"The reason we had an all-black outfield in '51 is Don Mueller got hurt, so Hank Thompson was a legitimate replacement," Irvin said. "So what? People talk about, 'You're the first to do this. You're the first to do that.' Don't dwell on race all the time.
"Everyone says we have our first African American president. Has there ever been a Jewish president? An Italian president? They don't say a damn thing about that. You think we're still fighting the Civil War or something. If you want to mention it in passing, OK. But don't dwell on it."
Can I just say; that is an extremely refreshing perspective. Now, I'm not trying to make it seem like Monty Irvin speaks for the entire African-American community, by no means. I think the point of this quote is that if we continue to talk about such topics, that talking really gives certain issues more credit than they may deserve. In many ways, I think this race issue (read: conflict) is perpetuated by the continual discussions that are had regarding race. This is especially true as it relates to baseball for one BIG reason: Baseball DOES NOT market itself to the Black community in nearly the same way that the NBA or NFL does. Watch an NBA game or NFL game and you will see mostly African Americans on the court/field. Those two sports advertise toward that demographic, their current talent helps develop more talent from that demographic and on and on. Major League baseball does very little to help it's own cause in African American communities, in fact, I dare say individual players like Curtis Granderson and Torii Hunter, do more than League itself does.
I'm not gonna sit here and try and pretend that everyone, everywhere is past the racism issue, but I won't sit there and listen to those who suggest or say that there is some sort of systematic racism going on in baseball which accounts for the few number of African Americans in the league. To me that is lazy thinking and a poor analysis of what the real, much more plausible reasons might be. I'll finish this piece with one more quote from Mr. Irvin where he talks about getting kids from the African American community involved in baseball:
"Kids should get involved in baseball more. You don't have to be 6-foot-9 to play baseball. It's peer pressure, I guess. They like football and basketball and find out they can't make it because of physical requirements. They need to send out more emissaries around the league and country to stress the point."
That doesn't sound like much of a plan to me, but his point if valid, nevertheless. If kids from African American communities are exposed to baseball in a more direct way, chances are there will be more African Americans in baseball 10-15 years down the road.