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Different takes on race in baseball

Nate Schierholtz Alfonso Soriano

Nate Schierholtz, Alfonso Soriano

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Updated: May 23, 2013 6:13AM

I get a LOT of mail. One reason: The issues we share in these pages are always complex, and 500 words don’t do them justice. Race and sports are an especially potent mix, as reflected in the robust response to my column last week, “Why are there no blacks in baseball?”

I had lamented the dwindling ranks of African-American players on my beloved Chicago Cubs and on other teams around the nation.

Here are some reflections from readers:

Ivar Vilcins of Chicago demonstrates the treachery of the 500 words: “Why are there so few white guys playing basketball, and so few white guys winning marathons?” he writes. “You need to be more open and comprehensive when you deal with these subjects, otherwise you sound very racist.”

Kathleen Moore of Chicago wants to know: “Where are the Americans in baseball? Baseball teams are increasingly turning to the Dominican Republic and other Latin countries to develop talented players. Look at the rosters of our Cubs and White Sox and see the trend. Japanese players are also lured to play in the States. . . . As a baseball fan, I would like to see more players who do not require an interpreter at their side.”

Neal Topping of Chicago compares the costs. “Baseball — you need a ball, a bat, a mitt and gym shoes to play. Hockey — you need a lot of equipment at a very considerable cost due to growing and play level and it is not supplied. It is a very expensive sport and so very hard to do. Other sports are not as expensive so parents stay away from hockey. . . . I say it’s more of an economics issue.”

Linda Goff of Schererville, Ind., wants to know: “Where are the articles and the meetings about why the percentage of white basketball players has declined? . . . Where do I get to voice my sadness about how white people are being pushed out of professional sports?”

Right here, Linda.

Mark P. Bloedel of Woodstock grew up in an all-white suburb and, he says, “saw my first ‘Negro’ at age 2.” His father, he writes, “took me to Wrigley starting at a young age. It was great seeing Ernie Banks play. But seeing him adored, inside the beauty of Wrigley Field — which was inside the very segregated Chicago — helped open my young eyes to the possibility of Something Different.”

“The bigger issue for baseball might be that there are no [or very few] black people in the stands,” argues Patrick Hess of Ft. Wayne, Ind. “It would be beneficial to see more black players,” he adds, “but the real problem might be that the sport is inaccessible to or does not resonate with a large segment of the population.”

Troy White of Chicago writes that he was “blessed” to play college baseball at Northern Illinois University. “If you think that African Americans are underrepresented in Major League Baseball, you would be mortified at how few there are on collegiate baseball teams,” he writes. “It appears that there is a quota when it comes to African Americans. We’ve got one or two, if any; OK, we’ve met our quota.”

Thanks to all. Let’s keep talking.

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