Negro Leagues statistics officially enter Major League Baseball records

BY Preta Peace Namasaba June 3, 2024 1:29 PM EDT

Major League Baseball (MLB) has decided to incorporate the statistics of the Negro Leagues into its official record books. The statistics of more than 2,300 Negro Leagues ballplayers from 1920-1948 across seven different Negro Leagues will be integrated into the database that includes the American League, the National League, and other major leagues in history. Fans will now be able to view the statistics and records of Negro Leagues alumni as easily as all other historical Major League players.

“We are proud that the official historical record now includes the players of the Negro Leagues. This initiative is focused on ensuring that future generations of fans have access to the statistics and milestones of all those who made the Negro Leagues possible. Their accomplishments on the field will be a gateway to broader learning about this triumph in American history and the path that led to Jackie Robinson’s 1947 Dodger debut,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

This groundbreaking decision will forever change the landscape of MLB’s all-time leaderboards. Josh Gibson, who now holds the best single-season batting average has been the biggest beneficiary of the integration. He is also MLB’s career leader in batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging percentage, overtaking MLB legends such as Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Ted Williams. The accomplishments of Hall of Famers like Willie Mays, Willard Brown, Satchel Paige, and Jackie Robinson in the Negro Leagues will now be officially included in their career statistics.

The process of examining statistics was done by a 17-person committee chaired that met six times. According to MLB, nearly 75% of the available records have been included and additional research could lead to more changes to the major league leaderboards. The MLB announced that it was elevating seven Negro Leagues that operated from 1920 to 1948 to major league status in 2020, following the murder of George Floyd and ignition of the Black Lives Matter movement. Around 3,400 players in those Negro Leagues were consequently recognized by MLB for their on-field achievements.

“When you hear Josh Gibson’s name now, it’s not just that he was the greatest player in the Negro Leagues, but one of the greatest of all time  These aren’t just Negro League stats. They’re major-league baseball stats,” Sean Gibson, Josh Gibson’s great-grandson said about the integration of statistics.

The acknowledgment of the Negro Leagues in 2020 sought to rectify a 1969 decision by the Special Committee on Baseball Records, a group that determined which leagues would be recognized as “major leagues.” Dating back to 1876, the committee recognized six “major leagues” but omitted all Negro Leagues from consideration. MLB’s incorporation of the Negro Leagues statistics into its official record books takes the recognition of Black ballplayers a step further. This change comes when the majors are experiencing a decline in Black players.

The Negro Leagues refer to the seven relatively successful leagues beginning in 1920 that Major League Baseball has officially recognized. They were created by Black Americans who loved the game but were excluded from Major League Baseball due to the color of their skin. In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the league’s color barrier when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. His breakthrough ultimately led to the end of the Negro Leagues in 1960.