VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Earlier this season, New York Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson stood on the top step of the visitors' dugout at Rangers Ballpark in Texas and offered a challenge.
"Count the number of African-American people here at the stadium who aren't working at the stadium," Granderson said to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter, "and see if you can get to 10."
His point was obvious, if not exactly ground breaking: Black Americans don't care about baseball.
They don't play the game -- only 8.5 percent of major league players are black, down from 10 percent last year and at its lowest point since 2007 -- and they don't show up at the ballpark.
Not in great numbers.
Certainly, not in a way Jackie Robinson had hoped when, hand-picked by Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, he broke baseball's color racial barrier in 1947 and blazed a trail that led to Martin Luther King Jr. and a civil-rights movement that forever changed the course of our history.
So with Robinson's daughter and Rickey's grandson visiting the former Dodgertown complex here this week, the question needed to be asked: Given the bigotry Robinson endured 64 years ago, are they disappointed with baseball's failure to sustain its connection to the black community? "It is of concern," Sharon Robinson said before she and Branch B. Rickey spoke at the inaugural Minor League Baseball Youth Leadership Academy at the Vero Beach Sports Village. "But it's not a new issue for many of us."
In fact, the numbers have been declining, surely if not steadily, for the past 30-plus years.
In 1975, 27 percent of major league players were black. In 1997, when baseball celebrated the 50th anniversary of Robinson's Dodgers debut by retiring his No. 42, that figure was down to 17 percent.
Black players such as Torii Hunter and C.C. Sabathia have noticed the decline. So has Major League Baseball, which initiated its RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program in 1989 and opened the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., in 2006.
"Is this something that baseball wants to see addressed? Of course," said Rickey's grandson, president of the Pacific Coast League. "The Robinson legacy is also a legacy to baseball, in large part, and baseball wants to see that perpetuated."
Yet black athletes -- and, it's safe to assume, black sports fans -- continue to prefer basketball and football. More than 80 percent of NBA players and 60-plus percent of NFL players are black.
"It's a wonderful thing," the latter-day Rickey said, "that baseball made such a huge footprint on our society."
Yes, it was.
Now, though, Robinson's baseball legacy appears to be fading. Go to the ballpark and look around. Search the stands. Scan the field.
What don't you see?