Today is Jackie Robinson Day, commemorating the day in 1947 in which the former Dodgers second baseman broke baseball’s color barrier. His number, 42, has been retired throughout the league in 1997, though Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was allowed to continue wearing the number as he was grandfathered in. In the time since, players have begun all wearing the number 42 on Jackie Robinson Day.
Sadly, the percentage of black players in baseball has been on the decline. 7.7 percent of players on Opening Day rosters last year were black. According to SABR, black players haven’t been above 10 percent since 2004. They peaked at 18.7 percent in 1981.
Astros manager Dusty Baker is one of only two black managers in baseball along with the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts. Baker finds the lack of black players in the sport “frustrating,” Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press reports.
Baker said, “Hopefully in this decade and the next decade there will be more guys that get a chance. All they need is a chance. A lot of guys have been bypassed and overlooked.”
The issue is extremely complex and there are myriad factors for the lack of black players in baseball: political, social, and economic. Major League Baseball has, in recent years, made a concerted effort to reach out to a more diverse audience, but seeing that result in a player population change will likely take a while.