Black Aces

There’s an article on MLB.com today called “12 Black Aces,” discussing the dozen African-American pitchers who had 20-win seasons in the majors. Here’s the list:

Don Newcombe
Toothpick Sam Jones
Bob Gibson
Mudcat Grant
Earl Wilson
Ferguson Jenkins
Al Downing
Vida Blue
J.R. Richard
Mike Norris
Dwight Gooden
Dave Stewart

Notice some missing names? When I hear the phrase “Black Ace,” two of my first thoughts are Pedro Martinez and Juan Marichal. And aren’t we missing some other black 20-game winners, like Pedro’s brother Ramon, and Jose Lima, and Bartolo Colon? Oh, there are more… of course, those guys were born in Latin America, which excludes them from this list. But Pedro and Ramon are as black as any of those dozen aces, and I have always found it odd when that sort of thing is ignored. I’m not disputing that black players have been given the short end of the stick in terms of pitching opportunities, and that’s obviously unjust and needs to change, but I can’t help wincing when I see a list like that that doesn’t include some of the greatest black pitchers in baseball history.

It reminds me of the spring of 1997. That was the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut, and I read an article somewhere that said something along the lines of, “Sadly, fifty years later, the Dodgers have just one African-American on the roster — bench player Wayne Kirby.” Which I guess was technically true, but horribly misleading. Other black players on the ’97 Dodgers included Raul Mondesi, Wilton Guerrero, Roger Cedeno, Ramon Martinez, and Pedro Astacio.

My point of all this being, while we’re paying well-deserved respect to outstanding black baseball players, it’d be nice if we could avoid always drawing lines between “United States citizens of African descent” and “Latin Americans of African descent.”

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