When Rickey Henderson broke the all-time stolen base record, he pulled the base with his left hand from the plug and raised both of his hands triumphantly, the base now held in his right hand. The game stopped. Henderson’s family members ran onto the field to share a hug. Oakland A’s fans stood and cheered wildly. At the time, picking up a base from the field was unheard of. In fact, it was groundbreaking. But that’s who Henderson was as a player: Loud. Charismatic. Disruptive. Relentless.
In recognition of Black History Month, it is important to note that in 2018 only 8.4 percent of players on a Major League roster were African-American.
A key factor in this phenomenon is the burden of baseball’s “unwritten rules.” Unlike football or basketball, baseball culture frowns upon freedom of expression. Other factors apply, such as the high costs of baseball equipment, low exposure to the game of baseball and the slow pace of the game. The MLB is quickly losing its appeal to the African-American community, and so far, not much has been done to stop the bleeding.
“Today, I’m the greatest of all time,” Henderson said after breaking the stolen base record.