Ken Sugiura: Baseball's hiring practices at highest levels fail to honor Hank Aaron

Ken Sugiura, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Baseball

ATLANTA — Before Monday’s celebration honoring the 50th anniversary of Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run, a close friend and former teammate of Aaron’s was asked about an issue that was dear to the late baseball legend — the lack of opportunities for Blacks to be managers and general managers. This season in MLB, there are two Black managers and one Black general manager.

Dusty Baker said that Aaron would be disappointed, given that Aaron was disappointed at the state of affairs in 1993 when Baker was first hired as a manager.

“We’ve been talking the same thing for as long as I can remember,” Dusty Baker said at a news conference at Truist Park. “Black History Month, it comes up. Jackie Robinson’s birthday. And then after that, we don’t talk about it or do anything about it until next year. I know you’ve got to ask the question, but we need to have some action.”

A quote from Aaron’s autobiography: “It makes no sense whatsoever that black players are still systematically excluded from key executive positions four decades after they began dominating on the playing field. How long is this going to take?”

Aaron’s book, “I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story,” was published in 1991.

Aaron might take some encouragement in the work that his club has done. Three fellowship programs have been established for underrepresented groups in the game, two in baseball operations and one on the club’s business side. Two are targeted for people of color and the third was established for female candidates.


The first graduate of the Bill Lucas Fellowship — named in honor of the Braves executive who was MLB’s first Black general manager from 1976 until his death in 1979 — now is the Marlins’ manager of baseball operations.

“Without the program and the guidance and leadership of the people who shepherded it, as well as everyone there, I would not have been able to accomplish what I have accomplished so far,” Jordan Jackson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2022.

The team also holds annually the Hank Aaron Invitational, a training camp and showcase game for elite players of high school age from diverse backgrounds. The most prominent past participant is center fielder Michael Harris II.

At the top of the Braves’ ladder, the intent to provide opportunities for deserving candidates of color seems clear. In 2019, general manager Alex Anthopoulos made Dana Brown, a Black scout, his vice president of scouting. It was the highest position Brown had attained to that point. In 2023, after overseeing drafts that brought pitcher Spencer Strider, infielder Vaughn Grissom and Harris to the franchise, he left the Braves to become the Astros GM. After Brown left, Anthopoulos promoted Ronit Shah, who is Indian American, to amateur scouting director.


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