ii) Statistical achievements of African American players who were subjected to racial abuse are under-valued in baseball's history.
All of the "asterisks" listed above connote a tarnishing of the record in which an asterisk has been affixed. However, an asterisk can be used to represent any additional information about the information in which it is attached. After integration, African American players were subjected to a wide array of physical and verbal abuse on and off of the diamond.[i] For example, Jackie Robinson was frequently deliberately spiked by players sliding into second.[ii] Additionally, Robinson and other African American players were frequently the targets of racial epithets and taunts.[iii] These conditions made playing baseball in the Major Leagues much more difficult than it already was for the first African American players.[iv]
In a bedrock Critical Race Theory article, Richard Delgado outlines the detrimental physical and psychological effects for the victims of racial abuse.[v] In fact, Delgado posits that the victims of verbal racial abuse should be able to bring a tort claim against their abuser.[vi] Hate speech, such as the type African Americans were exposed TO post-integration can harm the victim physically, emotionally, and fiscally.[vii]
First, victims of hate speech develop feelings of humiliation, isolation, and self-hatred.[viii] Further, African American victims of hate speech are more likely to have health problems related to high blood pressure and hyper-tension.[ix] Finally, many victims of hate speech see their careers suffer.[x] "The person who is timid, withdrawn, bitter, hypertense, or psychotic will almost certainly fare poorly in employment settings."[xi]
For baseball players, "employment settings" are in the clubhouse and on the diamond. Acts such as hitting a 90 mile per hour fastball and fielding a hard grounder are difficult enough without the harms of racial abuse. Thriving is such conditions would seem to be next to impossible. However, many early integration African American players succeeded at the highest levels on the sport.
There is not a better example of an African America player thriving soon after integration than that of Jackie Robinson himself. Racial abuse started for Robinson in Montreal, where he played in the Dodgers' farm system for a year before making the Major League squad in 1947.[xii] The Montreal manager, Clay Hopper, begged Branch Rickey to not hire him to manage an integrated team.[xiii] Hopper even asked Rickey whether he really thought that "a nigger's a human being."[xiv] The racial abuse and pressure led to detrimental physical and mental effects for Robinson including abdominal pain and Robinson fearing a nervous breakdown.[xv] Despite this, Jackie Robinson won the Rookie Of The Year award in his very first season in the Major Leagues.[xvi] Two years later, in 1949, Robinson was named the National League's Most Valuable Player.[xvii] What were already impressive feats, are even more so when accounting for the racial abuse Robinson encountered.
On field achievements, represented by awards and statistical records, do not tell the whole story for African American players who were subjected to racial abuse after integration. Racial insults lead to mental, physical, and pecuniary harm while making it difficult to excel in a workplace. When comparing player's achievements against one another, it is imperative to consider the added difficulty racially abused African Americans endured while playing. Unlike an asterisk that denotes a tarnishing of a statistical record, a "positive asterisk" should accompany the records of African Americans who were subjected to racial abuse. Such an asterisk would remind fans that the playing field was not even for all players, even after integration.
[i] Baseball: Sixth Inning.
[ii] Richard Wormser, JACKIE ROBINSON INTEGRATES MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL, PBS.com, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/stories_events_jackie.html (last visited April 12, 2014).
[iv] Baseball: Sixth Inning.
[v] Richard Delgado, Words That Wound: A Tort Action for Racial Insult, Epithets, and Name-Calling, 17 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 133 (1982).
[xii] Baseball: Sixth Inning
[xvi] Jackie Robinson, Baseball Reference, http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/robinja02.shtml (last visited April, 12 2014).