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Affirmative Action Works
Tim Crothers
November 15, 1999
Baseball's hiring MMs-minority managers-makes the game look MM-good
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November 15, 1999

Affirmative Action Works

Baseball's hiring MMs-minority managers-makes the game look MM-good

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Maybe you thought Major League Baseball's venerable affirmative inaction campaign had peaked when National League president Leonard Coleman, the sport's highest-ranking black executive and a vocal proponent of minority hiring, announced in September that he was quitting. But then things got worse. The Tigers opened the managerial hunting season on Oct. 14 by grabbing fired Brewers skipper Phil Garner, a white guy fresh off seven straight losing seasons, without interviewing anyone else. Detroit's move violated commissioner Bud Selig's stipulation that teams send him lists of candidates for top-level jobs, lists featuring somebody other than the usual fat old white guys. (We're paraphrasing.) While NAACP president Kweisi Mfume termed Garner's hiring "a slap in the face" and called for a boycott of Little Caesars pizza—Tigers owner Mike Hitch's sideline business—Selig launched an investigation and reportedly fined Hitch $250,000.

Next, Rockies owner Jerry McMorris, who made a mistake in 1997 when he fired Don Baylor (a minority manager, or MM), hired Buddy Bell as Colorado's new skipper despite Bell's .400 winning percentage with Detroit from '96 to '98. That meant that of 43 managing jobs filled since '93, only one had gone to an MM. That's one fewer than had gone to Davey Johnson.

But just when it appeared inevitable that the next manager hired would be Gene Mauch or John McGraw, the Cubs made Baylor their manager last week. Three days later the Brewers, quasi-owned by Selig and currently run by his daughter, Wendy Selig-Prieb, entrusted their future to another deserving MM, Davey Lopes, bumping baseball's MM total to a record five, including the Expos' Felipe Alou, the Giants' Dusty Baker and the White Sox' Jerry Manuel.

Two new MMs do not a revolution make, but the constant drumbeat for minority hires over the past decade is finally making a difference. As of Monday night the Angels were considering prospective MMs Chris Chambliss, Hal McRae and Willie Randolph for their managerial vacancy.

Now it's time to address the fact that baseball has no minority general managers and has had only one—Bob Watson of the Astros and Yankees—in its history. If owners hire a few MGMs, maybe we can all eat our pizzas in peace.

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