Immigrant Athletes: MLB Commentaries

As part of the Immigrant, Athletes, and Inclusion Initiative at the Institute for Immigration Research (IIR), Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr. Marissa Kiss and IIR Director Dr. James Witte published three new commentary pieces about Major League Baseball (MLB) Hall of Fame Inductees, the 2023 World Baseball Classic, and the 2023 MLB All-Star Game. 

  • MLB Hall of Fame Inductees, 1936-2022: In January 2023, Dr. Kiss published a commentary piece that provides an overview of the demographic make up of MLB Hall of Fame inductees. Dr. Kiss notes that since 1936, 16 or 5.9% of players who were inducted into the Hall of Fame were born abroad. The first Hall of Fame inductees include players Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and Ty Cobb. Twenty-six years later in 1962, the first Black U.S. born player, Jackie Robinson, was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. Over a decade later in 1977, the first foreign-born player, Martín Dihigo from Cuba, was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. In this commentary, Dr. Kiss notes that the MLB we see today would not have been shaped without the immigrant and non-immigrant and minority pioneers, executives, players, managers, and activists who laid the foundation and who envisioned a more inclusive and diverse sport. 


  • 2023 World Baseball Classic: In April 2023, Dr. Kiss and Dr. Witte examined the demographic composition of players in the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC). Drs. Kiss and Witte argue that while the WBC is billed as a competition that pits the best players from 20 nations against one another, U.S. born players dominated several national team rosters as well as the rosters of 15 of the other national teams. In this piece, they discuss the role of immigration policy and the rules that govern pathways to citizenship in each country and MLB’s financial interests and investments in growing the game as two reasons why there is a large presence of U.S. born players in the 2023 WBC.


  • 2023 MLB All-Star GameIn July 2023, Dr. Kiss and Dr. Witte highlight that in the 2023 MLB All-Star Game, just over half (55.9%) of players who played in the All-Star Game were born in the United States, 42.4% of players were foreign-born, and 1.7% were born in a U.S. Territory. While they have previously argued that the team that plays the most foreign-born players will win the Midsummer Classic, that did not hold true this year when the National League beat the American League. However, when examining batting output, foreign-born players stepped up to the plate and had a majority of the hits and runs scored and won the Home Run Derby and the 2023 All-Star Game MVP award.

The Immigrants, Athletes, and Inclusion Initiative aims to study immigration and inclusion in sports through original, data-driven research on the contributions of immigrants in professional and collegiate sports. We examine inclusion in two ways: 1) the degree to which immigrant athletes are represented in sports; and 2) how highlighting the stories and contributions of immigrant athletes can lead to greater understanding and inclusion of immigrants generally. You can read more about the Initiative, including data, publications, and commentary pieces on our website.