Major League Baseball (MLB) announced that Negro League players stats will now be included in their official historical records, NBC News reports.
Until 1947, when Jackie Robinson integrated major league baseball as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Black players were forbidden to play in the MLB. In the true spirit of the culture, Black people persisted anyway, creating their own league, the Negro Leagues, producing some of the best players of the 20th century. After nearly a century, the MLB acknowledges those players’ contributions as a matter of historical record.
“All of us who love baseball have long known that the Negro Leagues produced many of our game’s best players, innovations and triumph against a backdrop of injustice. We are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as Major Leaguers within the official historical record,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said.
Between 1920 and 1948, Black players competed in seven different leagues, all of which will be included in MLB records. The records and stats of 3,400 players from the original Negro National League (1920-1931), the Eastern Colored League (1923-1928), the American Negro League (1929), the East-West League (1932), the Negro Southern League (1932), the second Negro National League (1933-1948) and the Negro American League (1937-1948) will all be included.
The Negro Leagues produced several iconic baseball players like second baseman Frank Grant and player/executive Rube Foster as well as 32 Hall of Fame members including Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Roy Campanella, Satchel Paige, Monty Irvin, Josh Gibson, James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell, and Larry Doby, the MLB’s second Black player.
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick issued a statement about the inclusion, saying, “For historical merit, today is extraordinarily important. Having been around so many of the Negro League players, they never looked to MLB to validate them. But for fans and for historical sake, this is significant, it really is.”
MLB is made up of two leagues, the National League, created in 1876 and the American League, founded in 1901. The two have played against each other in the world series annually for more than a century. Many upstart leagues have challenged the league over the years, although none have had long-term success. Yet and still, those leagues have been acknowledged in MLB historical records since 1969.
— Laurence Holmes (@LaurenceWHolmes) December 16, 2020
The MLB is now trying to right their wrongs, issuing a statement acknowledging that the “omission of the Negro Leagues from consideration was clearly an error that demands today’s designation.”
Edward Schauder, legal representative for Josh Gibson’s estate and co-founder of the Negro Leagues Players Association, spoke about the historic moment, saying, “We couldn’t be more thrilled by this recognition of the significance of the Negro Leagues in Major League Baseball history. Josh Gibson was a legend who would have certainly been a top player in the major leagues if he had been allowed to play.”
MLB official historian John Thorn agreed with the league’s decision to include the players’ records, saying, “The perceived deficiencies of the Negro Leagues’ structure and schedule were both born of MLB’s exclusionary practices, and denying them Major League status has been a double penalty. Granting MLB status to the Negro Leagues a century after their founding is profoundly gratifying.”
May their legacies continue!
Homestead Grays Photo Credit: Josh Gibson Foundation