MLB Makes Decision on Negro Leagues, Elects to Adjust Record Books

by Joe Rutland
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Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Buck O’Neil are names associated with the Negro Leagues. MLB is giving them their just due.

On Wednesday, Major League Baseball announced that it would be raising the Negro Leagues to Major League status. This includes players who were a part of the league between 1920 and 1948. That also means players’ statistics from that era would be included in any major-league numbers they compiled.

“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,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

“We are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as major leaguers within the official historical record.”

Major League Baseball did have a chance to include the Negro Leagues in their statistics in 1968. But the all-white Special Baseball Records Committee said no, giving five other leagues major-league status.

MLB Starts Putting More Focus On Negro Leagues’ Stats

The Negro Leagues started getting more attention from people. In fact, their statistics became more in focus, too. Tales like Gibson hitting 800 career home runs are now not taken at face value. Getting precise numbers on these players has been the focus of statisticians.

Therefore, Gibson’s Negro Leagues-leading 238 home runs, as confirmed by Seamheads, can now conceivably be folded into MLB’s all-time leaderboard, alongside identical totals of Earl Averill, Ray Lankford, and J.D. Martinez.

The same goes with Willie Foster’s 150 known pitching wins (the most in the Negro Leagues between 1920-48, according to Seamheads). That number ties him with Rube Benton, Dizzy Dean, Rick Porcello, David Price, and Jered Weaver on the current Major League register.

Jackie Robinson Played Role In Negro Leagues’ Rise

Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier when he was put in the starting lineup for the Brooklyn Dodgers. His first game was at first base on April 15, 1947.

Robinson, like many Negro League players who reached the majors, faced racist taunts and death threats. They also had to deal with fans throwing objects at them on the field.

Team owner Branch Rickey, though, wanted to get Robinson on an MLB field. He assured Robinson that he (Robinson) would be protected as much as possible.

It took a lot of inner strength for Robinson to deal with the pressures both on and off the field. Opposing managers yelled racial epithets toward Robinson, just as heartily as fans did in the stands.

The fact that he dealt with so much with such grace was a testament to the man. It also proved to all-white major-league teams that African Americans could be a true asset to their teams. Robinson suffered from heart disease and diabetes. He died from a heart attack in 1972 at 53 years old.

In the movie “42,” based on Robinson’s life, actors Chadwick Boseman (who portrays Robinson) and Lucas Black (who portrays Hall of Fame shortstop Pee Wee Reese) have a conversation on the field. It’s about hate, something Negro League players had to deal with in the majors as they came up to play.

H/T: SI.com, MLB.com

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