of the 224 overall managers have been of color, and of the 470 openings in the past 46 years, 59 have been filled by minorities. That breaks down to approximately 17 percent and 12.6 percent, respectively.
Of the 38 managers of color, 21 have been Latinx, 15 black, one Asian and one manager of two races. (Dave Roberts is black and Asian.) Three of the men from this pool — Piniella, Gaston and Ozzie Guillen — have won a World Series. This season, Rick Renteria, Roberts, Alex Cora and Dave Martinez are the lone managers of color in the majors and account for 13.3 percent of all the skippers in the league.
Eight men of color, in the chart below, have taken over a winner in their first managerial job, while three men — Alou, Baker and Fredi Gonzalez — did so in subsequent managerial posts.
Managers of color who inherited winning teams (since 1972 World Series)
|Manager||Team (Year)||Record before hire|
|Pat Corrales||Texas Rangers (1978)||86-75|
|Lou Pinella||New York Yankees (1985)||97-64|
|Ton Perez||Cincinnati Reds (1992)||90-72|
|Buck Martinez||Toronto Blue Jays (2000)||83-79|
|Felipe Alou||San Francisco Giants (2002)||95-66|
|Ozzie Guillen||Chicago White Sox (2003)||86-76|
|Fredi Gonzalez||Atlanta Braves (2010)||91-71|
|Dusty Baker||Washington Nationals (2015)||83-79|
|Dave Roberts||Los Angeles Dodgers (2015)||92-70|
|Dave Martinez||Washington Nationals (2017)||97-65|
|Alex Cora||Boston Red Sox (2017)||93-69|
Black managers, coaches and historians of the game say there’s a pervasive idea that the lack of black managers correlates to the lack of black baseball players and not a larger problem with racial inequality in society. But in the NBA and the NFL, where most of the players are black, there is still paltry representation in the head coaching and management ranks.
The idea that fewer players means fewer managers also doesn’t hold up when one considers the number of black coaches (88) was greater than the number of black players in the league (58) on Opening Day 2017.
“What we see in baseball is a microcosm of society as a whole,” Leonard said. “So for those individuals who want to come up with counterarguments, it’s important to look at how those counterarguments fall apart as we look at the shared seams across sports and across other industries. Ultimately, the question will be are we collectively OK with persistent color lines inside and outside of sports, notwithstanding a yearly Jackie Robinson celebration.”
The theory that more players leads to more skippers also discounts the influx of Latinx players, who, when they retire from playing, see many members of their community rise to the coaching ranks but see few achieve managerial status.
Last season, there were 239 (31.9 percent) Latinx players in the league and 357 (35.9 percent) coaches, but only one (3 percent) manager. The three Latinx managers this season account for 10 percent of all jobs and are tied for the second-most ever in one season.
“We haven’t seen a dramatic increase in the managers of color in that regard,” Leonard said.
According to the 2018 Racial and Gender Report Card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES), players of color accounted for 319 of the 750 (42.5 percent) players in the league on Opening Day 2017, an all-time high that received an A-plus, and coaches of color accounted for 467 of 994 (47 percent) of all coaches.
The Dodgers’ Farhan Zaidi (Asian) and the Detroit Tigers’ Al Avila (Latinx) were the two general managers of color last season, while the Miami Marlins’ Michael Hill (black) and the Chicago White Sox’s Kenny Williams (black) were the two presidents of baseball operations of color.
When Derek Jeter, who is part-owner of the Marlins, was named CEO by the team, he became MLB’s first African-American to serve in that role.
“You have to figure into it who’s doing the hiring,” said Lapchick, the director of TIDES at the University of Central Florida. “Who’s your general manager, who are the owners? … When you look at vice presidents, CEOs and presidents, there are not many people of color in that pipeline. So who do [the owners] know, who do they rely on, who do they listen to? If the owners are listening to them, and they’re all white men, then there could be an element of racial discrimination. But more likely it’s an element of the ol’ boys network continuing to operate as rapidly as it has done throughout the history of sports in America.
“Ultimately, there will be not only better baseball teams, but better as a society, if we embrace diversity,” Lapchick said. “There was a time when I was enthusiastic about both the Rooney Rule and the Bud Selig Rule, but obviously, if we only have four managers of color after we’ve had 10 at two points in history, then the Selig Rule only isn’t working and we need other things at play.”
The Undefeated reached out to MLB for comment about its study with ESPN Stats & Information and was referred to commissioner Rob Manfred’s past comments about the league’s efforts to diversify non-playing jobs:
“You can’t just say, ‘I’m going to improve my employment statistics’ and rest on that as your diversity program in today’s world,” Manfred said at the Fourth Annual Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium in 2015. “Our people want to do the right thing. But it’s much easier to get people committed to doing the right thing when your programs are supportive of your fundamental business objectives.
“The other thing we’re doing is very actively engaging with the clubs and focusing in the Commissioner’s Office on entry-level positions. I think it’s important not to just think about GMs and field managers but, over the long haul, to focus on the pool of people who ultimately will mature into candidates for those senior leadership positions.”
The assumption that black managers are landing most of their jobs with historically bad franchises because of the presumed high turnover of such organizations and the presumed lack of turnover with historically good teams is simply not true. Based on the data, high turnover is not indicative of team performance. Both good teams and bad teams can have high manager turnover.
Simply put, black managers, and minorities as a whole, are hired by organizations that are committed to diversity and not hired by franchises that aren’t.
“Diversity should be valued because bringing in different voices and different perspectives and people who have had different experiences has shown to lead to success,” Leonard said. “That homogeneity stifles creativity, that it stifles success. … For me, it’s also about dramatically changing the culture — one that embraces equity and inclusion — not simply because of the value of symbols.
“Until teams and the league itself see the value in diversity, even the most ardent rule change that requires teams to interview won’t have some effect, because then it’s about compliance as opposed to, ‘No, we can be better. We can be better as a league and as a team and as a society when we see the values and the strengths that every individual can bring.’ ”
The Yankees (23) and Los Angeles Angels (21) have had the second- and third-most managers hired since the conclusion of the 1972 season and have hired one manager of color each.
Every other team in the top nine has hired at least two minorities, and the Seattle Mariners, Reds, Houston Astros and Nationals/Montreal Expos have all had fewer openings at manager and hired three or more minorities.
Tied for 10th is the San Diego Padres, who have hired 18 managers and had zero minority skippers. Washington, which has also had 18 openings, has employed five minorities, including when the Nationals were the Expos.
Oakland, with zero minority hires, is underperforming every other team with 16 openings filled. Cleveland, the New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox have all had two or more managers of color, while the Red Sox with their recent hire of Cora have one.
San Francisco, with 12 openings, has hired more managers of color (3) than the Cardinals, Tigers, Phillies and Braves, who combined have hired two managers of color for their 56 openings.
“If baseball really wants to honor [Robinson], then it will look in the mirror and see how the absence of progress across the league in every aspect of its organizations needs to be rectified,” Leonard said. “What we see often is a refusal to confront this reality and excuse-making.”
Team managers of color
|Team||Manager openings||Hires of color (%)|
|Chicago Cubs||27||4 (15%)|
|New York Yankees||23||1 (4%)|
|Los Angeles Angels||21||1 (5%)|
|Milwaukee Brewers||20||2 (10%)|
|Cincinnati Reds||20||3 (15%)|
|Seattle Mariners||20||4 (20%)|
|Texas Rangers||20||2 (10%)|
|Houston Astros||19||3 (16%)|
|Washington Nationals||18||5 (28%)|
|San Diego Padres||18||0 (0%)|
|Kansas City Royals||17||2 (12%)|
|Miami Marlins||16||4 (25%)|
|Oakland Athletics||16||0 (0%)|
|Boston Red Sox||16||1 (6%)|
|Chicago White Sox||16||4 (25%)|
|Baltimore Orioles||16||2 (13%)|
|Toronto Blue Jays||16||3 (19%)|
|New York Mets||16||2 (13%)|
|Cleveland Indians||16||3 (19%)|
|Philadelphia Phillies||15||0 (0%)|
|Atlanta Braves||15||1 (7%)|
|Detroit Tigers||13||1 (8%)|
|St. Louis Cardinals||13||0 (0%)|
|San Francisco Giants||12||3 (25%)|
|Los Angeles Dogers||10||1 (10%)|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||10||1 (10%)|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||9||1 (11%)|
|Minnesota Twins||8||0 (0%)|
|Colorado Rockies||7||1 (14%)|
|Tampa Bay Rays||5||1 (20%)|
Black skippers are going to bad teams because they want to manage and don’t know when their next opportunity will come, said Jones. Often, it’s a lose-lose: They can hold out for a less awful team to come along, or they can take on these bad clubs knowing they probably won’t have enough time to fix them.
As blue-blood teams simply don’t afford black managers the chance to manage their ballclubs, and even some of the historically bad franchises haven’t opened their doors to the group over the past four decades, Robinson would not be pleased to see that the league continues to drag its feet.
“If they don’t have the opportunity to really build something and be successful, then the chances of them being successful is, obviously, radically diminished,” said Lapchick.
Fundamentally, the lack of diversity in general managers and other front-office positions has consequences in terms of managerial choices, both Leonard and Lapchick warned. To continue to create change, critical conversations need to be had that expose color lines and hold teams accountable. Establishing how teams and managers pick out and prepare the next generation to become managers has to also be addressed.
Racial biases about black intelligence persist and manifest in new forms today. In the conversations surrounding the recent trend that managers be invested in and understand analytics, the coded language and stereotypes that privilege white candidates as being better prepared for a game about computer formulas and probability are used to justify why certain individuals are picked over others.
“You’ll even hear the way black managers are undercut — their in-game decisions were not good, or they didn’t know how to push the right buttons,” Leonard said. “All these nebulous and ambiguous descriptors that again plays on these long-standing ideas about not only leadership but intelligence, preparedness.”
This is history repeating itself, as 50 years ago the league was being called out by players, the media and coaches for its procurement of black bodies to line its pockets but not the extension of jobs outside of the field of play.
Joe Black took to the Chicago Daily Defender in 1968 to call out the league, the same way Maury Wills did a year later in the Philadelphia Tribune.
Bill White told the Tribune‘s Claude E. Harrison on May 27, 1969: “I figure it’s time for Negroes to be more in baseball than merely players. But it will take an owner with guts to name a Negro manager. … And it shouldn’t be a showcase job. The first should be picked because he’s the most qualified man. Not as a Negro, but as a man who can win.”
Jones, on April 14, 2018, said: “Let me clarify myself here, I wouldn’t want to be given a job just because it was a black owner or a black GM and they’re just giving me the job because I’m black. I don’t want a job just because I’m black. I want a job because somebody sees that, ‘Hey, this guy just happens to be black, but we know he’s going to do the job.’ ”
The quotes above from White and Jones are nearly 50 years apart. They’re virtually identical. That speaks volumes about the lack of progress that black managers have made in MLB.
- When the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals, Frank Robinson maintained his job as manager, and therefore it doesn’t count as a new job.
- Piniella’s family descends from Spain, but culturally he considers himself Latino, which is why he’s considered a manager of color in these findings.