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| Columns |

Bud Selig Purged African-Americans From Professional Baseball

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Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke exposes the biggest fail in Major League Baseball.

Baseball fans across the country should be dancing in the streets. Bud Selig is finally going to retire. Last week, Major League Baseball's head honcho announced he is calling it quits after 22 years of driving America's pastime into the ground. He leaves behind a tarnished legacy.

Under Selig's watch, the 1994 World Series was cancelled, Congress investigated rampant steroid use by star players, and the sport has been surpassed by football as the nation's favorite sport. He's acted like a dictator, from denying the New York Mets from honoring heroes of 9/11 on the tenth anniversary of the attacks to forcing the Los Angeles Dodgers into bankruptcy to force a change in owners.

But Selig's biggest failure has been driving African Americans out of Major League Baseball. That should be on his tombstone. When this season began, black players accounted for only seven percent of the opening-day rosters, a historic low. It's gotten so bad Selig put together a 17-member task force, including Hall of Fame great Frank Robinson, to study how to bring back black ball players.

Selig is feeling the heat. He allowed team owners to abandon inner city neighborhoods for the Caribbean and Latin America, where franchises can land players who look and play like Hank Aaron, Vida Blue, Mookie Wilson, Darryl Strawberry, Ken Griffey Jr., Deion Sanders, Kirby Puckett, and other past All-Star African American players.

Unlike the National Football League, Major League Baseball doesn't invest resources and money into developing African American little league and high school athletes. The black Hispanic players are great, don't get me wrong. But professional baseball would be a lot better if there was an equal representation of both in the major leagues.

For instance, University of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Florida State University running back Devonta Freeman started off playing little league baseball for the Liberty City All-Stars, which owns the oldest little league charter in Miami-Dade County.

The All-Stars are part of Liberty City Optimist Club, more widely known for producing future NFL players, but has churned out stellar players on the diamond as well like Lenny Harris, who holds the record for the most pinch hits in a major league career. Teddy and Devonta could have been two-sport stars like Sanders, who also played professional football.

However, Teddy and Devonta ended up playing only football because the NFL has committed resources to helping kids chase their dreams of playing professionally. The Miami Dolphins hold youth football camps and support local high school teams. At Charles Hadley Park, where Liberty City Optimist Club plays, the NFL redid the football field and installed a new irrigation system.

Meanwhile the baseball field is sorely neglected. The city doesn't even water the grass there. Selig and the Miami Marlins have not lived up to their commitment of developing youth baseball programs in parks like Charles Hadley even though Michelle Spence Jones represented the swing vote on the Miami City Commission that approved the team's new ballpark.

If Selig really cared about the lack of African American representation in the big leagues, he would mandate every team support little league clubs and high school teams in places like Overtown, Brownsville, Liberty City, and Miami Gardens.

Selig doesn't need a task force to tell him what went wrong. He is the reason African Americans are not represented in the big leagues.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.

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