Scott Simon talks with ESPN’s Michele Steele about the baseball hall of fame inductees, the minor league salary controversy and action at the World Athletics Championships.
SCOTT SIMON, Host:
And as they say on the t-shirt, and now it’s time for sports.
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SIMON: The Baseball Hall of Fame welcomes a new class. Minor leaguers earn a living wage. And Noah Lyles breaks an old track record. We’re joined now by ESPN’s Michele Steele. Michele, good to have you back. Thank you for being with us.
MICHELE STELE: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: Seven people join the baseball Hall of Fame tomorrow, including, I have to say, a childhood hero of mine, Minnie Minoso – signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers, then went on to the Chicago White Sox, the first Latino athlete with color. majors, played his last game in his 50s, and he paved the way for future greats, didn’t he?
STEELE: Yes, he did. Before Roberto Clemente, Scott, there was Minnie Minoso, the Cuban comet. He was the first black Latino in the big leagues, really one of the great outfielders of the 1950s, and other big leaguers have called him, you know, the Jackie Robinson of all Latinos. As you said, he went from the Negro Leagues in the ’40s to Cleveland, eventually to the White Sox, and really he was 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 you and I, he was the first black player in Chicago, period.
STEELE: You know, he appeared in the majors over five decades. He returned 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 the Hall because some of those later-in-life performances and his prime were forgotten. Talked to his son in Chicago – he told me that Minoso dedicated his entire life to baseball, and the family is thrilled that he’s finally getting his due, even if it’s posthumously.
SIMON: Yes. Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Bud Fowler, Buck O’Neil – also in the Hall.
Rob Manfred, the MLB commissioner, has opened a major controversy in the league because he said that this week minor league players earn a living wage. A small number of leagues said, well, easy for a guy making over 10 million a year to say. What is at the heart of this?
STEELE: At the heart of it is Major League Baseball paying $185 million – to the tune of $185 million, thanks to thousands of current former minor leaguers who brought this lawsuit saying they were underpaid, and the League is now settling with them. And that’s why he was asked at the All-Star Game this week, you know, why don’t the owners pay a living wage to their minor leaguers? He said he just completely rejected the premise of the question.
And the players – you know, it’s very recent. They get shelter. Of course, they get those signing bonuses. But unless you’re a really high draft pick, you’re not making those big rewards. Most guys sign for much, much less – as little as $1,000, which should last them several years. And according to at least one minor league advocacy group, the vast majority of guys make less than $12,000 a season, and that’s below the poverty line. A Senate committee is looking into the league now. They’re asking why they need an antitrust exemption from minimum wage and overtime laws, and they want answers from Manfredi by Tuesday, Scott.
SIMON: Let me just note, 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 Athletics Championships end tomorrow. American sprinters have dominated, haven’t they?
STEELE: It’s been a great — pun intended — running game for the Americans at the World’s 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 in high school – not as well as these guys. But you got American Noah Lyles breaking the US record in the 200m. You had men sweeping the men’s 100m and 200m medals for the first time from any country. And then last night — if you haven’t seen it, watch it, everybody, listen to me — Sydney McLaughlin dominates from start to finish in the women’s 400m hurdles final. It was an absolutely thrilling performance, breaking her own world record, clocking in at 50.68 seconds. This is extremely fast.
STEELE: Tonight’s events are headlined by the 4×100 finals. This is my analysis, if she runs too fast.
SIMON: Well, that’s 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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