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Hank Aaron applied to be MLB commissioner once?

Feb 25, 2013, 5:41 PM EDT

Hank Aaron AP AP

Kristen Harper of sat down with Cubs legend Ernie Banks to talk about all manner of subjects.  Primarily on Banks’ mind, however, was baseball’s need to bring more African-American players into the fold.  It’s a good read, but this part — in which he talked about how he, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays are all interested in the topic — jumped out at me:

“Hank applied to be commissioner of baseball. They laughed at him for that and Willie Mays, he just played his own game and helped a lot of kids with the Giants and New York Mets, but we’re very concerned about the fact that the black population in baseball has really decreased,” Banks said.“It’s like you see an All-Star Game, a World Series, you don’t see any black players at all, and we’re concerned about it.”

I had never heard that Aaron made an effort to become commissioner of baseball. Or if I did once hear it I had forgotten it.  For what it’s worth, I’m glad he never did it because while so many are predisposed to think of the job as some high honor, the job of the Commissioner really is to do what the 30 owners want and to grow the bottom line. Frankly, I think Aaron is above that kind of business. Or at least he has become so as time has gone on and his legend has grown larger.

Beyond that, yes, the number of African-Americans in baseball is a frequently mentioned topic. I think it’s less pressing than overall diversity in the game, which is doing quite well, thank you, but sure, in a perfect world everyone is playing baseball.

  1. Jeff J. Snider - Feb 25, 2013 at 5:56 PM

    Of course, in that perfect world where everyone is playing baseball, the percentage of African-American MLB players would probably be close to exactly what it is, since it’s about the same as the percentage of African-American people in the country. We’d have fewer white players, but they would be replaced by players of hispanic and asian descent, mostly.

    All of that is, of course, assuming we only care about American players (as all arguments bemoaning the lack of racial diversity in baseball do).

  2. yankeepunk3000 - Feb 25, 2013 at 6:05 PM

    yea I think there is plenty of diversity in baseball. I don’t see one race dominate the others baseball has come a long way from the 40s and 50s

  3. Innocent Bystander - Feb 25, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    A known amphetamine user as commissioner!?! Heaven forbid!!!

  4. uuddlrlrbastart - Feb 25, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    You can apply to be Commissioner? Is it posted on Monster or LinkedIn?

  5. ptfu - Feb 25, 2013 at 6:28 PM

    Of course, being the owners’ flunky is below Hank Aaron. He doesn’t need all that silliness, though I’m sure he’d be great at it. If anyone knows how to take abuse from mindless lunatics, with dignity, it’s him. I’d love him to stand up to the owners, though–can you imagine him breathing down Jeff Loria’s neck?

    That said, having Commissioner Aaron would be a tremendous symbolic honor. Baseball has embraced diversity on the field and in the dugout, and this would demonstrate that diversity in baseball’s highest office. Yet another milestone for the Hammer.

    I don’t know how many more black ballplayers Commissioner Aaron would attract. He might have more of an effect encouraging minorities to apply for baseball’s executive positions–and ensuring they were considered fairly. And that would be no bad thing.

    • American of African Descent - Feb 25, 2013 at 7:27 PM

      I would also like to see more diversity within ownership.

    • historiophiliac - Feb 25, 2013 at 9:09 PM

      Especially some women!

  6. simon94022 - Feb 25, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    The Commissioner is CEO of the league. It is a business role for which Hank Aaron and virtually any other ex-ballplayer is totally unqualified.

    The same cloddish sportswriters who insist Jack Morris is more Hall of Fame worthy than Roger Clemens also perpetuate this ignorant myth that the Commissioner of Baseball is a neutral ombudsman who is supposed to override the will of the owners for some objective “good of the game.”

    • American of African Descent - Feb 25, 2013 at 7:24 PM

      Your comment may very well be the stupidest thing I have ever read. And I’m in a profession where I read a lot of crap. There have been ex-ball players that have gone on to do very well at the highest levels of the business of baseball. Bill White is one. Nolan Ryan is another. Michael Jordan has also done very well in business. So unless you have got some inside information to support your premise that Aaron is unqualified, please do the world a favor and STFU.

      • brennan71 - Feb 25, 2013 at 7:57 PM

        Speaking of stupid, read your post again. You have a legitimate disagreement with simon94022, toward which you make excellent points. But instead of making your points and letting them speak for themselves, you devolve into shut-uppery. This is the interweb equivalent of Godwin’s Law–the first to tell another to STFU automatically loses the debate. Fail.

      • American of African Descent - Feb 25, 2013 at 8:38 PM

        Goodwin’s law states that the probability that someone will compare something else to the Nazis is directly proportional to the length of the thread. Re-read my post. I called simon94022’s post the stupidest thing I ever read, I showed why it was stupid, then I told him to shut up unless (big unless) he could back up his premise.

        In short, Brennan, you are an illiterate slut and should SHUT THE #@&* UP when the adults are talking! (See what I did there? I used irony to make a rhetorical point.)

      • paperlions - Feb 26, 2013 at 7:47 AM

        Nolan Ryan makes baseball decisions, not business decisions, and he owns but a tiny portion of the Rangers. Greenberg owns the team.

        Jordan has made a lot of money on his endorsements and undeniably capitalized on his popularity, he has also been an unmitigated disaster running his teams.

        I agree that having been a former player in no way excludes someone from being a quality administrator or leader and I think Aaron would make a fine leader….but the commissioner of baseball is most definitely not a leadership role at this point in history (though it may have been when he “applied”). It is his job to enact the will of the owners and to take public blame for the owners’ unpopular decisions/positions. That has not always been the case, but it most definitely is the case now.

  7. thegurubrave - Feb 25, 2013 at 7:38 PM

    I may be wrong but do Dominicans count as African Americans? There aren’t a lot of African Americans because opportunities for African Americans aren’t as great as the predominant Caucasian race in North America.It seems to me, that MLB is more of a melting pot, and I try not to pay attention to race as much as stats… I’m getting tired of every word out of his mouth being about race.

    • historiophiliac - Feb 25, 2013 at 9:02 PM


      • blacksables - Feb 26, 2013 at 3:09 AM

        During the 1992 Winter Olympics, an announcer referred to a sliver medalist as the first African-American from another country to win a medal in that sport, so yeah, to be politically correct, any black person has to be referred to as an African-American.

        Which is something all the black people in Africa find really amusing. They always ask to see a birth certificate so they can prove it.

      • historiophiliac - Feb 26, 2013 at 7:45 AM

        “Caucasian” is a BS label itself. Not all white people are descended from inhabitants of the Caucasus region and using the term broadly for white people is an outgrowth of past racial thinking. People use the tag as a fancy-pants reference to whites but that’s crap. You might as well use that “Aryan” silliness — which, of course, most people know better than to do.

        Yeah, there were several annoyances in that post — and I could only bring myself to sigh at all of them.

    • indaburg - Feb 26, 2013 at 8:44 AM

      African-American is a term used to describe black people in the USA. Dominicans are not Americans. African-Dominican, perhaps? Although, if you used that term in the Dominican Republic, you would be looked at rather oddly. They call themselves “morenos” rather than black. Many Dominicans, even those as dark as night, deny their African heritage due to deeply engrained racism in the Dominican Republic. As an American of Dominican descent, I have no shame of my African heritage but that is mostly due to my American cultural assimilation.

  8. hatesycophants - Feb 25, 2013 at 7:40 PM

    Hank Aaron shouldn’t have had to “apply” for anything once he retired from the game.

    The “writer’s” dismissive closing sentence (and the lack of diversity among ownership and management) is a fairly clear indication that MLB hasn’t advanced as much as decent folk would hope since the 40s and 50s.

  9. approvenothing - Feb 25, 2013 at 7:44 PM

    You are concerned because there aren’t as many African American players in the majors? I’ll be honest, who the fuck cares? There is no problem with the way it is now, I’m sorry that not at many blacks are playing in the majors as ten years ago? Welcome to America, land of everything has to be 50/50 so we don’t hurt anybodies feelings. Make everyone earn it. Or i know, everybody is a racist and considers race a factor when they look for major league talent! Well, time to go get hammered off my a** and listen to Bill O’Reilly.

    • American of African Descent - Feb 25, 2013 at 8:46 PM

      The issue is that blacks are choosing to play football and basketball instead of baseball. This means that baseball is (potentially) losing out on some phenomenal athletes. Can you imagine how much poorer the sport would be if Bob Gibson had gone on to box as opposed to pitch? Or if Jackie Robinson had gone on to play football as opposed to baseball?

      No one is advocating quotas — everyone has got to earn their spot. But you’re a fool if you wouldn’t try to make your talent pool as great as possible. You’re also a fool if you listen to Bill O’Reilly.

      • approvenothing - Feb 25, 2013 at 8:59 PM

        I am also a fool for making a conservative statement on a leaning liberal blog. Anything that i do not know?

      • historiophiliac - Feb 25, 2013 at 9:07 PM

        To be fair, he did say he had to get hammered off his ass to listen to O’Reilly.

      • American of African Descent - Feb 25, 2013 at 10:01 PM

        Your statement was just dumb, not conservative. And the total tonnage of things that you do not know could stop a team of oxen in their tracks.

  10. crankyfrankie - Feb 25, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    No the issue is that in the African-American community there are a number of gifted athletes that are not ever playing baseball. Baseball is, relatively speaking, an expensive sport compared to basketball. You can play basketball with two people and a ball. Baseball, on the other hand, requires a field and more players to play a game. Gloves are not cheap and fields are not plentiful. The RBI program, a good charity, in attempting to remedy this situation. It is not a everybody get a chance but rather the sport is better when it gets the best athletes from the U.S.A. in addition to from around the world.

    • historiophiliac - Feb 25, 2013 at 10:07 PM

      I don’t want to start something because I think you’re intention is to be nice. But, I can’t resist saying: Not all poor people are black and not all black people are poor. There isn’t a population shortage in our country. Gloves aren’t that expensive, and baseball (especially the kind kids play in lots and neighborhoods and streets) is less costly to play than football. Charity is nice, but inspiration is better.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Feb 25, 2013 at 10:31 PM

        This is so true. The fact is that African-Americans are favoring Football and Basketball more than Baseball at this point in time. Why? Because they can much more easily play football and basketball than baseball, both at home and in school. Especially in school. How many times do you see high school baseball on TV? Never. How many times do you see high school basketball and football on TV? Almost weekly when in season.

        BUT this isn’t limited to African Americans. Whites, Asians, and every other race is also migrating more toward basketball and football than baseball. Because baseball is a grind. Guys don’t get drafted out of high school and play for millions right away, unless their name is Strasburg or Harper. No, you have to grind it out for years in the minors to become one of the 800+ Major League ballplayers. When you play these games, you aren’t on TV. Even college baseball is only on TV during the CWS. Yet a guy can play basketball and be on TV all the time all 4 years he is in college. Same with football saturdays. Sure not everybody makes the pros…but when you get drafted in football and basketball, you are playing to join a professional team from the start. And that’s the dream many youngsters have.

      • American of African Descent - Feb 25, 2013 at 11:07 PM

        A blue-chipper playing four years of college basketball? The 1980s called . . .

      • paperlions - Feb 26, 2013 at 8:07 AM

        Yeah, I think the “problem” is a “baseball is losing talented athletes to other sports” problem, not a race problem. Great athletes are exciting to watch play, Trout is awesome to watch because of his athletic feats. Billy Hamilton is causing all kinds of buzz because of his tremendous speed and instincts on the bases. More athletes (regardless of descent) in baseball = more exciting and fun baseball.

      • historiophiliac - Feb 26, 2013 at 9:23 AM

        You just have to be cantankerous, don’t you? Is it because of Chris? I do think it’s sad that there are less black players (American) now, and it would be nice to see more black players (from anywhere) in certain positions.

      • paperlions - Feb 26, 2013 at 9:33 AM

        I didn’t mean to be cantankerous….I just really don’t care what color or nation of origin a player is…..I just enjoy watching great athletes play baseball…and great athletes come in all colors….don’t they?

      • historiophiliac - Feb 26, 2013 at 9:38 AM

        Yes, they do, but if you have one group whose participation declines over time, it’s valuable to see if there are contributing factors that can be checked. We don’t want to lose participation amongst any group — especially one that was marginalized for so long. I worry about a disconnect b/c baseball is often connected to a rural past in our imaginations, and there’s so much racial baggage in that.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Feb 26, 2013 at 11:22 AM

        AAD – I didn’t say “blue-chipper”. How many “blue-chippers” are there? Maybe 15 a year at most. and judging from the draft a couple years ago even less. Even if you are a 4-year college player, and you have a choice between basketball and baseball, unless you REALLY love playing baseball, you will probably choose basketball for many reasons. For one thing, you can always go back to baseball if basketball doesn’t work out. Vice versa doesn’t usually work out too well.

        Historio…I didn’t think paper was cantankerous at all. He seemed to be agreeing with me…unless I missed something. I agree with him that it isn’t a race issue and that it is something that is happening across all sports.

  11. crankyfrankie - Feb 25, 2013 at 10:36 PM

    No, not all poor people are black but there are more poor minorities in America then the percentage of Americans overall. Priced gloves to donate to a local group that is attempting to help little league that were wiped out by the storm and was surprised how much it costs. Then you get to spikes,bats and volunteers and baseball is lots more expensive. And yes my attempt was to be nice. Growing up watching Mays and Richie Allen helped me appreciate people who don’t look like me. Many peoples exposure to other races in America is through sports so the more diversity in all sports the better off the nation is. Yes I am aware it sounds pollyannish.

    • historiophiliac - Feb 25, 2013 at 10:49 PM

      I agree. If the most segregated hour in America is Sunday morning church services, I think one of the most integrated is youth soccer games. My nephew’s team has players who are black, Hispanic, American Indian and white on it. Awhile back they played a team with a kid(s) on it who was Muslim — the sideline had a few women in hijabs on it. Of course, soccer is gaining in popularity b/c of its international status and “low participation cost” (I say that with some hesitancy).

    • paperlions - Feb 26, 2013 at 8:12 AM

      I’m still not sure how baseball is a lot more expensive for kids to play, if they want to play, than football or basketball. You need shoes no matter what you play, that has no effect. In baseball you need a glove (they really are not that expensive), baseballs are cheaper than basketballs or footballs. You only need one bat per group of kids (I never owned a bat growing up). Anywhere you can play football, you can play baseball (or at least wiffle ball), as kids, we didn’t need a baseball field….just a field. The problem is one of interest, not opportunity.

      • historiophiliac - Feb 26, 2013 at 9:28 AM

        Exactly. And with football you have to buy pads — if you want to be serious about it. You don’t even need a field or 18 kids to play baseball. We had an empty lot in our neighborhood (the dog bowl was first, the tree was 3b, etc) and w/ a smaller space we needed less kids — of course, the need for players was what let my brother and his friends let us girls play…and I’ll admit I’m not that good.

  12. bh192012 - Feb 26, 2013 at 3:55 PM

    I guess that leaves Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano, Adrian Beltre, Crutis Granderson, David Ortiz, Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera (7/16 or 44% of the starting fielders for the 2012 All Star game) wondering if they’re black enough for Ernie Banks.

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