Major leaguers praise inclusion of Negro Leagues statistics into major league records (2024)

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1942 AP

FILE - In this Aug. 2, 1942, file photo, Kansas City Monarchs pitcher Leroy Satchel Paige warms up at New York's Yankee Stadium before a Negro League game between the Monarchs and the New York Cuban Stars. Major League Baseball said Tuesday, May 28, 2024, that it has incorporated records for more than 2,300 Negro Leagues players following a three-year research project. Paiges 1.01 ERA for the 1944 Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League ranks third since ERA became an official stat in the National League in 1912 and American League in 1913. Paige was also credited with 28 Negro Leagues wins, raising his career total to 125. (AP Photo/Matty Zimmerman, File)

CHICAGO – Buck Leonard. Charlie “Chino” Smith. Turkey Stearnes.

Baseball players and fans alike are learning more about the Negro Leagues after the statistics for more than 2,300 players — historic figures like Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, Satchel Paige and Mule Suttles — were incorporated into the major league record book following a three-year research project.

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“You get to learn about a lot of names and a lot of people that we may not have heard about,” Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen said Wednesday. “Now that Josh Gibson is at the top of OPS and batting average and a few other categories, it’s great news. But it’s more than just that and the numbers. It’s great that you now get to learn about the players in the Negro Leagues. ... I’ll be able to do some more deep diving into some names that I may not have heard of.”

A 17-person committee chaired by John Thorn, Major League Baseball's official historian, met six times as part of the meticulous process of examining statistics from seven Negro Leagues from 1920-1948. Nearly 75% of the available records have been included, according to MLB, and additional research could lead to more changes to the major league leaderboards.

“It is really exciting,” Cincinnati Reds pitcher Hunter Greene said. “I’m going to have to do a little bit more research and understand some of the history to kind of rewire my brain on some of the best players.”

Gibson became the majors' career leader with a .372 batting average, surpassing Ty Cobb’s .367. Gibson’s .466 average for the 1943 Homestead Grays became the season record, followed by Smith’s .451 for the 1929 New York Lincoln Giants.

The mighty Gibson also became the career leader in slugging percentage (.718) and OPS (1.177), moving ahead of Babe Ruth (.690 and 1.164).

“Baseball history is a part of U.S. history, and I think (the) major leagues acknowledging and incorporating the Negro Leagues is a huge step in kind of bringing all the parts of baseball history together,” said Tyrus Cobb, Ty Cobb's great grandson. “And I think it's actually pretty exciting that there's a new statistical batting average leader.”

After he saw the news, Tyrus Cobb, 32, of San Jose, California, said he took a closer look at Gibson's career.

“I made sure to look up him and Oscar Charleston and some of the other guys who finished up near the top of the list,” said Cobb, who works in commercial real estate. “So I think it's a really exciting thing for baseball history.”

The incorporation of Negro League statistics also changed the numbers of handful of players known more for their major league career.

Willie Mays added 10 hits from the 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, increasing his total to 3,293. Minnie Minoso was credited with 150 hits for the New York Cubans from 1946-1948, boosting his total to 2,113. Jackie Robinson, who broke the majors' color barrier with the 1947 Dodgers, was credited with 49 hits with the 1945 Kansas City Monarchs that increased his total to 1,567.

“It is a good thing for the game,” Washington Nationals pitcher Josiah Gray said. “For the Negro League players in the past who were exceptional for what they did, it is good to be drawn into the light. It is really cool to see Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston and a lot of other names that baseball fans can learn about and for them to see there was more than major league baseball back then."

The change comes with the majors experiencing a decline in Black players. A study by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at Central Florida found Black or African American players represented 6.2% of players on opening-day rosters in 2023, down from 7.2% in 2022. Both figures were the lowest since the study began in 1991, when 18% of MLB players were Black.

The St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants play a tribute game to the Negro Leagues on June 20 at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

“I think it’s a pretty cool thing that you show recognition," Giants pitcher Jordan Hicks said. “It was two different leagues, but it’s still baseball at the end of the day, and then whenever they came together, you saw the guys that stood out in the Negro Leagues really performed in MLB. So I think it’s fair that if they were still the same guy in the Negro Leagues as they were in MLB, those stats should match up, especially if it was in the same era.”

Brett Tinker, 56, of Nyack, New York, heard stories about the Negro Leagues from his grandfather, Harold “Hooks” Tinker, a Birmingham, Alabama, native, who played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Harold Tinker shared his love for the sport. He told his grandson about how they often had to stay on the team bus because they couldn't go into a hotel, and he also showed off his memorabilia collection.

When Brett Tinker heard about the incorporation of the Negro League statistics, he was moved to tears.

“It's an honor. It's overdue, not just for my grandfather, but a lot of those players who never had that chance to have that recognition,” he said.


AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum, AP Sports Writer Beth Harris, and freelance reporters Dana Gauruder, Ben Ross, Bill Trocchi and Gary Schatz contributed to this report.



Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Major leaguers praise inclusion of Negro Leagues statistics into major league records (2024)


Major leaguers praise inclusion of Negro Leagues statistics into major league records? ›

Baseball players and fans alike are learning more about the Negro Leagues after the statistics for more than 2,300 players — historic figures like Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, Satchel Paige and Mule Suttles — were incorporated into the major league record book following a three-year research project.

Are Negro League stats added to MLB? ›

Major League Baseball has officially added players' stats from the Negro Leagues to its historical record, a move that allows Black players' contributions to be credited alongside their white counterparts.

Does MLB recognize Negro League? ›

Following the 2020 announcement that seven different Negro Leagues from 1920-1948 would be recognized as Major Leagues, MLB announced Wednesday that it has followed the recommendations of the independent Negro League Statistical Review Committee in absorbing the available Negro Leagues numbers into the official ...

What was the impact of Negro Leagues baseball on American culture? ›

They represent the Negro leagues' remarkable legacy and the communities they cultivated. Black baseball became one of the more profitable businesses in some Black communities. It made a considerable contribution to an enclave economy composed of interrelated businesses that succeeded in response to forced segregation.

Who was the greatest Negro League baseball player? ›

Oscar Charleston (1976)

Maybe the Negro Leagues' biggest all-around talent who drew comparisons to Major League stars like Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker, Charleston was the Negro National League's first true superstar when the league began play in 1920.

Are Negro League stats accurate? ›

Since the SBRC ruling of 1969, many sleuths have engaged in box-score archeology. Today the 1920-1948 Negro Leagues records are estimated to be nearly 75% complete.

How many Negro League players entered the National Baseball Hall of Fame? ›

The National Baseball Hall of Fame includes 37 members who were inducted largely or entirely based on their careers in the Negro Leagues.

What percentage of African Americans play Major League Baseball? ›

A study done by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at Central Florida found African American players represented just 6.2% of players on MLB opening day rosters in 2023, down from 7.2% in 2022.

Why are there less African Americans in baseball? ›

The percentage is one-third of what it was more than three decades ago, according to baseball demographic studies. One reason for the decline seems to be the enormous popularity of basketball and football.

Why did the Negro Leagues end? ›

In the face of harder economic times, the Negro National League folded after the 1931 season. Some of its teams joined the only Negro league then left, the Negro Southern League. Only strong independent clubs were able to survive the hard economic turn that affected the country, such as the Kansas City Monarchs.

How good was Jackie Robinson in the Negro Leagues? ›

The hustling ex-college man was one of best infielders in the Negro Leagues that season and was expected to improve with more experience, but it was felt that shortstop was not his best position. He had some difficulty going into the hole and making the play.

Who was the 1 Black baseball player? ›

Ask almost any American on the street who was the first African American to play in modern Major League baseball, and many will say Jackie Robinson. Robinson broke the color barrier when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on Opening Day, April 15, 1947.

Did a Negro League team ever play a MLB team? ›

In the era of segregation in Major League Baseball, it was commonplace for Negro League teams to play exhibition games against white teams. Some teams were actual major or minor league clubs, while most of them were “all-star” teams consisting of major, minor, and semi-professional players.

Why is the Negro baseball league important? ›

The NLBM's story began with the founding of the Negro Leagues in 1920, a pivotal moment in sports and cultural history. Founded by Andrew “Rube” Foster, a former player, manager, and executive, these leagues offered a haven for African American and Hispanic players during an era of segregation in Major League Baseball.

Did the Negro Leagues have baseball cards? ›

Although cards were created post-Negro League play as reprints, while the Negro National League was actually happening, cards were never created for players. In America, that is. "They just didn't exist," Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, said years ago.

When did the MLB Negro League end? ›

The Negro American League was the only "major" Negro league operating in 1949. Within two years it had been reduced to minor league caliber and it played its last game in 1958. The last All-Star game was held in 1962, and by 1966 the Indianapolis Clowns were the last Negro league team still playing.

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