Race and Gender: Are these problematic in the world of baseball?

Before I took this course, my general idea of baseball was that it is a sport for men and not women. Whenever I watch baseball games on TV, it is very rare to see women playing as professional baseball players at the field. Like me, people arbitrarily think that it is unusual to see women being members of baseball teams. Although women have no restrictions for playing baseball, people unconsciously perceive baseball as a masculine sport that is not suitable for women to play. Aside from these contradictions made, I have learned that baseball is not only issued about its eligiblity among women and men, but it is also a complicated sport that involves a deep history of racial discrimination. During my research, I have realized that many articles talk about how black players overcame their discriminations and attained their memberships in MLB. They are treated well as white players compared to the past, but still, white dominance still seems to be remained in the baseball field. It is also true that black women players still do not lie upon the equity. This can be explained in other races as well. Today, there are many foreign players joining American baseball teams, and we see many of them becoming big stars. However, the majority of players are whites and not foreigners. Many teams recruit more players from overseas than the past, but whites are still dominating the population of MLB. What I want to say here is that although racial discrimination has been diffused these days, white dominance still exists, and women are still isolated from becoming professional baseball players.

Baseball used to be a sport that was only played among whites. According to Gerald Early’s “Birdland: Two Observations on the Cultural Significance of Baseball: A COLUMN,” black players integrated with white players in MLB in 1947, along with Americans’ enhanced motivations toward Cold War. Blacks were excluded from the mainstream baseball teams until they established a league called Negro League in 1920 and gained their right to perform as professional baseball players. Until this establishment took place, “inside baseball” or “scientific baseball” populated the nation during the 1880s and 1890s, where runs were expected to be scored by strategy, guile, and aggressive base running. Whites thought that blacks lacked both intelligence and competitive guts, which were factors that greatly mattered in performances. During those times, all leagues limited the number of colored players employed in each team. It was extraordinary for blacks to create professional baseball clubs due to these social norms. Baseball players began uniting after World War II, along with the increase in demand for integrating as an one community. As a result, many baseball teams began welcoming colored players’ memberships.

On the other hand, in “The Interest Convergence Principle and the Integration of Major League Baseball,” Joshua DeLorme and John N. Singer mention that black players achievement of membership in MLB took place because of the nation’s increased interests in black players’ talents and not the enhanced motivations toward Cold War. MLB’s unification is often referred to an attainment of civil rights equity for black citizens in America, but the motivation was not pointed towards the black population at all. This was detrimental in the 1947 season since many powerhouses such as the Homestead Grays reported huge revenue losses and drastic declines in attendance. “The commodity of black baseball, especially in the early to mid-1940s, proved to be a financially and socially viable component of the black community, which signified to owners such as Branch Rickey that Black players were talented enough to participate in MLB and that black fans patronized baseball contests” (DeLorme and Singer, 381). This quote implies the idea that after the long eras of struggles, people began viewing blacks as talented groups of people who are eligible for receiving memberships in professional teams. DeLorme and Singer observe that the integration of MLB is proportional to the growth in people’s intrests toward black players’ performances and talents.

These two articles say that black baseball players gained memberships along with the increased motivation in Cold War and the increased interests in their talents. They prove the truth that in the current American society, blacks are treated better as professional players compared to the past where they faced complete racial discrimination. However, this does not mean that white dominance is eliminated from the society; whites still occupy the baseball populations. Besides, black women or women as general are still being discriminated from playing baseball.

In “Writing Baseball into History: The Pittsburgh Courier, Integration, and Baseball in a War of Position,” Ursula McTaggart talks about the preliminary actions of Pittsburgh Courier, the black press. The Courier excluded black women as it focused on baseball as a site of integration and opportunity. Black women athletes were barred from the short-lived women’s professional baseball league, the AAGPBL, and this was particularly significant during the years of 1943 and 1954. Integration for female athletes did not draw the Courier’s attention even though black women excluded from the AAGPBL found a space with the men on declining Negro league teams. During the 1950s, three women played for Negro league teams and gained attentions primarily as novelties. “The conjunctural opportunity seized by the black press and the black community to end baseball’s color barrier only opened a space for competitive masculinity” (McTaggart, 124). As black male athletes economically and socially became visible in the public, black women remained the invisible targets of segregation. “Symbolic integration in the cultural public sphere, then, failed to translate into everyday acts of integration for both men and women” (McTaggart, 124). Although the integration of MLB diffused black men’s discrimination, black women still did not gain the right for equal performance. McTaggart concludes that black women are not only segregated because of their race but their presence as a female, which is perceived as inferior to male.

Unlike the two articles, McTaggart attempts to explain how black women have been struggling through both racial and gender discriminations from the past to present. They are segregated as blacks, but at the same time, they are segregated as women. McTaggart’s article implies that women are not only discriminated based on their races, but they are also discriminated because they are females and not males. Same idea can be determined from the ad below:

This PNY’s flash drive ad shows a photo of four children wearing baseball uniforms and holding globes and bats. The ad denotatively presents three boys and one girl as baseball players; three of them are whites, and one of them is black. The boy in the center is lifting the ball, gathering attentions from the other three. The ad connotatively represents a stereotype issued in the world of baseball. One can notice that there is a racial stereotype involved in this ad. The black boy standing at the very left of the photo seems to be very short compared to the other three. He is a bit distanced from the white boy next to him, and he seems to be isolated from others. The three White children are taller than him, and they seem to be the center of interest in this ad. Such differences in these children’s appearances indicate the discourse of people imagining white baseball players instead of black players performing at the field. People unconsciously come up with a white man wearing a baseball uniform and holding a globe or a bat although race does not matter in playing sports.

As a detailed support, the article “Black Skiing, Everyday Racism, and the Racial Spatiality of Whiteness” by Anthony Kwame Harrison discusses how white skiers are dominating the world of skiing and how black skiers are excluded from participations. Harrison quotes that “The virtual absence of racial diversity within skiing’s perceived and/or conceived spaces of practice leave little opportunity for challenges to its predominant “white spatial imaginary” as a controlled environment of capital accumulation and individual escape” (320). This quote means that the lack of racial diversity in the world of skiing unables the predominant group to challenge the white dominance. Such concept can be applied to PNY’s ad. The large population of white professional baseball players make black players difficult to destroy the idealism, which is the stereotypical image of a white player taking the mound and swinging the bat or throwing the ball. Although there are no restrictions assigned to people of color, people still seem to perceive white men as ideal baseball players.

As a reflection, the ad depicts the whole picture of all articles I have previously discussed. As I mentioned, although racial discrimination has been diffused in the world of baseball, white dominance is still not eliminated, and women are still isolated from playing baseball. This reality is clearly expressed in the ad, and it means that the recent media reveals the truth of people not being treated equally because of their races or gender.

Because I am Japanese, I am highly interested in Japanese baseball players’ performances in the United States. Compared to the past, I see more players playing in MLB and receiving attentions. Like Ichiro and Matsui, there are many big stars who are very famous nowadays, and it is true that people of color are becoming more involved in MLB than before. Ichiro and Matsui have enthusiastic fans in the United States, and they receive high remarks whenever they break new records. Although they are very famous in the country, I cannot reject the truth that whites dominate the games. MLB has become internationalized, but still, whites are still the main focus of the audience.

Ultimately, one can conclude that baseball involves both racial and gender discriminations. It is true that racial segregation has eased compared to the past, but because of the extremely large white dominance, it is likely to say that segregating against people of color and women are still continuing nowadays.

Works Cited
DeLorme, Joshua and John N. Singer. “The Interest Convergence Principle and the Integration of Major League Baseball.” Journal of Black Studies 41.2 (2010): 367-384. JSTOR. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.

Early, Gerald.”Birdland: Two Observations on the Cultural Significance of Baseball: A COLUMN.” The American Poetry Review 25.4 (1996): 9-12. JSTOR. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.

Harrison, Anthony Kwame. “Black Skiing, Everyday Racism, and the Racial Spaitality of Whiteness.” Journal of Sport & Social Issues 2013, 37: 315-339. 20 Mar. 2014.

McTaggart, Ursula. “Writing Baseball Into History: The Pittsburgh Courier, Integration, and Baseball in a War of Position.” American Studies 47.1 (2006): 113-132. JSTOR. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.

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