With the 2012 Baseball All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 10th, and the 65th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson entering Major League Baseball (MLB), this seems as good a time as any to take note of who won't be at the game. One absence in particular will be that of Jimmie Lee Solomon.
What happened in the case of Jimmie Lee Solomon? There was no fanfare and hardly anyone took notice. It was rumored in early June of 2012 that Jimmie Lee Solomon, whose last position with Major League Baseball (MLB) as Executive Vice President of Business Development, had been fired after a 21-year career. It was just an ordinary day, and there was hardly anything about it except in trade papers several days later when MLB announced that Solomon resigned.
Jimmie Lee Solomon, who once oversaw all of Major League Baseball's on-field operations, is now out at MLB. He was one of the first minorities that did not play baseball that was in Executive Operations. Solomon graduated from Harvard Law School, rose to the No. 3 position in Baseball, and became one of the most influential African-American executives in professional sports.
I doubt if Jimmie was exploring new opportunities, or knowing him, that he really just up and resigned without pressure after 21 years in MLB in a job he loved. So what was it?
Was the writing on the wall or did he and Commissioner Bud Selig have a disagreement or no longer could work together after all of these years? Or was he like several other persons of color with leagues, teams, or governing bodies, including Frank White (Kansas City Royals); Zina Garrison, Rodney Harmon, Lori McNeil, (USTA); Billy Knight (Atlanta Hawks), etc., who were re-assigned; let go; or resigned because they weren't promoted, paid more, or on the same level of equality in status, treatment, and responsibility as a male or white counterpart. Each case is different but if brought to light maybe some lesson could be learned.
Does this raise the question of color in the front office or key positions? Obviously advances have been made in all sports, but let's not take one or two steps backwards for every one foreword.
In April 2012, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida, with Dr. Richard Lapchick as the primary author, reported that, "Despite the decrease in the grade for gender, both race and gender in the MLB central offices had a combined grade of A...The decrease in the grade for race was a result of a drop in people of color in the following categories: Players, League office, managers, coaches, general managers and team vice presidents. In particular, managers who were people of color fell 11 percentage points and general managers who were people of color fell 5 percentage points."
Solomon was named Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations in June 2005 replacing Sandy Alderson. His responsibilities included day to day operations as well as on-field discipline, security, and management of facilities. One of Jimmie's pet projects was the construction of Urban Youth Academies in the States, in cities like Compton and Houston, liken to the ones in Latin American countries that have had such success discovering and training athletes.
Jimmie Lee was doing so well that three years into the job he was touted as being the next Commissioner of Baseball. Why shouldn't Solomon become the first Black Commissioner of Baseball in a sport comprised of 40% of multicultural players? On the other hand, when Bud Selig signed on for another three years in 2009, this did not seem plausible.
In June 2010, the official statement was that Solomon changed positions to become MLB's Executive Vice President for Baseball Development. Basically this was a demotion, as he was re-assigned. He was put in control of the academies that he started, minor league operations, and the annual "Civil Rights Game."
Although the official statement is that Solomon resigned; my notion is that Solomon was going to be fired by Major League Baseball in June 2012. He was forced to resign after 21 years. There is always a need for change; however, baseball isn't a sport much on it. Bud Selig has been the Commissioner of Baseball for 14 years. Tim Brosnan was named Executive Vice President of Business after being with MLB since 1991.
Why the change? I searched to see if Solomon had done something reprehensible or made some faux pas, but I couldn't find anything other than the fact that several umpires made mistakes under his watch, one that stands out was James Joyce's errant call that cost Tigers' Armando Gallaraga a perfect game. Was this really his fault?
Solomon's dismissal came nearly two years after he was re-assigned from his post as Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, in which he oversaw all on-field activities of MLB, including security and umpiring. Solomon helped to negotiate a six-year extension with Minor League Baseball through the 2020 season.
Something happened that will remain a secret. Maybe if more took notice, we could find out, yet nothing will be said at Tuesday's All-Star Game. We'll have to just settle not knowing why, but simply stating, "Well done, Jimmie Lee." When Jimmie Lee Solomon's resignation was announced, Commissioner Bud Selig merely thanked Solomon "For his 20-plus years of service... in a number of different areas throughout the game."