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Right Field

Brief chronicles of our sporting times.

Wrigley Field Turns 100 Today



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A joke that’s heard in Chicago goes like this: “What do the Cubs and Marlins have in common? Neither has won a World Series in their new ballpark.”

Marlins Park opened two years ago, while the first professional baseball game in Wrigley Field (née Weeghman Park) was played on this date in 1914.

Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune offers up an interesting read on the North Side landmark, pointing out that the cathedral nearly hosted its first night game 46 years before the lights were finally turned on:

People think of Wrigley Field as a link to our past, and most view longtime owner Philip K. Wrigley as a traditionalist because of his resistance to installing lights.

But that’s not completely accurate. Wrigley was ready to begin playing night baseball in 1942, only to donate the lights, towers and cable to the government for the World War II effort the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941.

The Cubs host the Diamondbacks at 1:20 p.m. CDT.

Tags: MLB

Pujols Strokes No. 499, Then No. 500



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Congratulations, King Albert:

The impressive milestone notwithstanding, I’m guessing that the 34-year-old Pujols is even happier to have rediscovered the stroke that made him a St. Louis legend for eleven seasons. He has eight home runs and five doubles in a mere 92 plate appearances this season, good for a .619 slugging percentage and .406 weighted on-base average.

The Halos won their second in a row at Nationals Park, 7–2.

Tags: MLB

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The ‘Unwritten Rules’ Strike Again



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Last weekend was all about MLB’s “unwritten rules,” as the code that’s too amoprhous to put in writing reared its ugly head in Oakland on Friday, Washington on Saturday, and Pittsburgh on Sunday.

  • At O.Co Coliseum, a pitcher took exception to a bunt with his team down seven in the first inning. Words were exchanged between the pitcher and his skipper on one side and the batter on the other, leading to both benches’ emptying.
  • In Nationals Park, the home team’s young superstar didn’t run through the first-base bag on a comebacker, never mind that the out had already been recorded by the time he peeled off in the direction of the dugout. In response, the manager abruptly removed him from the game.
  • Over at PNC Park, a pitcher who has less than one year of service in the majors got peeved after a batter playing in his eighth big-league season hit a deep fly to center and then flipped his bat and started a slow trot toward first base. When the ball neither cleared the fence nor was caught, the batter turned on the jets and slid into third base with a triple. The pitcher and a bench-warming teammate ran over to the batter to jaw at him, and a brawl ensued.

The objection to Jed Lowrie’s bunt against the shift is downright silly. Even if you believe that a bunt or attempted steal in a blowout is bush-league, no professional team with an ounce of dignity — yes, that includes the bottom-feeding Astros and manager Bo Porter — has the right to cry “No más!” in the bottom of the first inning.

Bryce Harper is the face of his franchise and, if anything, he too often risks injury by playing the game with reckless abandon. On the play in question, he hit a one-hopper back to the mound. Although out by a country mile, he didn’t run through the bag – apparently a cardinal sin in Matt Williams’s unwritten rule book. Why that’s so important on a comebacker is beyond me. And even so, why make a mountain out of a molehill? Was yanking the 21-year-old from a close game ND then later blabbing to reporters about his decision the appropriate way to address the matter?

From batting Harper sixth on the second game of the season to whispering to the Washington Post’s Tom Boswell that he faked a quadricep injury so as not to face Marlins’ ace Jose Fernandez, the Nats seem more interested in feuding with their five-tool sensation than with the rival Braves. He won’t be a free agent until four more seasons, but the Nats act as though they can’t wait to see him playing the game in pinstripes.

Whatever you thought of last September’s Turner Field antics featuring Carlos Gomez, the behavior of the Brewers’ center fielder on slugging Gerrit Cole’s over-the-middle fastball was more mild than your typical deep-fly flip-and-pose. Moreover, Gomez’s slow trot toward first might have cost him a chance at an inside-the-park home run, which should have angered his own teammates, not Cole. Heck, the young pitcher and Travis Snider, the bench player, should have profusely thanked him for dogging it out of the box.

In each of these cases, the breaking of one of three of the game’s supposedly unwritten rules — don’t bunt when your team is way ahead, run through the first-base bag even though you’re out by 45 feet and/or not 100 percent healthy, and don’t admire a well-struck ball because it upsets the opposing pitcher — resulted in hurt feelings because they’re either ambiguous and/or plain stupid.

The solution?

I don’t know, perhaps players and managers alike may devote a little less energy on attitude adjustment and more on winning the darn game?

Tags: MLB

Reveille 4/21/14



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Good morning.

Here are several links from the past week that will make your Monday at the office a bit more bearable:

As good as they are, the A’s easily could ask: Why should we pigeonhole ourselves? Why should [Jim] Johnson or anyone else solely pitch the ninth? Most teams need multiple closers to get through a season, anyway. Heck, eight other clubs already have swapped out their original choice because of injury or ineffectiveness, and it’s only mid-April.

To be sure, devotees of Bill James would rejoice if the A’s abandoned the standard middle reliever/setup man/closer setup in favor of a less structured approach. Managers, though, generally prefer order in their bullpens. And relievers generally prefer defined roles. . . .

To be sure, a one-inning closer who pitches mostly in save situations is not conducive to an optimal bullpen. On the other hand, the creation of an entirely new usage pattern would require not just a strong manager, but also strong-minded relievers.

  • While ESPN Radio gabber Mike Greenberg kvetches that the strike zone is too small, Beyond the Boxscore’s Chris Moran shows that the K rate keeps rising.
  • Pay close attention, fans of the Diamondbacks and Brewers: Moran’s colleague, Scott Lindholm, investigates whether early-season records, really good (Milwaukee) and pretty awful (Arizona), are accurate barometers of how teams will perform the rest of the way.
  • Citing a plate appearance from a recent Astros–Blue Jays game, Blake Murphy of Fangraphs asks, “Why would a pitcher pitch against the shift?”

As mentioned, the Astros were probably smart to employ a shift and then pitch “out” of the shift by dealing away. Last year, [Jose] Bautista took 27 outside pitches to the opposite field while pulling 64 outside pitches. More importantly, he hit groundballs to the right side on just six occasions compared to 49 pulled groundballs.

In other words, even with an outside pitch that should theoretically be easier to take the other way, Bautista is pretty unlikely to hit a groundball to the right side, meaning the cost of shifting isn’t very high at all. Sometimes pull-push percentages can confuse the fact that teams don’t care about pull rates on the whole when shifting, they only care about where groundballs are hit (since, obviously, flyballs and even linedrives are less likely to land where shifted players are or are not).

 

 

  • David Schoenfield of ESPN’s SweetSpot discusses yesterday’s on-field brawl in Pittsburgh featuring the showy and combustible Carlos Gomez. (I hope to offer a few thoughts later today regarding three weekend incidents — the one in Oakland, the one in Washington, and the aforementioned one in Pittsburgh — involving the so-called unwritten rules.)

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Tags: MLB

Did the Secret Service Take Aim at Mr. Met?



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According to a new book by the young man who inhabited the Mr. Met costume from 1994 to 1997, it nearly came to that:

 

 

[A. J.] Mass was angling to get a picture with Clinton on April 15, 1997 — the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s historic first major league game.

Accompanied by two female college interns, the costumed Mass set off in search of his presidential prey: “The holy grail for all mascots — a photo op and meet and greet with a sitting President,” he wrote.

His hopes were soon crushed by the Secret Service agent sporting a dark suit and a darker mood.

Mass recalled the agent started eyeballing him after Mr. Met’s head failed to fit through an on-field metal detector.

Alas, the article doesn’t indicate whether the “two female college interns” were able to spend quality time with President Clinton.

More here.

Tags: MLB

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Chris Resop Strikes a Pose



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Well, my first visit to the Cespedes Family Barbeque site was a memorable one.

While sitting down during lunch today, I clicked over to check out a recommended post from Jordan Shusterman entitled ”Chris Resop — The Most Interesting Reliever in the World”:

As some of you may know, I am quite fond of ridiculously lopsided batter-pitcher match-ups. The match-up that everyone’s been freaking out about lately is Paul Goldschmidt vs. Tim Lincecum, and rightfully so. It’s completely ridiculous. Anyway, I was recently checking out Starlin Castro’s most lopsided match-ups. Sure enough, there was Resop. Castro is 6-8 with three home runs, zero walks, zero strikeouts, and one hit-by-pitch against Mr. Resop. Interesting! Sorta. Using our buddy Daren Willman‘s amazing Media tab on Chris Resop’s player page over on baseballsavant.com, I went back and found video of the three dingers he gave up to Starlin.

To find out what Shusterman subsequently uncovered about Resop, you will need to visit his post.

H/T Baseball Think Factory.

Tags: MLB

The NYT vs. Florida State’s Jameis Winston



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The Times has a damning report out today on the handling of the rape case against Florida State’s star QB, Jameis Winston. In summary, “there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.”

The opener:

Early on the morning of Dec. 7, 2012, a freshman at Florida State University reported that she had been raped by a stranger somewhere off campus after a night of drinking at a popular Tallahassee bar called Potbelly’s.

As she gave her account to the police, several bruises began to appear, indicating recent trauma. Tests would later find semen on her underwear.

For nearly a year, the events of that evening remained a well-kept secret until the woman’s allegations burst into the open, roiling the university and threatening a prized asset: Jameis Winston, one of the marquee names of college football.

Three weeks after Mr. Winston was publicly identified as the suspect, the storm had passed. The local prosecutor announced that he lacked the evidence to charge Mr. Winston with rape. The quarterback would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Florida State to the national championship.

In his announcement, the prosecutor, William N. Meggs, acknowledged a number of shortcomings in the police investigation. In fact, an examination by The New York Times has found that there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.

The police did not follow the obvious leads that would have quickly identified the suspect as well as witnesses, one of whom videotaped part of the sexual encounter. After the accuser identified Mr. Winston as her assailant, the police did not even attempt to interview him for nearly two weeks and never obtained his DNA.

The detective handling the case waited two months to write his first report and then prematurely suspended his inquiry without informing the accuser. By the time the prosecutor got the case, important evidence had disappeared, including the video of the sexual act.

“They just missed all the basic fundamental stuff that you are supposed to do,” Mr. Meggs said in a recent interview. Even so, he cautioned, a better investigation might have yielded the same result.

The case has unfolded as colleges and universities across the country are facing rising criticism over how they deal with sexual assault, as well as questions about whether athletes sometimes receive preferential treatment. The Times’s examination — based on police and university records, as well as interviews with people close to the case, including lawyers and sexual assault experts — found that, in the Winston case, Florida State did little to determine what had happened.

The rest here.

Welcome to Vandelay Industries Park



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Via the New York Daily News: The Mets’ single-A farm team on Coney Island wants its fans to be masters of their domain:

In a promotion straight out of Bizarro World, the Brooklyn Cyclones will celebrate “Salute to Seinfeld Night” in honor of the “show about nothing.”

Scheduled for July 5, the 25th anniversary of the show’s first airing, the event includes free Keith Hernandez “Magic Loogie” Bobblehead dolls to the first 2,500 fans who arrive at MCU Park — which will be called Vandelay Industries Park for the special occasion.

The Cyclones are also promising a free ticket to anybody who shows up with a business card proving they are a latex salesman, as long as the telephone number given isn’t for an apartment on the Upper East Side.

Unfortunately, there’s no truth to the rumor that the right-field foul pole will be replaced with the aluminum pipe Frank Costanza uses during Festivus.

More here.

These Phillies Fans Have the Video of the Day



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Via Deadspin, watch Dan Uggla, batting in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and his team down by one, respond to fans showering him with Citizens Bank Ballpark’s version of Brotherly Love:

The final score: Braves 9, Phillies 6.

Tags: MLB

The IOC Warns Rio On 2016 Olympic Preparations



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Last week the IOC warned Rio that their Olympic preparations were way behind schedule. And this labor strike won’t help:

Workers at the main venue of the 2016 Olympic Games voted on Monday to continue their strike indefinitely, just days before officials from the International Olympic Committee are due to visit Rio de Janeiro and encourage the city to speed up preparations.

Around 2,500 workers at the Olympic Park, a huge area that will host more than a dozen events, are seeking higher pay and more benefits.

“We don’t know how long we’ll be on strike,” Antonio Figueiredo Souza, president of the construction workers union Sintraconst-Rio, told Reuters.

“We are not going back until we get an offer. So far that hasn’t happened and so it looks like this will end up in the Labour Courts.”

The strike began on April 3 and is the latest in a series of problems affecting the preparations for the 2016 games, the first ever to be held in South America.

Brazil’s preparations are way behind schedule, and work at some venues has not even started. With just over two years to go before the Games begin organisers are still to say how much the extravaganza will cost and which sphere of government will pay for the different jobs that need to be done.

The IOC last week announced Rio needs more oversight and said it will send officials to the city on a more frequent basis. The IOC’s executive director Gilbert Felli is to return to the city later this week.

The rest here.

 

Tags: Olympics

Frenchy Stars in the Video of the Day



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What is the world coming to when minor leaguers, including some who have never played a single game in the majors, pull a practical joke on a player with almost enough big-league playing time under his belt to be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration?

Nah, this is too funny to care all that much:

After spending 10 years in the big leagues, Jeff Francoeur finds himself playing for San Diego’s Triple A affiliate in El Paso. Instead of rolling out the red carpet to welcome the free-swinging outfielder, the Chihuahuas decided to play a month-long prank on him.

It took a total team effort to convince Francoeur starting pitcher Jorge Reyes was deaf. The payoff for this massive conspiracy is a seven-minute video roasting him for his stupidity.

More here.

Tags: MLB

Reveille 4/14/14



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Good morning.

Here are several links from the past week that will make your Monday at the office a bit more bearable:

  • Not only did Garcia’s teammate, Jose Abreu, slug two home runs against the Indians on Thursday evening, reports Lindsey Foltin of Fox Sports Ohio, he managed to tear open a brand-new ball with another swing.   
  • Abreu’s 439-foot bomb in the second inning of that game came off Danny Salazar. Gammons Daily’s Bill Chuck noted that the 24-year-old fireballer had a most peculiar outing:

Salazar faced just 18 batters [over three and two-thirds innings,] allowing six hits, including two homers and a double, and walked two and permitted five runs.

Now here’s the amazing part . . .

He struck out every other batter he faced.

Check out his BABIP yesterday — the White Sox were perfect [1.000].

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Tags: MLB

Nebraska’s Bo Pelini Takes the Field - With His Cat



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First, some background. There’s a hilarious Twitter-parody account of Nebraska’s head football coach called @FauxPelini that has a photoshopped picture of the acerbic coach cuddling with a cat:

Pelini has been good-natured about the account in the past, and at one point asked the parody account for his cat back.

And to continue the gag, Pelini brought the cat with him to Nebraska’s spring game, much to the delight of the fans:

Click the link in the tweet above for the video.

According to ESPN’s write-up of the game, the Huskers have issues at QB. Can the cat help with that I wonder?

 

Tags: NCAA

Report: Manziel Had Top QB Wonderlic Score



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CBS Sports:

Texas A&M redshirt sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel reportedly scored a 32 on the Wonderlic intelligence test, tops among the highest-ranked prospects at the position in the 2014 NFL Draft. [. . .]

For most teams, the timed logic and reasoning test is used to gauge calm and critical thinking in a pressure environment. The test is given by most teams at the Scouting Combine, when they also are put through athletic, medical and psychological testing.

Manziel is regarded as a top 10 prospect in the 2014 draft. As many as five quarterbacks could be drafted in the top 40 picks: UCF’s Blake Bortles, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Fresno State’s Derek Carr and Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garroppolo.

The rest here.

 

Tags: NFL

This White Sox Beer Vendor Has the Play of the Day



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Thanks to Comcast Sports Net Chicago via Big League Stew’s David Brown, we get this painful highlight from the Cell:

As Frank Costanza once explained, “It was a million to one shot, Doc. Million to one.”

Tags: MLB

Stars and Stripes Burns in Atlanta



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In the aftermath of their home opener on Tuesday, a 4-0 loss to the Mets, Atlanta decided to resume the Civil War:

New pyrotechnics had been affixed to Braves Vision (the big screen in center field), and an errant firework lit the AMERICAN FLAG ON FIRE during a postgame fireworks show. One fan captured the incredible image and shared it on Facebook.

Team spokeswoman Beth Marshall said the team was trying a new location for a pyrotechnic display. …

“The flag was made of flame-retardant material so it didn’t catch fire, but did burn holes.  We replaced the flag immediately following the game and we will no longer use pyrotechnics from that location,” Marshall told Channel 2 Action News.

More here and here.

Sergio’s Moment



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I write this at 10 p.m. Central the night before the Masters, having meant all week to post it. The Masters this year has the worst story lines, entering it, of any Masters I can remember. There’s just no galvanizing story, no rivalry, no stars obviously peaking . . . nothing that makes for great drama going in, other than the fact that this is indeed Augusta, and Augusta in April rarely disappoints.

A few thoughts. First, I won’t even link to them, but I have been struck by an amazing spate of columns in recent days that effectively shovel dirt on the imaginary grave of Tiger Woods. For years, the golf press worshiped, at least in print, so obsequiously at the Shrine of Tiger that it was sickening. It was very, very, very, very, very difficult, pre-2009, to find anybody in print with the guts to criticize Woods about anything. Then, when he had his public fall from grace, the piling on began. He is standoffish. He curses. He’s not as gracious as Nicklaus when he loses. Heck, he’s not as gracious when he wins. He ignores the gallery. He tends to bend the rules in his favor. And on and on. All of these things are true. But none of them were frequently mentioned before Woods’s sex scandals came to light. And this week, with his missing the Masters because of injury, the media have been brutal. They compare him with Nicklaus, in terms of character and grace, and, accurately, find him wanting. They quote fellow players seeming to belittle him and to take his absence in stride, as if he’s no longer really a big deal. And the undertone of these columns is almost gleeful, as if the writers are just really enjoying “sticking it” to Woods.

I say enough already. A lot of the criticisms are accurate. I’m no big Tiger fan. But he’s not a monster. By the standards of any sport other than golf, he’s a reasonably good role model apart from his sexual escapades. He tries to comport himself with dignity, even if it doesn’t come naturally to him. He is usually courteous, even if not warm, to other players. He reveres the military, and honors military personnel every chance he gets. He does do good charitable work for children, and seems to really care about it. He gives all he has on the course. He plays hurt, horribly hurt. 

In short, he’s no ogre. And the time to kick him isn’t when he is down, suffering from a bad back and unable to play. He doesn’t deserve to have his misfortune be cause for being treated badly. Even those of us who don’t want to see him win more majors can and should wish that he be afforded more respect and, more important, more decency . . .

Now, on to those who will actually be playing . . . There is a lot of analysis that could be done. I wish there were time to explain why Trevor Immelman might surprise and put up a real challenge. There are encomiums to be written to Jason Day’s skills and reasons to predict him to win if his wrist holds up. There is also lots of good speculation about the chances of Dustin Johnson. But my crystal tarot tea leaves, sending me smoke signals and saying Abracadabra, tell me the real guy to watch is Sergio Garcia. As good as he has been for so long (it’s been 15 years since he finished second to Woods at the PGA), he still ranks up there with Greg Norman and very few others as having underperformed, in overall records, given the potential that his own hard work has given him. At age 34, after 15 years on the big stage, he still has won not a single major title.

But now is the time for him to step up. His game has really come back in the past 16 months or so, with several Euro titles and some close calls in the United States. He finished third last week in Houston, and for once he is putting beautifully, whereas for a long, long time it was his putting that was his Achilles’ heel. And his nemesis Woods, who seems to “get in his head,” is not around to bedevil Garcia. The Masters recently seems to reward people in the 32–34 age range. Garcia is 34. He is “due,” as the saying goes. Here’s saying Sergio Garcia puts on the Green Jacket on Sunday.

Frank Thomas Has the Quote of the Day



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Without further to-do:

Perhaps the Big Hurt was responding to yesterday’s White Sox-Rockies game in Denver, which featured six home runs by the visiting team.

Never mind that no team has played more than ten games, Frank, the Yankees didn’t hit their first home run of the 2014 season until their sixth contest. They now have three, as do the Marlins and Rangers. Heck, the Royals have yet to hit their first. 

Of course, it’s worth noting that the Hall of Fame newbie blames the ball (and presumably MLB, by extension), not performance-enhancing drugs. We do know that a livelier ball will almost certainly result in more home runs. What is considerably less clear is how PEDs in the bloodstream of hitters and pitchers alike affect the frequency of round-trippers. (For example: “[T]he rate of home runs on contacted balls was higher in 2012 than it was in 1998.”)

Tags: MLB

Ryan Braun 2.0 Slugs Three Home Runs



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The Phillies fans who showed up for their team’s home opener let visitor Ryan Braun know exactly what they thought of his use of and repeated lying about performance-enhancing drugs.

Braun, who had had a quiet first week at the plate, responded to the chorus of boos and shouts of “cheater” by slugging three home runs in a 10–4 win for the Brewers:

Two of the home runs were three-run blasts to left field. The third was a solo shot the opposite way.

More here.

Hank Aaron on Race: Little Has Changed



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Ben Nightengale of USA Today recently interviewed one-time home-run king Henry Aaron, as tonight marks the 40th anniversary of hitting no. 715.

Regrettably, the 80-year-old’s remarks were laced with a Sharpton-esque suggestion that politicos opposed to President Obama are racist:

“To remind myself,” Aaron tells USA TODAY Sports, “that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record. If you think that, you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go. There’s not a whole lot that has changed.

“We can talk about baseball. Talk about politics. Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated.

“We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go in the country.

“The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”

Aaron went on to say that the decline of African-American participation on the big-league diamond was also an indication that racism was alive and well:

“When I first started playing, you had a lot of black players in the major leagues,” Aaron says. “Now, you don’t have any (7.7% of big-leaguers last season). So what progress have we made? You try to understand, but we’re going backward.”

Actually, a SABR study found that, while Aaron is correct that black-player involvement is down from its 18.5 percent zenith in 1975 (his final season), African-Americans made up a mere 5.4 percent of the ballplayers during his 1954 rookie season and 5.2 percent one year later.

More importantly, the sport has gone global in more recent years. For example, 24 percent of last year’s opening-day MLB rosters consisted of players not from the United States.

More here.

Tags: MLB

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