The world is a much different place than when the Phillies were the last National League team to integrate in 1957, when they acquired John Irvin Kennedy from the Brooklyn Dodgers.
“It’s funny how the team that was the last to add an African American to its roster now leads the league in African Americans,” Tony Gwynn Jr. said.
Jimmy Rollins said that he really hasn’t noticed that the Phillies has seven black players but that has registered with Gwynn, who realizes that the Phillies are well above the league average, which is 8.3 percent, according to the MLB.
“That’s crazy since our team is about 40 percent African Americans,” Gwynn said.
Gwynn is exaggerating but he isn’t that far off the mark. More than half of the Phillies starting eight, Rollins, Ryan Howard, Ben Revere, Dominic Brown and Marlon Byrd are black.
“That’s pretty amazing when you look around the league,” Brown said. “You might see one African-American on one team or maybe none on a team but you look around this clubhouse now and we got some pretty cool guys, who happen to be African American. The bottom line is that each of us can play baseball. That’s why we’re here but we’re a really good group. We have a lot of personality and have a lot of fun with each other. But the biggest reason we’re here is because we can play the game.”
That’s inarguable. Howard was a historic run producer. Rollins is the greatest shortstop in the history of the franchise and will soon be the club’s all-time hits leader. Byrd is a solid rightfielder, who is a team leader. The Phillies hope that Revere and Brown, a 2013 All-Star, can each find their last year’s form.
If only Ben Chapman, the Phillies racist manager, who tormented Jackie Robinson in 1947, was still around.
“There’s a lot of talent here,” Gwynn said. “I remember when I was on the opposing team and I’ll tell you, the baseball world really respects Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. They happen to be African American and great ballplayers.”
It’s not a coincidence that the greatest period in Phillies history featured Howard and Rollins.
“Times have changed in Philadelphia,” Gwynn said. “They don’t ignore talented African-Americans. They’re here right now. I remember being on the Milwaukee Brewers and we had five-African-Americans. They’re are seven here. I hope the African American kids notice.”