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Elephant Rumblings: MLB recognizes Negro Leagues with Major League status

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Satchel Paige Meets Josh Gibson
Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson

Good morning afternoon evening, Athletics Nation!

Major League Baseball made a significant change to its history books on Wednesday, announcing that they will recognize the Negro Leagues of 1920-48 as official major leagues.

That means over 3,000 former Negro League players were now officially major leaguers in the eyes of history, and it also means a whole new set of stats count in the MLB records.

Some of the notable numbers include 238 homers by leader Josh Gibson, 150 pitching wins by leader Willie Foster, and four hitters who could rank in the Top 10 in career batting average (Gibson, Jud Wilson, Oscar Charleston, and Turkey Stearnes). Some other existing MLB careers might see updates as well — for example, Willie Mays will add 16 hits to his total due to a stint in Negro American League in 1948, though he didn’t hit any homers there.

Commissioner Rob Manfred said the following:

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

The major league status was granted to seven professional Negro Leagues, which boasted 35 Hall of Famers between them including Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Buck Leonard, and Monte Irvin:

  • Negro National League (I) (1920-31)
  • Eastern Colored League (1923-28)
  • American Negro League (1929)
  • East-West League (1932)
  • Negro Southern League (1932)
  • Negro National League (II) (1933-48)
  • Negro American League (1937-48)

They join a list of major leagues that includes the current American League and National League, as well as some other long-defunct organizations like the American Association (1882-91), Union Association (1884), Players’ League (1890), and Federal League (1914-15).

A lot of star talent came out of these Negro Leagues, between the dozens of Hall of Famers as well as many AL and NL legends who got their starts there as prospects (like Mays and Hank Aaron). Between that, and the circumstances under which they were unjustly prevented from playing alongside their white peers, it’s fitting for the leagues to retroactively receive this equal standing.

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