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"Baseball players can't stick their noses out and say things about racial injustice like a Russell or Chamberlain," says an established major league star. "We can't negotiate for ourselves because of the reserve clause. There are no other leagues. Either you sign with your team or you don't play baseball."
It is rare, therefore, for a Negro baseball player to talk about the disparity between what is expected of him and what is expected of the white player, but the difference exists, and the Negroes are well aware of it. "We have to produce a lot more to stay around," says a major leaguer who was typically insistent about not being identified. "There are plenty of white guys who've been around here 15 years with lifetime batting averages of .240, but you don't see many Negroes around like that. And you don't see many Negroes sitting on the benches, either."
A statistical study by Aaron Rosenblatt in the sociological journal Trans-Action documented with shocking clarity how much better the Negro has to be. It showed that in the seasons of 1962 through 1965 the American Negro major leaguer hit 21.2 percentage points better than the white major leaguer. (Pitchers' batting averages were not included.) Approximately the same percentage pertained to the previous nine years. The conclusion was obvious, and Rosenblatt drew it: "More places are available in the majors for the substar white player than for the comparably able Negro."
But of even more importance to the Negro is the fact that when he stops hitting 20 points better than the white, baseball is through with him—forever. More than anything this lets the black athlete know that organized baseball does not consider him an equal. There are almost no Negroes among baseball's front-office personnel; there is no Negro manager, and there is only one Negro coach ( Jim Gilliam of the Dodgers).
"I guess black people are just too dumb to be in front offices," says Earl Wilson, who won 22 games for Detroit last year. "I guess we don't have any knowledge of the game. People say wait five or 10 years and it will happen. Well, man, I can't wait. It has to happen now. Strip those 22 wins off me and who am I? Just another black man."
"I have to watch out for myself when I'm playing," says the Cardinals' Bob Gibson. "When I quit nobody will come up to me and ask me if I want to be the general manager."
Black players repeatedly cite Bill White of the Phillies as a Negro capable of being a major league manager. "A lot of people have thrown my name around as the first Negro manager," says White. "So far, I haven't seen any club owner throw it around."
Former Negro players speak on this subject quite openly, in part because they have nothing to lose. Wes Covington, who spent 12 years in the major leagues, points out an aspect of baseball's problem that is different from professional football or basketball. For the most part, the Negro baseball player has little education to fall back upon when he has to start job hunting.
"Society needs an educated man," says Covington. "There is no tie between baseball owners and colleges. Baseball had better find ways to give its young Negro players the incentive to go to college. This is a contribution that baseball must consider, If it doesn't, the good Negro athletes won't be in baseball a few years from now. They'll go into other sports."