MLB to include Negro League stats to the official record book

Professional baseball leagues in the US were segregated until 1947. Although the league has come very far since Jackie Robinson became its first Black player, in many ways the sport is still reckoning with its racist past. Last week, the league took another step towards correcting its past wrongs by adding players and records from the “Negro Leagues” to MLB’s official record book. 

“Negro Leagues” referred to Black baseball leagues in segregated America. These seven leagues usually played between 80 and 100 games per season and featured a collective roster of over 3,400 players between 1920 and 1948. These leagues were instrumental in forming America’s “national pastime” and now will be formally recognized for their achievements and contributions. 

In a statement, Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball said, “All of us who love baseball have long known that the Negro Leagues produced many of our game’s best players, innovations, and triumphs against a backdrop of injustice.”

This addition to the record books likely adds a new single-season record for batting average as well as extra hits for Hall of Famer Willie Mays

The decision was praised by Bob Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, but he emphasized that the legitimacy of the Negro Leagues has always been recognized by its players, fans, and communities. 

The integration of baseball produced 35 Hall of Famers who played in both leagues including Willie Mays, Larry Doby, and Jackie Robinson. Others made their names known entirely within the Negro Leagues. Josh Gibson, for example, hit almost 800 home runs throughout his career, a figure that challenges Barry Bonds’ career record of 762. Gibson will most likely be awarded the single-season record for batting average when record research is complete and the books are combined. 

Although the move does not erase the history of racism and discrimination that plagued baseball for many generations, it does recognize the achievement of these players who despite segregation, fewer resources, and active discrimination, thrived athletically and set a precedent for a high level of play within the game. Manfred concludes, “We are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as Major Leaguers within the official historical record.”

Image source: Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

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