minor league baseball players earning less than $15,000; new Hall of Fame: NPR

Scott Simon talks to ESPN’s Michele Steele about induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, controversies over minor league wages and the action at the World Athletics Championships.



SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And as it says on the t-shirt, sport is now the order of the day.

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SIMON: The Baseball Hall of Fame welcomes a new class. The minor league players earn a living wage. And Noah Lyles breaks an old record in the track. Joining us now is ESPN’s Michele Steele. Michele, nice to have you back. Thank you for being with us.

MICHELE STEELE: Good morning Scott.

SIMON: Seven people will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame tomorrow, including, I have to say, a childhood hero, Minnie Minoso, who signed with the Cleveland baseball team and then went on to join the Chicago White Sox, the first black Latino Athlete who played majors there played his last game in his 50s, and he paved the way for great future players, right?

STEELE: Yes, he did. Before Roberto Clemente, Scott, there was Minnie Minoso, the Cuban comet. He was the first black Latino player in the big leagues, really one of the great outfield players of the 1950s, and other big leagues called him, you know, the Jackie Robinson to all Latinos. As you said, he went from the Negro Leagues to Cleveland in the ’40s, eventually traded to the White Sox, and was really associated with that team for the rest of his life until he died in 2015. People — a lot of people don’t know that, unless you’re from Chicago like me and you, he was the first black player in Chicago, period.

Simon: Yes.

STEELE: You know, he performed in the big ones for over five decades. He was brought back for a few hits as the designated hitter in his 50s. And a lot of people think Scott was passed over for the Hall because some of his later performances and heyday were forgotten. Spoke to his son in Chicago – he told me Minoso has dedicated his life to baseball and the family is thrilled he’s finally getting his debt, even if it’s posthumous.

Simon: Yes. Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Bud Fowler, Buck O’Neil – also in the hall.

Rob Manfred, the MLB commissioner, has opened up a major league controversy for saying minor league players are earning a living wage this week. A number of smaller leagues said, well, easy to say for a man who makes over 10 million a year. What’s behind it?

STEELE: The focus is on Major League Baseball, which is settling $185 million — $185 million thanks to thousands of former minor leagues who filed this lawsuit and said they were underpaid, and the league is now calculating off with them. And that’s why he was asked at this week’s All-Star Game, you know, why don’t the owners pay their minor leagues a living wage? He said he simply dismissed the premise of the question entirely.

And players – you know, this is very new. You get an apartment. Of course they get those signing bonuses. But unless you’re a really big draft pick, you’re not getting those big bonuses. Most guys sign for much, much less – as little as $1,000 which they have to spread over several years. And according to at least one minor league advocacy group, the vast majority of boys make less than $12,000 for the season, and that’s below the poverty line. A Senate committee is considering the league right now. They’re wondering why they need an antitrust exemption from minimum wage and overtime laws, and they want answers from Manfred, Scott by Tuesday.

SIMON: Let me just point out that the Toronto Blue Jays beat – and I mean beat – the Boston Red Sox 28 to 5 at Fenway last night, a new record.

STEELE: Oy.

SIMON: Speaking of new records, the World Athletics Championships end tomorrow. American sprinters dominated, didn’t they?

STEELE: It was a great – pun entirely intended – run 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 in circles — and I’m one of those people because I ran track in high school — not as good as those guys. But you got American Noah Lyles to break the US 200m record. For the first time in one country, men won the men’s 100m and 200m medals. 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 her own world record at 50.68 seconds. That’s extremely fast.

SIMON: (laughter).

STEELE: Today’s events will be overwritten by the 4×100 finals. This is my analysis, it runs very fast.

SIMON: Well, that’s how NPR – oh yeah, that’s extremely fast.

ESPN’s Michele Steele, thank you for joining us.

STEELE: You bet.

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