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The Cubs had an all-Black outfield for a time Friday, and that was a rare occurrence

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There’s Black talent out there — the Cubs ought to go looking for it.

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Billy Hamilton
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

In the top of the seventh inning of Friday’s Cubs win over the Twins, Billy Hamilton replaced Kyle Schwarber in the lineup. Hamilton played center field, with Cameron Maybin moving to left.

This gave the Cubs an all-Black outfield of Maybin, Hamilton and Jason Heyward for two innings until David Ross sent Ildemaro Vargas up to bat for Hamilton in the bottom of the eighth.

The Cubs haven’t had many Black outfielders in recent years. Before Friday, the last time the Cubs had an all-Black outfield was June 24, 2006, when Juan Pierre, Jacque Jones and Freddie Bynum were the starting outfield. Oddly enough, that game was also against the Twins.

Before that you have to go back to 1992, when the Cubs had several Black outfielders, including Andre Dawson, Derrick May, Jerome Walton, Dwight Smith and Kal Daniels. There were a number of games late in that year where the Cubs fielded an all-Black outfield, among those games: August 22, 1992 (Daniels, Smith, May) and August 23, 1992 (Daniels, Smith, Dawson).

But before 1992? I found two games in 1967 — July 28 and July 31 — where there were three Black outfielders starting the game: Billy Williams, Ted Savage and Clarence Jones. Prior to that, the Cubs had many games in which they had an all-Black outfield of Williams, Lou Brock and George Altman in 1961 and 1962.

This all goes to point up how increasingly rare Black players have become in Major League Baseball. Black players made up as much as 18,5 percent of MLB players in 1975 (and a bit over 18 percent in part of the 1980s), but that percentage has declined and it was just 7.8 percent of players on Opening Day rosters in 2020.

But that could be changing going forward:

Meet Edwin Thompson, 40, head coach of Eastern Kentucky University, who happens to have 18 Black players on his roster.

He has had nine players drafted or signed by major league teams in his five-year tenure, including All-American catcher A.J. Lewis, who signed last week with the Colorado Rockies. Incredibly, none of his nine pro players were even drafted out of high school.

“I really feel like there’s more Black players coming now, and I think we’ll see a wave in the next three to five years,’’ said Thompson, one of only three Black head coaches in NCAA Division I. “We look everywhere to find the best players where people may not be looking. You hear people say, ‘Oh, they’re just not out there.’ No, that’s an excuse. They’re out there.

“These kids are just getting unrecruited. You just have to find them. You go to neighborhoods and places that may not be comfortable. If coaches don’t come from diverse backgrounds, they’re going to recruit the players they’re comfortable with.

“It’s just a choice of how you want to recruit.’’

I believe Thompson is correct. The talent is out there, and perhaps not even being recruited. The Cubs’ No. 1 draft pick this year, Ed Howard, is a Black player from Chicago. Hopefully, going forward the Cubs will do more scouting and recruiting in their own back yard. They might just find some undiscovered talent in the Black community right in their own hometown.

NOTE: For purposes of this article, “Black” is defined as Black players from the USA or Canada. Latino players who are also dark-skinned are not included in this definition. From this site, here is a good visualization of MLB’s demographics from 1947-2016: