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Torii Hunter: black Dominican players are "imposters"

Mar 10, 2010, 7:57 AM EDT

USA Today continues its five-part round table on improving the game,
and today they take on a monster: race.  Torii Hunter throws a big
freakin’ bomb

Fans look down from their seats onto the
baseball field, see dark-colored skin and might assume they are
African-American players. But increasingly, the players instead hail
from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or Venezuela.

see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they’re African
American,” Los Angeles Angels center fielder Torii Hunter says.
“They’re not us. They’re impostors.

“Even people I know come up
and say, ‘Hey, what color is Vladimir Guerrero? Is he a black player?’
I say, ‘Come on, he’s Dominican. He’s not black.’ “

African-American players, we have a theory
that baseball can go get an imitator and pass them off as us,” Hunter
says. “It’s like they had to get some kind of dark faces, so they go to
the Dominican or Venezuela because you can get them cheaper. It’s like,
‘Why should I get this kid from the South Side of Chicago and have
Scott Boras represent him and pay him $5 million when you can get a
Dominican guy for a bag of chips?’

“I’m telling you, it’s sad.”

have great respect for Torii, and I wouldn’t deign to know more about
race and baseball than he does, but this statement is 100%
unadulterated bullcrap.  I covered this topic three years ago, and it
was the first post I ever wrote that gained any attention by anyone.
The point still stands, however, so I’ll more or less quote myself:

The notion that the number of U.S.-born black players in
Major League Baseball has declined is manifest.  There are any number
of reasons for this, not the least of which is that U.S.-born black
kids are more likely to play
basketball or football than baseball these days. As a baseball nut this
bugs me because there are likely a dozen black kids playing second
string safety in the SEC or someplace who could have
been ten times the ballplayer than many of the guys on your team’s
roster. Indeed, if only a handful of black athletes chose to
play baseball instead of basketball or football guys like Mike Jacobs
would be working at a Jiffy Lube right now, and no one would be upset
about that except for some Jiffy Lube manager.  I’m greedy: I want all
the best athletes playing baseball and I’m bummed when they don’t.

But this notion that today’s diversity in baseball is some sort of sham
and that black Dominican players are “impostors” is beyond repugnant.
No, they’re not from the U.S., but if Jose Reyes and Vladimir Guerrero
aren’t black, I’m not sure anyone is.

The fact that more and more of
baseball’s black players happen to come from a couple hundred miles
south of an artificial political border doesn’t mean that there is no
one around to receive the torch passed down from Jackie Robinson, nor
does the fact that baseball has spent millions to develop Latin
American talent mean that the sport has turned its back on U.S.-born
blacks.  And while, like Hunter, I’d like to see more U.S. blacks
playing the game, to suggest, as he does, that Major League Baseball
has some plot to overlook them in favor of international players is
plain dumb. If anything baseball would love to have it the opposite
way. After all, U.S.-born blacks are subject to the draft and can be
paid peanuts for years. Dominican or Venezuelan players get big signing
bonuses. At least the good ones do.

Hunter’s comments speak to our nation’s profound immaturity when it
comes to race. A mindset that makes rigid and often artificial census
categories like “black” and “Hispanic” take on much more significance
than is warranted and causes us to lose sight of what’s really
important.  What’s important in my view? The big picture: baseball is a
international, multi-ethnic game in ways that, say, American football
will never be, and that if there’s a meritocracy anywhere in this
country, it’s in professional sports.

Like Hunter I’d love to see more U.S. blacks in the game and strongly
support and encourage baseball’s efforts to make that happen.  But
claiming that the diversity baseball has successfully cultivated
is somehow illegitimate or phony is simply pathetic

186 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. talex - Mar 10, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    What Torii Hunter doesn’t understand is economics. Black Dominicans, black Puerto Ricans, black Cubans, and black Venezuelans actually live in much deeper poverty than most, if not all, black “Americans”.
    Poverty is the great equalizer/motivator: you will do anything and work harder than the next guy to escape it. And the truth is that truly poverty stricken athletes work harder, put in more time, and devote their entire lives to a sport if they believe it will help them rise up out of the depths of their despair. This is the real reason that black Central/South American players have replaced black American players in MLB: they simply are more driven to succeed at this point.
    Go back throughout baseball history and you will find that aside from when African-Americans were banned from playing MLB that usually the poorest minorities would have swaths of years where they increased percentage-wise in MLB disproportionately than they should have. This has been true in most sports. It isn’t as noticeable now, because in 1930 everyone was white in MLB, but those white players were still the poor immigrant Irish, the Italians, the Polish, the Jews, the Germans–pick a poor, white immigrant class. Poverty makes great ballplayers! Not race.

  2. JRinn - Mar 10, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    Torii Hunter has done something remarkable. He has awakened the long dead ghosts of prejudice that was the basis for the gentlemen’s agreement which kept black players out of the major leagues and spawned the Negro Leagues. I find it ironic that owners used to try to get black players into their system by claiming they were Cuban. Torii seems to have adopted the same mindset. How utterly sad.

  3. edd - Mar 10, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    It’s not that Hunter is a bigot, although that may be true…he is just a dumb person.

  4. Evan LaBarre - Mar 10, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    This is the stupidest diatribe I have heard in regard to race in a long time. First off, if ANY white broadcaster, teammate, fan, owner, or GM made a statement like Torri Hunter did there would be a firestorm of epic size. Second, as many previous posters have said they believe Torri was referring to the “cultural” aspects of American blacks vs Latin American blacks. I still do not understand his point here. If a black family immigrates from the Dominican Republic and raises a child here who grows up to play baseball in America but still expresses a Dominican Republic heritage are we still to consider them a “non American Black” technically they could be just as Dominican as someone born there while still being born in the United States. There is no predetermined line the sand so to speak when determining race & cultural. If a black kid who plays baseball has white parents and was “raised white” as some people might say are we took to consider that player “non-black”?

  5. Joey B - Mar 10, 2010 at 2:17 PM

    “I’d bet dollars to donuts that most Latinos don’t have a clue about the BS that black families had to deal with in this country and continue to deal with. Slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, racism and plan old stupidity.”
    And I’m guessing that most Americans don’t know an awful lot salvery in the DR, Spanish occupation, etc. Is that to be the new litmus test?

  6. Alex K - Mar 10, 2010 at 2:18 PM

    I don’t think anyone is trying to mimimize your negative experiences. They are just pointing out that people from other countries can have it just as hard or harder than US born people (black or not). Each person’s life presents different obstacles, some are more difficult than others.

  7. Joey B - Mar 10, 2010 at 2:20 PM

    “Dude, you are an embelsole!!!!! go back and read the article. Your second grade education doesent let you understand any word over four letters.”
    LOL! ‘Embelsole’?

  8. MBB - Mar 10, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    “The bottom line is that kids from the DR, PR, and other spanish speaking countries are not black. Do not wan’t to be considered black, and don’t understand the plight of black americans.”
    Obviously, you have no clue to Hispanic culture whatsoever. What race is a black Cuban kid? Yellow, white, mulatto, all of the above? Second, they don’t want to be considered black? Says you? I think most if not all black Latin players are proud to be black. Although the level of poverty they come from is probably higher than any experienced here, the Hispanic culture they grew up under never has placed a negative stigma on their race as it happened here. That is not to say that racism or bigotry does not exits there.

  9. Joey B - Mar 10, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    “The bottom line is that kids from the DR, PR, and other spanish speaking countries are not black. Do not wan’t to be considered black, and don’t understand the plight of black americans.”
    This one I’m actually curious about. If, because of various marriages between races, someone from the DR is of 57% African descent, and someone from America is of 57% African descent, is the American more black than the guy from the DR?

  10. Fast Eddy - Mar 10, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    Not all racists are white. Include Hunter in the group!

  11. Joey B - Mar 10, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    “Because I am an African-American I know what I my family has been thru in this country and I will let no one try to minimize the negative experiences we been thru.”
    How does a DR player minimize that? Maybe your great, great grandfather was a slave, maybe Vlad’s great, great grandfather was a slave. Maybe Park’s grandparents were enslaved by the Japanese. I’m not trying to be argumentative, but I’m not sure what your point is.

  12. G - Mar 10, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    Let’s be clear about something, I never said a DR player minimize that. I was addressing this to someone who posted a comment. Go back and read the comments and you will see what I am addressing.

  13. mjh - Mar 10, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    I was in Mexico a few years ago and kids 4 and 5 years old were speaking Spanish. That’s a hard language.

  14. Drago49 - Mar 10, 2010 at 3:00 PM

    Just goes to show you what kind of idiot Tori Hunter is. Tori here is what you missed in HS history. First last I checked PR is part of America. As a Puerto Rican American I consider myself American. Secondly, the slave owners didn’t discirminate. There were slaves in Puerto Rico as there were in many of the Latin American countries. Therefore most Latin Americans have African blood in them. So I’m just wondering what would make you any different than me? By the way Tori minorities can be racist also. This surely sounds racist to me.

  15. Nasty Boy - Mar 10, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    Very good point. I was in construction for many years, driving a concrete truck. I want to share a quote from a latino laborer . I would deliver to the co. he worked for ,so I got to know him over the years. I asked him one day how he was doing, and low and behold he said to me: ” when I am working I am happy ” My friend Mr. Hunter , that’s a work ethic we can all learn from. Don’t bother with someone’s color. I think down deep you feel you will be replaced by a Latino,you sir are a racist.

  16. scatterbrian - Mar 10, 2010 at 3:29 PM

    “Who mentioned anything about high school? ”
    RTFA…..speaking of embelsoles.

  17. david - Mar 10, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    Tori never has lived up to the potential he is supposed to have. He has a big mouth and little else.

  18. dp - Mar 10, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    Tori , this might be too deep for you, but have you ever heard the expression : “the pot calling the kettle black ” think about it, you racist jerk-off.

  19. cancerman1 - Mar 10, 2010 at 3:48 PM

    Everyone seems to blasting Tori Hunter’s comments without fully understanding his point. While he may have not clearly articulated what most african american “blacks” know and often reminded of, if you ask most “blacks” from other countries, they will quickly remind you that they are not black but DR, PR, or whatever country they are from. If you havent walked in a persons shoe you will never understand and I think that I may be qualified to make this statement as someone who as a “black” for another country, who has heard, “well he’s not really black, he Jamacian”. While most would want to ignore this, it is a reality and fact of life, yes America has demostrated the acceptance of other “blacks” than native born blacks.

  20. The Common Man - Mar 10, 2010 at 4:01 PM

    Look, you can delight in calling Torii a racist and rejoicing at “black on black violence” as one commenter did earlier all you want. Frankly, I think that’s cheap and not constructive. What Torii said was ill considered, and I was especially troubled by his notion that Latino players were “imposters.” That said, I think it’s far more productive to look at what may have led Torii to think this way. Yes, there is prejudice in many places, and people have used race as an excuse to subjugate or elevate groups for seemingly forever. But I think a huge problem is also the divide in baseball clubhouses between American-born and Latin-born players, which has made many American players resentful of their teammates:

  21. Chris - Mar 10, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    I appreciate Porfessor Dave’s comments (and those of many others who have chimed in), and I would like to discuss a different aspect of Hunter’s comments that may go overlooked: class hatred. Hunter himself grew up in rough area, often poor, without electricity, heat, in rural Arkansas. That he would then disparage Dominican players as available for “a bag of chips” is especially disturbing. It seems like he views–and his views are quite inaccurate, by the way–Dominican players as an economic threat, and thus lower on the social ladder. Yes, Hunter is gifted. Yes, he worked his backside off to get where he is. But to dismiss players of similar ethnic backgrounds, ALSO from similar–if not worse–economic conditions is galling, to say the least. I would be willing to bet that Hunter, after having tasted the good life in Minnesota for so many years, secretly loathes where he came from. Many Dominican players growing up face the same circumstances. If the former statement has any truth, it makes perfect sense that he would dismiss Dominican players based on their beginnings, too.

  22. Nikki Dai - Mar 10, 2010 at 4:10 PM

    Craig must feel good. He’s at home having opened the floodgates where white racists can feel good about themselves off of Hunter’s words. Classic.

  23. jimbo - Mar 10, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    what….isn’t having basketball enough. Why are “black” players worried that they aren’t being represented fairly enough in baseball, it shouldn’t be an us against them thing. Baseball isn’t a Government job where affirmative action is required. Maybe, just maybe, the Dominicans are better players. Just saying.

  24. NICK GEERZ - Mar 10, 2010 at 4:18 PM


  25. Chris - Mar 10, 2010 at 4:37 PM

    Imposters? You can get a Dominican guy for a bag of chips? If I were Dominican I would be profoundly insulted by the comment. He is a bigot, and he is dumb.

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