Reinsdorf a leader in instilling diversity
White Sox chairman champions equal opportunities in game
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Jerry Reinsdorf never has viewed the world in black and white.
"My views of the world are shaped by my parents, and the environment I grew up in," said Reinsdorf, during a recent sitdown with MLB.com, prior to this Saturday's Civil Rights Game between the White Sox and Mets in Memphis.
"I had black friends, white friends, Jewish friends, Christian friends," Reinsdorf added. "Brooklyn was a melting pot, and my mother and father made a major point as to how everyone was equal, and we should treat them the same way you wanted to be treated."
With this particular way of living instilled in Reinsdorf since he was a young man, it's of little wonder that the White Sox chairman has been one of the leaders in bringing diversity to Major League Baseball, while also bringing one World Series title and six NBA crowns to Chicago. Reinsdorf serves as the co-chairman of MLB's Equal Opportunity Committee and also has a strong continued involvement with the Diverse Business Partners Program.
Since the implementation of this plan in 1998, Major League Baseball and its clubs have purchased hundreds of millions of dollars in goods and services from minority- and women-owned businesses. The White Sox stand out as one of baseball's best-case models in this particular area.
For Reinsdorf, the DBP once again is not something he views as a program dealing with skin color. It simply makes good business sense for all involved.
"It's a matter of education," Reinsdorf said. "We have seminars. We try to emphasize to the clubs how it's in your best interest. This is not a social thing, to have more vendors bidding on your business and more potential employees.
"We probably would not have had much of a chance in getting everyone to do the quote-unquote 'right thing' just because it's the right thing. You have a much better chance of getting people to do what you want if you show them it's in their best interest.
"Now, let's say you are buying pencils or paper, so you want the best price, right?" Reinsdorf added. "You want everyone bidding on it, not just a few. You want the best possible employees, so don't you want the largest pool? It's not rocket science. It's easy to see you want the best prices and biggest pool to choose from."
The Equal Opportunity Committee began after a census was taken among baseball concerning the hiring of minority employees. According to Reinsdorf, the results were "pathetic."
"So, [Commissioner Bud] Selig created the committee and made me the first chairman," Reinsdorf said. "Actually, I was a co-chairman with Bill Bartholomay. I don't know why he picked us, but since we were picked, we decided we should do the job right, going about finding out why we didn't have minorities."
That process began with Reinsdorf's team, upon which he found out the White Sox had very few minority employees across the board. In investigating the reason behind this dearth, Reinsdorf discovered minorities were not applying for the jobs.
"What we had to do is go out and let them know they had a chance to be hired," Reinsdorf said. "It wasn't that my people were discriminating against them. We have so many applicants for positions that they were hiring people from applications.
"If they weren't applying, it was because they thought there was no point. We had to get the word out that you are welcome. That spread to doing business with us.
"Minority hiring has made great strides in baseball," Reinsdorf added. "There are a few clubs that are sort of lag, and in my opinion, it has to be on purpose. But I think the Commissioner will have to deal with them."
Reinsdorf currently presides over a team with Kenny Williams in charge, having become the third African-American general manager in baseball history and first for any professional team in Chicago on Oct. 24, 2000. Williams and Jerry Manuel formed the initial African-American general manager-manager tandem, with Manuel holding the reigns from 1998 to 2003.
Ozzie Guillen replaced Manuel at the outset of the 2004 season, and one year later, became the first Venezuelan native to manage a World Series champion. As Reinsdorf explained earlier in this tale, he wasn't looking "to hire someone because of their skin color."
In the case of Manuel, Reinsdorf told general manager Ron Schueler that he had to interview minority candidates, but ultimately, he should pick the manager.
"Schueler asked me, 'Do you want to be involved?'" Reinsdorf recalled. "I said, 'Bring me the winner.' I told him to bring in the guy you want me to talk to. If I like him, you can have him. If I don't, you can't.
"He picked Jerry Manuel," Reinsdorf added.
Where Williams is concerned, the duo had a long-standing relationship from when Williams first signed to play for the White Sox. Reinsdorf originally brought him on as a scout for the inner cities and then encouraged Williams to move back to Chicago so he could teach him the business. Williams eventually became the White Sox Minor League director, and when Schueler left the GM post, the job naturally fell to him, according to Reinsdorf.
"Who do you turn to? Your farm director. He was the next guy in line," Reinsdorf said. "If Kenny would have been white, he would have had the job, too."
During these times of supposed racial and religious enlightenment, Reinsdorf admits how he still gets a few letters referring to him through vulgar slang attached to his Jewish beliefs. Some of the criticism sent to him concerning Williams and Guillen doesn't always deal with questions surrounding their baseball acumen.
Reinsdorf does believe baseball's association with minorities has grown and improved, including the encouragement of youngsters getting back involved via academies such as the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif.
This weekend's Civil Rights Game will serve as a memorial for those who fought to break the color barrier, as well as an encouraging look to the future. And Reinsdorf, who was present at Jackie Robinson's first game in 1947, will find himself in the middle, looking at the people, not whether they are black or white.
"It should be very inspiring, a feel good thing," said Reinsdorf, who is looking forward to the White Sox team trip scheduled to the Civil Rights Museum on Saturday morning. "I don't know that this is an overwhelming activity. It's another piece of the things baseball is doing to honor Jackie Robinson and show its commitment to diversity."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.