Comedian Chris Rock recently appeared on HBO's “Real Sports with Bryant Gumble” to lament the declining interest of black America in baseball.
Calling himself “an endangered species -- a black baseball fan,” Rock cited recent surveys showing that black America is only half as interested in following baseball as white America.
One reason, of course, is the lack of African-Americans playing the game these days.
Rock noted that in 1986, when his New York Mets won it all with the help of black stars such as Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Kevin Mitchell and Mookie Wilson, almost 20 percent of major leaguers were black. Today, he said, only 8 percent are African-American.
The world-champion San Francisco Giants, a franchise built with the likes of Willie Mays and Barry Bonds, won the World Series last year without a single black player on its roster. In fact, he said, the major league average is now two African-Americans per team.
A predominantly black college such as Spellman College has a baseball team that is all white except for one black player.
``Howard University - the black Harvard - has canceled baseball altogether,'' he said.
Rock suggested that the problem for black America is that the game is too slow, takes too long and is too old-fashioned - witness the organ music.
``Baseball wants everything to stay the way it used to be,'' he said. ``The world has sped up but baseball is slower than ever.''
While football and basketball allow celebrations when a score is made, baseball has a code: Better not look too happy or you'll get a baseball in the head next time at bat.
World Series viewership on TV is down 50 percent since 1995, he said, and five of six viewers are white, with an average age of 53.
``That's not an audience,'' he said. ``That's a Tea Party rally.''
Baseball, he said, needs to be ``hipper, cooler and a little more black'' because when you lose black America, you lose young America: ``Ask Mitt Romney.''
His was a great commentary, and while I also would love to see more black participation at the fan and player level, I fear I am one of those Tea Party types.
I like the nostalgia of baseball, the fact that the same rules that governed the game 100 years ago govern it today. Frankly, I'm still unconvinced about the move to a designated hitter. It removes a lot of baseball strategy.
The hot dogs, the peanuts, even the organ music - I love the nostalgia of it all, though I agree that baseball could lighten up a little about players' on-field conduct.
Except for the playoffs, I'm not a great fan of TV baseball, mainly because I don't have a hometown team to follow. While I lived in Milwaukee, I listened religiously to Bob Uecker's radio play-by-play of Brewer games.
I'll still watch most every level of baseball or softball that I can see live - including my grandson's games at Pepper Geddings.
It is still the best game in the world, and I'm sorry so much of black America is missing out.
Contact Bob Bestler at firstname.lastname@example.org.