Scott Simon talks with ESPN’s Michele Steele about Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, the minor league salary controversy and action at the World Championships in Athletics.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And as they say on the T-shirt, and now for the sport.
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SIMON: The Baseball Hall of Fame welcomes a new class. Minor league players earn a living wage. And Noah Lyles smashes an old track record. We are now joined by ESPN’s Michele Steele. Michele, nice to see you again. Thank you for being with us.
MICHELE STEELE: Hello, Scott.
SIMON: Seven people are joining the Baseball Hall of Fame tomorrow, including, I must say, a childhood heroine of mine, Minnie Minoso – signed with the Cleveland baseball team, then went to the Chicago White Sox, the first black Latino athlete to play in the majors, played his last game in his 50s, and he paved the way for great future players, didn’t he?
STEELE: Yes, he did. Before Roberto Clemente, Scott, there was Minnie Minoso, the Cuban comet. He was the first Latin black player in the big leagues, really one of the great outfielders of the 1950s, and other big leaguers called him, you know, the Jackie Robinson for all Latinos. Like you said, he went from the black leagues in the 40s to Cleveland, eventually got traded to the White Sox, and he was really associated with that team for the rest of his life until his death in 2015 People – a lot of people don’t know that, unless you’re from Chicago like you and me, he was the first black player in Chicago, period.
STEELE: You know, he made major appearances for five decades. He was brought back for a few at-bats as a designated hitter in his 50s. And a lot of people think, Scott, that he was passed over for Hall because some of those later-in-life appearances and his heyday were forgotten. Spoke to his son in Chicago – he told me that Minoso has dedicated his entire life to baseball, and the family is thrilled that he is finally getting his due, albeit posthumously.
SIMON: Yeah. Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Bud Fowler, Buck O’Neil – also in the room.
Rob Manfred, the MLB commissioner, has sparked a major league controversy because he said this week that minor league players earn a living wage. A number of minor leaguers said, well, easy to say for a guy making over 10 million a year. What’s at the heart of it all?
STEELE: At the heart of it all is Major League Baseball settling $185 million — to the tune of $185 million, thanks to thousands of current former minor leaguers who filed suits saying they were under- paid, and the League now settles with them. And that’s why he was asked at the All-Star Game this week, you know, why don’t owners pay their minor leaguers a living wage? He said he completely dismissed the premise of the question.
And the players – you know, it’s very recent. They get housing. Sure, they get those signing bonuses. But unless you’re a really good draft pick, you don’t earn those big bonuses. Most guys sign for much, much less – as little as $1,000, which they have to spread out over several years. And according to at least one minor league advocacy group, the vast majority of guys make less than $12,000 for the season, and that’s below the poverty line. A Senate committee is currently reviewing the league. They’re wondering why they need an antitrust exemption from minimum wage and overtime laws, and they want answers from Manfred by Tuesday, Scott.
SIMON: Let me just note that the Toronto Blue Jays beat – and I mean beat – the Boston Red Sox at Fenway last night 28 to 5 – a new record.
SIMON: But speaking of new records, the World Championships in Athletics ends tomorrow. The American sprinters dominated, didn’t they?
STEELE: It was a great run – pun completely intentional – for the Americans at Worlds in Eugene, Ore. And if you’re one of those people, Scott, who likes to watch other people run around a circle — and I’m one of those people, because I did high school track and field — not as although these guys. But you have American Noah Lyles who broke the American record in the 200 meters. You had men sweeping the men’s 100m and 200m medals for the first time by any country. And then last night – if you haven’t seen it, watch it, everyone listen to me – Sydney McLaughlin dominated the women’s 400m hurdles final from start to finish. It was an absolutely exhilarating performance, breaking his own world record in 50.68 seconds. It’s extremely fast.
STEELE: Tonight’s events are headlined by the 4×100 finals. This is my analysis, it is that she runs very fast.
SIMON: Well, it’s so NPR – oh, yeah, it’s extremely fast.
ESPN’s Michele Steele, thank you so much for joining us.
STEELE: You bet.
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