06-22-2024  11:13 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather

Photo: NNPA
Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Published: 29 May 2024

Major League Baseball (MLB) has taken a historic step to rectify a long-standing oversight by officially incorporating Negro Leagues statistics into its historical record. Starting today, the achievements of approximately 2,300 Negro Leagues players will be recognized alongside those of MLB legends like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb.

For decades, Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb were celebrated as the greatest figures in baseball, with Ruth hailed as the best player and Cobb as the premier hitter. However, these narratives often excluded African American athletes whose contributions were underreported or dismissed. This exclusion persisted despite the talents that led to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947 as the first Black player in the modern Major Leagues.

MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred announced this significant change three years ago, emphasizing the league’s commitment to correcting a historical wrong by elevating the Negro Leagues to “Major League” status. John Thorn, an MLB historian, and the Negro Leagues Statistical Review Committee have been responsible for the meticulous process of officially incorporating Negro Leagues stats into MLB records. The team has been reviewing thousands of box scores and other historical data to integrate the statistics of the seven Negro Leagues into MLB’s database.

Josh Gibson, a standout in the Negro Leagues, will now lead multiple batting categories. His career batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS surpass those of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. While some of Gibson’s legendary feats, such as the nearly 800 home runs mentioned on his Hall of Fame plaque, will not be included, many of his official stats will now be recognized.

Thorn hailed the decision as “not only righting a social, cultural, and historical wrong, it’s defining baseball as a game for Americans without exclusion.” He emphasized that baseball is a sport of tradition, but its capacity for profound change is equally significant.

To honor the Negro Leagues, MLB will host a tribute game on June 20 at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama—the oldest professional baseball park in the U.S. Players will don period uniforms and pay tribute to legendary center fielder Willie Mays, an Alabama native.

With the integration of these statistics, players like Buck Leonard, Buck O’Neil, Cool Papa Bell, Doc Sykes, Monte Irvin, Leroy Satchel Paige, and Gibson will finally receive their due recognition. Fans will now appreciate the true scope of their talents and achievements.

Sean Gibson, the great-grandson of Josh Gibson and executive director of the Josh Gibson Foundation, expressed the family’s excitement over this acknowledgment. “We always considered him a major leaguer; he just didn’t play in the major leagues,” Sean Gibson told NBC Sports. He is eager to see how his great-grandfather’s stats compare to those of other MLB legends.

Reflecting on this milestone, he added, “If Josh Gibson was alive right now, he’d be honored. He’ll probably wonder why it took so long. He’ll be happy for all the other baseball players, and more importantly he’ll be excited for his family to carry on his legacy.”

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