New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner pledged yesterday to speak with two black former baseball players as part of a commitment to hire more minorities off the field.
Speaking on the CBS program "Face the Nation," Steinbrenner was given the names of former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Don Buford and former major league pitcher Ray Burris when he asked about former players interested in nonplaying jobs.
The show's subject was racism in sports.
In discussing why so few blacks held nonplaying roles, Steinbrenner said some well-paid black players were not willing to accept pay cuts often connected with moving to the front office.
In response, Frank Robinson, a Baltimore coach and a former San Francisco and Cleveland manager who also appeared on the program, said less talented black players were not offered positions and that there were black former players "just dying for those jobs."
"If you can give me the names of three young men . . . give them to me now and I'll be in touch with them Monday morning," Steinbrenner said.
After a short pause, Robinson replied, "Ray Burris. Don Buford."
Burris already has a front-office job. He was hired last April by the Milwaukee Brewers as special associate and assistant to General Manager Harry Dalton, with responsibilities in scouting, the front office and community affairs. He also is pitching with the Stockton (Calif.) Ports, a Class A team, in a comeback attempt.
Buford, 50, played for 10 seasons with the Chicago White Sox and the Orioles. He was unavailable for comment.
Burris, 36, said he had not yet been contacted by the Yankees. He pitched for 14 seasons with six clubs.
"There are two sides to a coin," Burris said. "Yes, there are organizations that are looking for black players who can do the job. But there are black players who have to get in touch with the clubs. I'm not trying to make excuses, I'm just trying to look at reality. I let teams know I was still interested, even as a player."
During the program, Steinbrenner said: "My chief accountant, the head accountant that I have in my finance department, happens to be a young black boy; my manager happens to be of Hispanic background; my co-captain on the Yankees happens to be a young black man named Willie Randolph who I wouldn't trade for anybody."
Asked to explain his use of the word "boy," Steinbrenner said: "You take that out of context -- and I don't want to get into that argument. I think that all my young men -- I should say 'young men,' then, if that makes you feel better -- have never felt that way."