Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Larry MacPhail's Opposition to Integrating Baseball on Full Display at Lelands Auctions

From Branch Rickey's elaborate plans to Jackie Robinson's ability to rise above the hate, we are all familiar with the folks behind the integration of Baseball.  But, do you know much about the forces working against breaking the color barrier?  Per an item currently available for sale through Lelands Auctions we learn a bit more about an influential Baseball insider who was opposed to change and his reasoning.

The below 4-page letter is known as "The MacPhail Report" and it details all of the often irrational and obviously racist thinking of the time.  It was penned by Larry MacPhail - one time Dodger President and General Manager, and then current co-owner and General Manager of the Yankees - in 1945. Read it in its entirety below.
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Per Bryan Soderholm-Difatte at
Best known as “The MacPhail Report” for its principal author, Larry MacPhail, who was part of the new ownership group of the New York Yankees, the committee tackled head-on the “people who charge that baseball is flying a Jim Crow flag at its masthead—or think that racial discrimination is the basic reason for failure of the major leagues to give employment to Negroes” by accusing them of “simply talking through their collective hats.” In addressing the “Race Question” the report set as its foundation premise that “professional baseball is a private business enterprise [that] depends on profits for its existence, just like any other business.”
Written in the same summer that Jackie Robinson was tearing up the International League with 40 stolen bases, 113 runs scored and an ultimately league-leading .349 batting average, the report observed that there was a tremendous increase in black attendance at all the games in which he played, and that in two Triple-A cities—Newark and Baltimore—blacks accounted for more than half the attendance when Robinson’s team, the Montreal Royals, came to town. As paying customers, they were surely contributing to club coffers, but the MacPhail Report warned that such levels of black attendance in ballparks such as Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds in New York City and Comiskey Park in Chicago “could conceivably threaten the value of the Major League franchises owned by these Clubs.” The report did not specify Ebbets Field, which all concerned certainly knew was Jackie’s ultimate destination.

Once that very pregnant point was made—and it was certainly one that motivated the Yankees well into the integration era—the MacPhail Report went on to assert that if the best black players left to play in the major leagues, then the “Negro leagues will eventually fold up” and, back to the issue of money, major league teams would lose out on substantial revenue from renting out their stadiums to Negro League teams featuring star players. All of this, the drafting committee concluded, “is not racial discrimination.” Instead, “it’s simply respecting the contractual relationship between the Negro leagues and their players.”
It should be noted that MacPhail specifically states in the letter that the Yankees would not be integrating any time soon (that didn't happen til 1955). Nevertheless, MacPhail was admitted into the Hall of Fame in 1978. 

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