I’ll Show You the Bronx Banter Breakdown V

Alex Belth, Cliff Corcoran and I cut a snappy two-part video series for SNY.tv’s “Bronx Banter Breakdown” yesterday. Part two, covering the lineups, is now up at Bronx Banter.

While you’re there, check out Cliff’s excellent piece on the 1950 World Series and its future ramificiations:

To give you a sense of just how long it’s been since the Yankees swept Philadelphia’s Whiz Kids, the 1950 World Series was the last Fall Classic to feature two all-white teams.

That fact is not as trivial as it might sound. The Yankees’ struggles in the late 1960s and early 1970s had several sources, including the institution of the amateur draft and the corporate ownership of CBS, but their failure to properly exploit the African American talent pool was undeniably a contributing factor. When they finally emerged from that slumber, it was with black stars such as Mickey Rivers, Willie Randolph, Chris Chambliss, Roy White, Oscar Gamble, and Gamble’s replacement, Reggie Jackson.

Similarly, the Phillies’ surprising pennant in 1950 fed the organization’s resistance to integration. The 1950 Whiz Kids got their name not only because they won the pennant, but because they were the youngest team in the National League on both sides of the ball. In fact, the 1950 Phillies were the youngest pennant winners ever. The Phillies’ oldest regular was first baseman Eddie Waitkus (the player whose shooting the previous year inspired The Natural). Just one of the six men to make more than ten starts for them was over the age of 26, and future Hall of Famers Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts were both just 23.

Assuming that young squad would only get better with age, the Phillies didn’t even begin scouting black players until 1954, when Roy Hamey took over as general manager following four seasons in which the Phillies finished between third and fifth place. The Phillies didn’t field their first black player until 1957, didn’t have an African-American starter until 1961, and didn’t have an African-American star until the arrival of Richie Allen in 1964.

As i wrote in It Ain’t Over, the teams that integrated early dominated then National League for more than a decade after the color barrier was broken. The Dodgers won seven pennants between 1947 and 1959, the Braves won three, and the Giants two. Those Phils were the only breakthrough, their franchise was the last NL club to integrate, and they wouldn’t even get back to the World Series until 1980. Serves ‘em right to suffer.

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