The Red Sox Black stars provide inspiration for young players of color
Jaime C. Harris | 8/9/2018, 1:20 p.m.
The number of aspiring African-Americans seeking to play Major League Baseball has dwindled over the past five decades. However, the youth who still dream of becoming Major League players can look to the Boston Red Sox for inspiration, particularly their superstar right fielder Mookie Betts.
The 25-year-old from Nashville, Tenn. is a leading candidate for American League MVP. When the Red Sox faced the Toronto Blue Jays Wednesday, Betts was atop the American League in batting with a .341 average, second in runs scored with 91 and third in the commonly referenced analytics statistic Wins Above Replacement at 7.1 He was also tied with the Yankees Giancarlo Stanton for eighth in home runs with 26 and had knocked in 58 runs primarily from the lead-off position.
Betts is joined in the Red Sox lineup by fellow African-American Jackie Bradley Jr., a former star at the University of South Carolina, who is arguably the most spectacular center fielder in baseball, as his catches regularly make the evening’s highlights. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, a native of the Caribbean island of Aruba, is another standout Black player for the American League front runners, which at 80-34 held the best record in baseball by seven games in the win column as of last night (Wednesday).
Red Sox pitcher David Price, like Betts, a native of Tennessee, is one of the pre-eminent African-American pitchers of this generation. The five-time All-Star, 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner and two-time AL earned run average leader has a career record of 138-74. He is 11-6 this season in 22 starts with a 3.93 ERA.
It seems paradoxical that the Red Sox have become the standard bearer for Black players because they were the last team in baseball to integrate after Jackie Robinson broke MLB’s color barrier in April 1947, calling up Pumpsie Green from the minor leagues to the majors in 1959.
Tuesday, the Mamie Johnson Little League from Washington, D.C. was eliminated from earning a spot in the venerable Little League World Series by losing their second game in the mid-Atlantic Regional. The Little League World Series was founded in 1947 and is held every August in Williamsport, Pa.
The team has garnered national attention after becoming the first predominantly African-American team to win the D.C. Little League Championship in the game’s 31-year history and advance to the mid-Atlantic Regional. The squad is named after the legendary Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, the first female pitcher to play in the Negro Leagues. Johnson died in December 2017 in Washington, D.C.
Although the team embodies the spirit and legacy of Johnson, they have Betts and other Black Red Sox for a more current source of hope and motivation.