Kudos to Professor Will Dudley ’89 for arranging this event.

Bob Costas knows what’s up.

Just six minutes into his armchair chat with former Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent at Williams College last night, Costas comforted Red Sox fans by saying that he’d not only be updating the ALCS Game 5 score throughout, but he wouldn’t take up too much game time.

“I think we can enjoy our time here and then go watch the Sox,” he said. “That’s what I plan to do.”

The legendary sportscaster was joined by Vincent, a Williams alum and current Williamstown resident, inside a full-capacity Chapin Hall for a talk titled “A Conversation About Sports.”

“Full-capacity?” I would not have expected such a talk to be that popular. Was it mostly non-students?

Vincent said a tough policy toward steroids would be difficult to put in place due to the power of the player’s union.

“The problem is a national disgrace,” Vincent said. “From Major League Baseball to Williams College. Baseball has to accept the reality that the last 15 years are polluted.”

Huh? Steroids have been (are?) a problem in Major League Baseball. But at Williams College? Vincent has made this accusation before. Calling all Record reporters! I think it is groundless. How many students have used steroids while at Williams in the last 15 years?

Another issue facing baseball is the declining number of blacks playing the sport. Whether it’s the limited number of scholarships available at Northeast schools or the popularity of basketball and football, both men agreed that baseball needs to attract black athletes — and therefore black fans — to remain viable.

Again, huh?

First, the percentage of American-born blacks in baseball has been declining for decades.

MLB’s African-American population crested at 27 percent in 1975 and then began to decline, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. By 2006, according to the latest figures compiled by that University of Central Florida organization, only 8.4 percent of big leaguers were black. According to U.S. Census estimates as of July 1, 2005, African-Americans make up 12.25 percent of the U.S. population.

And yet, by all objective measures (salaries, attendance, team values, etc.), baseball has gone from strength to strength since 1975. What a mystery! Although all my nice PC friends want to believe that baseball’s lack of proportional representation for blacks is a problem, there is no evidence for that claim.

Second, any Martian would be confused. Way more than 8.4% of baseball players seem to be something other than white, Asian or Native American. Consider some of the starters (Coco Crisp, Manny Ramirez, Julio Lugo and David Ortiz) on the Red Sox team that was playing while this talk was going on. Would you describe them as, uh, Lithuanian? Do I need to bring my daughter in to point out precisely what your lying eyes are telling you?

ortiz.jpg

In the mixed up land of racial categories, the confused among you will want to classify Ortiz as Hispanic since he was born in the Dominican Republic and his first language is Spanish. Wrong answer! Hispanic is not a racial category. You can be white, black or asian and still be Hispanic. But, if it is the racial make-up of baseball that you are interested in, then there is no doubt that percentage of black baseball players is much higher then the percentage of black males in the population from which Major League Baseball draws its players. Consider the country of birth for current players.

Readers are free to speculate about why the Dominican Republic (population 9 million) has 79 (!) current players while Japan (population 127 million) has 16 and Taiwan (population 23 million) has 4. But the point is that Vincent and Costas do not need to fear being confronted by too many white faces on the baseball diamond any time soon. Since the fans obviously don’t care that Manny Ramirez was born in Santo Domingo while Coco Crisp is from Los Angeles, why do Vincent and Costas?

Presumably, they don’t care. They just look for excellent baseball. Where someone is born or the color of their skin is irrelevant. Guess what? The same is true for the rest of us fans!

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