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Saturday sports: Minor league baseballers making less than $15k; new hall of famers

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And as they say on the T-shirt, and now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The Baseball Hall of Fame welcomes a new class. The minor league players earn a living wage. And Noah Lyles shatters an old record in track. We're joined now by ESPN's Michele Steele. Michele, good to have you back. Thanks for being with us.

MICHELE STEELE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Seven people join baseball's Hall of Fame tomorrow, including, I must say, a hero of my childhood, Minnie Minoso - signed with the Cleveland baseball team, then went on to the Chicago White Sox, the first Black Latino athlete to play in the majors, played his last game in his 50s, and he opened up the way for great future players, didn't he?

STEELE: Yes, he did. Before Roberto Clemente, Scott, there was Minnie Minoso, the Cuban Comet. He was the first Black Latin player in the big leagues, really one of the great outfielders of the 1950s, and other big leaguers have called him, you know, the Jackie Robinson for all Latinos. Like you said, he went from the Negro Leagues in the '40s to Cleveland, was eventually traded to the White Sox, and really he was associated with that team for the rest of his life until he died in 2015. People - a lot of people don't know this, unless you're from Chicago like me and you, he was the first Black player in Chicago, period.

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: You know, he made appearances in the bigs over five decades. He was brought back for a couple of at-bats as designated hitter in his 50s. And a lot of people think, Scott, that he was passed over for the Hall because some of those later in life appearances and his prime was forgotten. Talked to his son in Chicago - he told me that Minoso devoted his whole life to baseball, and the family is thrilled that he's finally getting his due, even if it is posthumously.

SIMON: Yeah. Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Bud Fowler, Buck O'Neil - also in the Hall.

Rob Manfred, the MLB commissioner, has opened a major league controversy because he said this week minor league players earn a living wage. A number of minor leaguers said, well, easy for a guy who makes over 10 million a year to say. What's at the heart of this?

STEELE: At the heart of it is Major League Baseball settling a $185 million - to the tune of $185 million, thanks to thousands of current former minor leaguers who brought this suit saying that they were underpaid, and the League is now settling with them. And that's why he was asked at the All-Star Game this week, you know, why don't owners pay their minor leaguers a living wage? He said he just completely rejected the premise of the question.

And players - you know, this is very recent. They do get housing. Of course, they do get those signing bonuses. But unless you're a really high draft pick, you're not making those big bonuses. Most guys sign for much, much less - as little as $1,000, which they have to stretch over several years. And according to at least one minor leaguers' advocacy group, the vast majority of guys make less than $12,000 for the season, and that's below the poverty line. A Senate committee is looking at the league right now. They're wondering why they need an antitrust exemption from minimum wage and overtime laws, and they want answers from Manfred by Tuesday, Scott.

SIMON: Let me simply note, Toronto Blue Jays beat - and I do mean beat - the Boston Red Sox at Fenway last night 28 to 5 - a new record.

STEELE: Oy.

SIMON: But speaking of new records, the World Athletic Championships ends tomorrow. American sprinters have dominated, haven't they?

STEELE: It has been a great - pun completely intended - run for the Americans at the World's in Eugene, Ore. And if you're one of those people, Scott, who likes to watch other people run around a circle - and I'm one of those people, 'cause I ran track in high school - not as well as these guys. But you got American Noah Lyles breaking the U.S. 200-meter record. You had men sweeping the 100-meter and 200-meter men's medals for the first time by any country. And then last night - if you haven't seen it, look it up, everybody, listen to me - Sydney McLaughlin dominating from start to finish in the women's 400-meter hurdles final. It was absolutely an exhilarating performance, shattering her own world record, clocking in at 50.68 seconds. That is extremely fast.

SIMON: (Laughter).

STEELE: Tonight's events are headlined by the 4x100 finals. That is my analysis, is she runs very fast.

SIMON: Well, that's so NPR - oh, yes, that's extremely fast.

ESPN's Michele Steele, thanks very much for joining us.

STEELE: You bet.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.