TROY: The colored guy got to be twice as good before he get on the team. That’s why I don’t want you to get all tied up in them sports. Man on the team and what it get him? They got colored on the team and don’t use them. Same as not having them. All them teams the same.
Troy shares his view on racism in sports. Troy missed out on playing professional baseball, as he was too old to join a team by the time integration occurred. And he believes that, even with integration, teams still discriminate against the “colored,” not playing them as frequently as their talents relative to their white teammates warrant. Troy’s perception of continuing racism in sports influences how he views his son Cory’s athletic opportunities. He is convinced Cory will be treated and paid poorly, so he forbids him from playing football since the sport would interfere with his chance to work. Troy wants Cory to pursue a trade, “something can’t nobody take away from you.”
TROY: Got up here and found out . . . not only couldn’t you get a job . . . you couldn’t find no place to live. I thought I was in freedom. Shhh. Colored folks living down there on the riverbanks in whatever kind of shelter they could find for themselves.
Troy explains that he left the South in part because of expectations of better circumstances for African Americans in the North but he found disappointment upon arriving. As the playwright points out in his introduction to the play, while for Europeans the city—unnamed in the play but known to be Pittsburgh—“nourished itself and gave each man a partnership,” for African Americans, “the city rejected them.” African Americans would be rejected for factory jobs and also for housing, so they had to make their livings with “casual,” though often backbreaking, labor. Some, like Troy, having no legitimate means to make a living, turned to crime.
TROY: But . . . you born with two strikes on you before you come to the plate. You got to guard it closely . . . always looking for the curve-ball on the inside corner. You can’t afford to let none get past you. You can’t afford a call strike. If you going down . . . you going down swinging.
Troy often uses baseball to explain concepts that are important to him—in this case, life itself. Due to his race, and by extension poverty and lack of education, he believes he was born with “two strikes.” He had only the slimmest chance of succeeding. If not for these circumstances or strikes, he could have taken more big chances—swung, and possibly missed but possibly hit. Or he could have waited for a better opportunity, a better ball to hit. He recognizes his current life as a bunt: He got safely on base, yet he resents that bunting was his best option.