by Timothy F. Kearney and David Gargone, Misericordia University
The important movie \”42\” opened recently, reminding us from the historical significance of methods Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers finally integrated America\’s national pastime.
It\’s hard to imagine now, but even after that special day in 1947, baseball retained segregated teams until 1959 once the Boston Red Sox had become the last team to integrate.? Baseball\’s story is an important reminder that throughout our nation\’s history, large pools of talent have been ignored or undervalued C often due simply to racial, religious, gender or other irrational prejudices.
Of the 205 players in the Hall of Fame today, 18 spent at least some of their playing days in segregated baseball. Teams that integrated quickly were rewarded with better performances on the field and at the turnstiles, based on our research. The story of Jackie Robinson and the integration of the national pastime is really a timely reminder about the cost of ignoring or undervaluing the talents in our fellow citizens.
It is essential to note that baseball would be a late integrator among the major sports.? Though largely forgotten today, George Poage won two bronze medals in the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, Mo. Boxing began to be fitfully integrated in early 20th century. By 1908, Jack Johnson (himself immortalized by James Earl Jones in the 1970 film, \”The Great White Hope\”) won the heavyweight boxing championship. NCAA football started to be integrated in 1918, and Fritz Pollard and Bobby Marshal integrated the NFL in 1920. Jackie Robinson himself would be a four-sport letterman at UCLA and was an officer in the U.S. Army. Consider Major League Baseball was, and still remains, protected by federal anti-trust legislation, it had been able to deny blacks the right to compete on the playing field.
By intentionally discriminating against black ball players, Mlb chose a substandard labor force and fielded a smaller product. This approach eventually affected the bottom line for many of the teams\’ owners. When The second world war took 13 million able-bodied men in to the armed forces, baseball had an opportunity to tap into a broader talent pool. Like many businesses, the economic losses of baseball from the Great Depression within the 1930s to World War II in the 1940s put pressure on ownership to end segregation. The exploits of blacks in the war reinforced the trend to desegregate. The obstinate owners, though, insisted on keeping the sport segregated, which led to war-time appearances by players who had failed to qualify for military service. These inconsistences intersected using the sacrifices produced by black troops. President Truman\’s concluding decision to integrate the military made it impossible to help keep segregation in baseball.
The seeds were sprouting even before Jackie Robinson\’s historic breakthrough.? Within the war years, the Phillies foundered, particularly when compared with the Philadelphia Athletics of Connie Mack fame. Based on baseball lore, baseball impresario Bill Veeck designed a strong bid to buy the Phils, but additionally made the mistake of informing the National League he intended to integrate the team. Veeck\’s bid was rejected, but he went on to purchase the Cleveland Indians and broke the American League color barrier just a couple months after Jackie Robinson did in 1947 when Larry Doby pinch hit.
We aren\’t discounting the importance of the moral imperative towards integration.? However, Dodger Gm Branch Rickey himself famously said that the greatest font of untapped talent was in the Negro Leagues. \”The Negroes can make us winners for years to come. And for which i will bear being known as a bleeding heart and do-gooder -,\” he once said.
Consider the results we found during our research into what led to desegregation. The teams that integrated first were rather organizations that had long periods of poor attendance and poor performance in the game, according to our research. Discrimination is a costly method of doing business. The most obvious answer was to integrate, which proved to be profitable as economics predicts.
The Dodgers only had one postseason appearance within the decade before integration. They integrated quickly and as a result won four from the next seven National League pennants. Similarly in Cleveland, the Indians were in the bottom half of the league attending for nearly ten years before signing Doby. Soon after he joined the Tribe, the team shot up the standings and most doubled attendance to 2.6 million in 1948 when they won the planet Series.
Economics and free competition oftentimes push broader change in business as well as in society. We believe that this impulse C the need to win and attract fans C designed a valuable contribution in this instance. It\’s an important lesson to bear in mind as we remember Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, Branch Rickey and Bill Veeck, and just what they accomplished in 1947.
Timothy F. Kearney, Ph.D., an avid New York Mets fan, is the chair of the Department of economic at Misericordia University, and David Gargone, Ed.D., an ardent New York Yankees fan, may be the director from the Sport Management Program at Misericordia University.