The Rockford Peaches pose for a team photo

Baseball Within the Margins

No one cares. It’s a harsh statement to make, but an honest one. It’s also a statement that I have to remind myself of based on what I have chosen to write about. I’m not referencing unaffiliated baseball this time, though it is true that the great majority do not care about that baseball either. Rather, I’m referencing the fact that no one but a select few care about coverage of any baseball history, or present-day news, that isn’t decidedly white and male. Whenever I log an article about a Negro League player I do so knowing that it will get almost no views, very little positive word of mouth, and generally, disappear without so much as a whimper. That’s just the way things go, I, and others like me, have grown accustomed to this fact.

It doesn’t need to be this way though, but it will as long as baseball from marginalized peoples remains exactly that, marginalized. The problem could go away in an instant if any of the big sites did more than toss a random bone towards coverage of Latin American baseball, women’s baseball, Asian baseball, etc. Alas, random bones here and there is all that baseball from marginalized people are afforded. This is a conscious decision, driven no doubt by what people are willing to click on and read.

The problem with that approach is that people will only click on and read what has been made available to them. If a concerted effort is made to tell folks that what Carlos Royer did matters. If articles are published extolling the greatness of Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Sadaharu Oh, Dorothy Schroeder, and more then people will be made to care. What people talk about and what they choose to care about is driven in large part by what they are told they should care about and discuss. This approach may eat into a major site’s bottom line for a bit, but if the end result is a platform for baseball where all are included and not just Major League Baseball or the white male history of the game then isn’t a temporary bottom line crunch worth it?

Of course it is, everyone knows that it is. That doesn’t mean anyone is willing to take on a bottom line crunch or endure short term losses for a long term gain in the baseball community. That’s because the major sites have lost sight of what they are supposed to be, not just revenue and click generators but stewards of baseball’s past, present, and future. That means fewer MLB articles and more articles on the baseball taking place in Asia, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere around the globe. Baseball Australia has been struggling to get a women’s league off the ground. Maybe, just maybe, a major site should devote some time to their effort. Instead, baseball fans can expect another article about the present-day MLB or some lament about why the 1961 New York Yankees were the all-time best or how Ted Williams was actually that great of a hitter. Australia’s attempt at a women’s league, and already in existence but still struggling Japan Women’s Baseball League, are right there to be written about, all that needs to happen is for a major baseball media site to actually, truly, honestly commit to covering more than the MLB baseball machine.

Voices like Shakeia Taylor, Gary Ashwill, Joe Posnanski, and others shouldn’t have to stand out as they do. They should not be exceptions to the rule and the fact that they are willing to cover marginalized baseball history and present shouldn’t be viewed as a great thing. Yet, we must view it like that, because they are some of the few willing to go onto larger platforms and push for more articles about these marginalized baseball groups. The major sites toss them their bones, publish an article here and there, and then move on because, well, it’s far easier to say you want inclusion than to actually follow through on said inclusion. 

I’m lucky in that I have a career outside of writing and I am a privileged white male. I can choose to write about what I want to and not worry about any fallout or the lack of visibility for my writings. I can use my site to try and give a voice to the rest of the baseball world, and to those trying their best to let fans know that there is a world beyond the white male MLB vision offered up by the major baseball media sites. At the end of the day, it’s easy to write about women in baseball, Latin leagues, Asian baseball, etc. It’s just as easy for the major baseball websites to publish more articles and information on the Negro Leagues, Asian leagues, etc. That they don’t do so is a conscious decision. The more we sit back and allow them, and their writers, to offer nothing more than the occasional lip service of “please read this article we published on the Negro Leagues exactly seven months to the day since our last article about the Negro Leagues” the more we allow baseball’s past, present, and future to remain male and MLB centered. I’ve had enough of that baseball world, how about you?

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Unknown

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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