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MLB Has a massive diversity problem in the local broadcast booth

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The Phillies once again will have an all-white broadcast team for games this year. Unfortunately, this is the norm across baseball, as MLB has a huge problem with diversity in the local broadcast booth.

Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Let's cut to the chase and not bury the lede - based on a study of every team's broadcasters, Major League Baseball has a huge problem with diversity in the local broadcast booth. How huge? To be exact - there are 164 announcers for the 30 MLB teams' English-speaking broadcasts. Of those 164, here's the breakdown:

  • 148 are white men (90.2%).
  • 9 are African-American men (5.5%).
  • 5 are Latino men (3.0%).
  • 1 is an Asian man (0.6%).
  • 1 is a white woman (0.6%).
Yup, over 90% of baseball's broadcasters are white men. (Full explanation of this analysis is below, but it includes English-speaking TV and radio broadcasts and play-by-play announcers and analysts, but not reporters or pre- or post-game anchors/analysts. More on that at bottom of the article.)

Compared to last year's opening day rosters, when 59.1% of players were white men, the local broadcast booth does not at all resemble the diversity of the game itself. And it certainly does not reflect the diversity of the potential fanbase for the teams.

In other words, 70 years after Jackie Robinson integrated the game, baseball is falling down on the job of integrating the broadcast booth.

The numbers here would be even worse if it weren't for what the Twins did this off-season. The Twins became only the second organization with two people of color on the air when they added Torii Hunter and LaTroy Hawkins to their rotation of TV color commentators. They are not the main analysts, that job goes to Bert Blyleven, but they will be in the group of people regularly joining the play-by-play announcer, Dick Bremer, for the roughly 70 games Blyleven doesn't call.

The only other team with more than one person of color on the air is the Angels. Victor Rojas is starting his eighth season as the team's TV play-by-play guy, and Jose Mota is the radio color commentator. No other team has two people of color in the broadcast booth.

Our beloved Phillies have seven different people calling games this year -- Tom McCarthy, Scott Franzke, Larry Anderson, Jim Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Ben Davis, and newly-added John Kruk -- all of them white men. After the 2013 season, the Phillies removed Gary Matthews from the TV broadcast after seven years on the air, and the team hasn't put another person of color on air regularly since then.

The Phils should have an opportunity soon though, and it would be a terrible mistake if the team missed it. Jimmy Rollins is struggling with the Giants in spring training, and Ryan Howard remains unsigned. Probably much sooner rather than later (and contrary to both of their wishes), both will be done with their careers. They were immensely popular players here in Philadelphia who both demonstrated a personality that should translate very well to the broadcast booth (unlike their WFC partner in crime, Chase Utley). If the Phillies aren't already exploring adding both of them to the on-air team, the franchise is committing an act of gross negligence.

The Phillies aren't alone in having an all-white broadcast team - they are just one of 17 franchises without a person of color on the air. Ten other NL teams and six AL teams have all-white broadcast booths. In the NL, it's the Braves, Nationals, Cubs, Brewers, Pirates, Reds, Giants, Padres, Rockies, and Diamondbacks. In the AL, it's the Red Sox, Rays, Indians, Royals, Rangers, and Athletics.

This imbalance between the NL and AL is reflected in the overall numbers as well. Neither league is doing well in these measures, but the NL is abysmal in comparison.
  • NL - 77 white men, 2 black men, 1 Latino man, 1 Asian man, 0 women.
  • AL - 71 white men, 7 black men, 4 Latino men, 0 Asian men, 1 white woman.
Both leagues have a lot of work to do, but the NL has the bigger problem.

It's no secret that baseball's fan base is not as diverse as the cities where the game is played, let alone the country as a whole. All it takes is sitting in the seats at the stadium and looking around. Usually it's a sea of white people. Nielsen stats for TV viewership show the problem isn't just at games, but also who's watching at home. Baseball's TV watchers are 83% white and 70% male, with 50% aged 55 or older. In other words, old white men watch baseball.

This is not a smart plan for building the future of the game. And one way that MLB can counteract this problem is diversifying the broadcast booth. It not only is the fair and non-discriminatory thing to do, but it's also the only way to try to expand the base of fans who listen and watch games in the future.

How this study was conducted: Each team's broadcast team is listed on mlb.com. However, the information on those pages is not always up to date. (Side note - mlb.com would be well-served to keep each team's broadcaster page up to date. That doesn't seem like a hard task.)

I started with the information on each team's page and then for each team researched further using Wikipedia (up to date for some teams, horribly out of date for others) as well as news reports. Even though I cross-referenced each team's on-air personalities to be as accurate as I could find, that doesn't mean I have everything perfect. If I have missed someone for a team, please let me know and I'll correct it.

For the analysis, I included the following: radio and TV English-speaking broadcasts, play by play and color analysts, regular broadcasters. I did not include the following: in-game reporters, pre- and post-game show hosts or analysts, substitutes. I made this decision because I wanted to capture the people who are speaking to us constantly during a game, not the sporadic 30 second update about what the relief pitcher did on his off-day or the folks giving us talking-head analysis before or after the game. I do understand this cuts down on diversity, as there are several women and people of color in these other categories. They aren't the in-game broadcasters, though.

For an announcer's race or ethnicity, I consulted online resources. Most were obvious, while all of the ones who were unclear (for example, Keith Hernandez (Spanish, not Latino) or F.P. Santangelo (Italian)) had stories written about them because of the interest people have in these questions. I did my best here, but I could have some wrong.

If you are interested, you can find the raw data and list of all announcers that I compiled here. Again, any corrections that are needed, please get in touch.