• Racism and Baseball

      This week, pro baseball player Orlando Hudson suggested that some prominent players are out of work because they are black:

      [Hudson] believes there is a racist element to the free-agent market in baseball, and that it’s paralyzing the 36-year-old [outfielder Jermaine] Dye’s ability to earn what non-blacks with commensurate numbers received in the off-season.

      Given recent news, it wouldn’t surprise me if pandering congressmen start an investigation.  But are famous African-American players like Dye really unemployed because team owners are racist?  It’s possible, but past studies of the MLB have found little evidence of salary discrimination.

      A more realistic possibility is that older players like Dye aren’t as valuable.  They’re unemployed because they ask for more money than their skills warrant. As one baseball writer put it: “the market has a different idea of what their services are worth than the [player] does.”

      In reality, baseball is a great example of how the free market does a better job correcting racism than state intervention.  Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey broke the color barrier in baseball by signing talented black players like Jackie Robinson because he wanted to win.  It paid off.  The team went on to win 6 pennants in 10 years.  Teams that discriminated...lost.  Free competition solves all kinds of problems.

      J.C. Bradbury, author of “The Baseball Economist,” says: “Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and others could play as equals with whites on the baseball field. But because of segregation laws, at night they'd have to sleep in different hotels, eat at different restaurants, and find other restrooms. Baseball gave blacks freedom; state intervention gave us Jim Crow.”