The Boston Red Sox were the last baseball team to integrate, failing to play any African Americans until 1959.

That was 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball's colour barrier with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In fact, it was two years after Robinson retired.

Despite having multiple black players in their minor league system, despite watching other teams find success after integration and despite their own fortunes flagging, Red Sox president Tom Yawkey held out longer than anyone and was later called by Robinson "one of the most bigoted guys in baseball".

All of which is to say, there is historical context to what happened this week at Fenway Park, where fans still walk down Yawkey Way to get to games and where Baltimore Orioles centre fielder Adam Jones complained of racial abuse coming from the stands.


"A disrespectful fan threw a bag of peanuts at me," Jones said, "I was called the N-word a handful of times ... It's unfortunate that people need to resort to those type of epithets to degrade another human being."

In fairness, that kind of behaviour is in no way exclusively a Red Sox problem, with almost every team's fanbase in almost every sport suffering from their fair share of bad apples. And the collective Boston crowd redeemed itself the next day, when Jones was given a prolonged standing ovation. But, at the same time, it was hardly an isolated incident.

"We know," said CC Sabathia, an African American pitcher for the New York Yankees. "There's 62 of us. We all know. When you go to Boston, expect it."

Sabathia said he's "never been called the N-word" anywhere other than Boston, while also highlighting the larger issue of race in baseball: African Americans currently make up less than seven per cent of players.

That number - once as high as 20 per cent - has been trending downward as first the NFL and then the NBA became ascendant, and as what was once America's pastime expanded further into the international market, with 32 per cent of MLB players now Latino.

Solving the problem of dwindling African American involvement is not easy. But ensuring those players are protected when they reach the majors should be. Hopefully Jones speaking out will help spark a change.

A banner week for Boston baseball, part two
While on the topic of unseemly baseball trends that were this week highlighted by the Red Sox-Orioles series at Fenway, those two teams had plenty of reason for mutual loathing before an idiot in the stands yelled at Jones. Like, for example, when an idiot on the mound again threw at Manny Machado, one of the best players in the sport.

Machado's perceived crime came two weeks ago, when his hard but legal slide into second base clipped Dustin Pedroia, forcing the Red Sox infielder to leave the game.

The next day, Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes threw a 145km/h fastball at Machado's head, with the Baltimore man fortunate to barely duck under what could have been a catastrophic blow.

Baseball convention rather childishly allows pitchers to throw at batters if they break one of baseball's beloved unwritten rules. Head-hunting, though, should be frowned upon, and certainly discouraged by tougher punishment than the pitiful four-game suspension Barnes received.

Saga over? Not quite. Fast forward to this week, when Machado, probably still pissed about having his life threatened, had the temerity to admire a home run he hit over the Fenway fence - another no-no for the stuffy (read: old and white) core in baseball.

So the following day, Chris Sale decided to throw at Machado again, missing his mark and sending one behind the third baseman, succeeding only in sparking the following epic post-game rant:

"F-ing bulls-t coward stuff," Machado said. "That's stuff that you don't f-ing do. Getting thrown at my f-ing head, getting f-ing thrown at everywhere. It's f-ing bulls-t. I've lost mad respect for that organisation."

Machado went on to point out one of the great hypocrisies in baseball's petty fight for revenge: only one side of the battle is allowed to use the weapon available to them.

"Pitchers out there with f-ing balls in their hands, throwing 100mph trying to hit people," he said.

"And I've f-ing got a bat too. I could go out there and crush somebody if I wanted to. But you know what, I'd get suspended for a year and the pitcher only gets suspended for two games. That's not cool."

Not cool, indeed. Sort it out, baseball. And sort it out, Boston.