A hack USA Today columnist defends Hank Aaron's divisive message of hate on Jackie Robinson day. A few days back, Aaron gained headlines with this thoughtful passage quoted in an earlier colum by the USA Today writer:
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.
But not so fast, per the latest from USA Today:
Never in our 50-minute conversation did Aaron suggest anyone critical of President Obama is racist. Never did he compare the Republican Party to the Klu Klux Klan.
Simply, Aaron stated that we are fooling ourselves if we don't believe that racism exists in our country. It's simply camouflaged now. And yes, he feels sorry for his good friend, President Obama, and the frustrations he endures.
The balance of the column deplores declining black participation in Major League Baseball without ever noting the baleful influence of the NCAA and their scholarship policies. Here is CC Sabathia, who we did not know was a possible football star:
There may be only so much [Major League] baseball can do. Division I college baseball programs offer only 11.7 scholarships, divided among many more players. For many young athletes from low-income families, choosing baseball over other sports makes little sense.
“Take me, for example,” said the Yankees’ C. C. Sabathia. “If I had a choice, I would have had to go to college to play football, because my mom couldn’t afford to pay whatever the percent was of my baseball scholarship. So if I hadn’t been a first-round pick, I would have gone to college to play football, because I had a full ride.
“All that factors in. How are you going to tell a kid from the hood that I can give you a 15-percent scholarship to go play baseball, or a full ride to go to Florida State for football? What are you going to pick? It’s not even an option.”
Tyler Kepner of the Times followed up on that the next day:
LaTroy Hawkins, the veteran reliever for the Mets, said Monday that baseball in the United States had become a game for the rich. Hawkins, who is African-American, said the main problem was that N.C.A.A. Division I baseball programs offered so few scholarships compared with other sports.
Top-level college football programs offer 85 scholarships, all full rides. Division I basketball programs offer 13 full scholarships, also full rides. Division I baseball programs offer 11.7 scholarships, but those are often divided among many players.
“Kids in the inner city play basketball and football, because they give out full scholarships and parents don’t have to worry about anything,” Hawkins said. “In baseball they give out quarter scholarships. That’s what needs to change.
“In the inner city, you need to get a scholarship because most families can’t afford to send a kid to school, especially when you’ve got more than one. You need to get a scholarship, and baseball doesn’t provide that luxury.”
Hawkins also noted that, well before college, specializing in baseball can mean expensive travel teams and a year-round commitment.
“I played 17 games in high school; I’d have gotten burned out with that much baseball,” Hawkins, a native of Gary, Ind., said of today’s schedules. “But that’s what it requires now, because if you don’t, all the kids that don’t live in the inner city and live in the affluent neighborhoods, they’re getting ahead of you. You might be a better athlete than they are, but as far as a skilled player, you can’t keep up with that.”
Dombrowski said the scholarship issue was a common thread in his informal conversations on the racial makeup of the game. Selig’s task force seems to recognize the importance of the problem. Besides Muir, the Stanford athletic director, the task force also includes Roger Cador, the baseball coach at Southern; and Tony Clark, a former major leaguer who was a multiple-sport star in college.
Of course, part of the problem is that the NCAA has embraced their function in protecting college's role as the high-revenue minor league for football and basketball. Baseball had a real minor league system operating before college sports went big-time, so college baseball didn't grow up as a revenue sport needing NCAA monopoly protection.