MLB to integrate Negro League statistics into record books

In a historic decision, Major League Baseball (MLB) announced on Tuesday that it will now incorporate statistics from the Negro Leagues that operated in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s into its official record books. This decision aims to ensure that the achievements of Negro League players are recognized alongside those of their MLB counterparts.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred emphasized the importance of this initiative in a statement, highlighting that it aims to provide future generations of fans with access to the statistics and milestones of Negro League players. The inclusion of these records acknowledges the contributions of Black players who were barred from MLB until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The integration of these statistics will serve as an educational tool, broadening the understanding of this pivotal era in American history.

This move follows MLB’s 2020 announcement, which came amid a national reckoning with racial injustice, that it would elevate seven Negro Leagues (1920-1948) to “major league” status. This reclassification meant that approximately 3,400 Negro League players could be recognized for their achievements. The latest announcement goes further by officially incorporating their statistics into MLB’s record books.

The immediate impact of this decision will see Josh Gibson, one of the greatest players in baseball history, surpass records held by legends like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. Gibson will now hold the all-time career batting average record at .372, surpassing Cobb’s .366. His .718 slugging percentage will also become the highest on record, eclipsing Ruth’s .690, and his career OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of 1.177 will top Ruth’s 1.164.

Sean Gibson, Josh Gibson’s great-grandson, expressed his pride in the recognition, noting that Gibson’s stats are now officially part of major league history. This rectifies a 1969 decision by the Special Committee on Baseball Records, which failed to recognize the Negro Leagues as major leagues. MLB acknowledged in 2020 that this omission was an error that needed correction.

The late Hank Aaron, who played in the Negro Leagues before joining MLB and breaking Ruth’s home run record, recounted the hardships faced by Negro League players, such as surviving on minimal meal money. Aaron’s experiences highlight the resilience and determination of Negro League players, whose contributions are now rightfully acknowledged in the annals of baseball history.

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