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.