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MLB Officially Integrates Negro League Stats

Josh Gibson
Josh Gibson | Image by MLB/webpage

The MLB announced that statistics from the seven Negro Leagues that ran in the 1900s were officially integrated into the Major League historical records.

This change comes over three years after the December 2020 announcement that the statistics would be added. According to the MLB, information from more than 2,300 players will be integrated into the system.

The Negro Leagues ran from 1920 to 1948 to allow black players the opportunity to play professional baseball. The MLB barred black players from playing until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with his debut for the Dodgers in 1947.

Many of the remaining Negro Leagues continued operations in the years following Robinson’s debut, but they all eventually disbanded by the end of the 1950s, according to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.

MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred discussed the change and said the league was excited about the inclusion of the Negro League’s stats since they would help demonstrate the true history of baseball and educate fans who are just now learning about the sport.

“This initiative is focused on ensuring that future generations of fans have access to the statistics and milestones of all those who made the Negro Leagues possible. Their accomplishments on the field will be a gateway to broader learning about this triumph in American history and the path that led to Jackie Robinson’s 1947 Dodger debut,” he said in a statement, per MLB.

Currently, three former players from the Negro Leagues are alive to witness the change, as 99-year-old Bill Greason, 97-year-old Ron Teasley, and 93-year-old Hall of Famer Willie Mays are the lone players who are now able to see their statistics reflected by the MLB.

The inclusion of statistics from the Negro Leagues created multiple shifts in the all-time records, which include catcher Josh Gibson overtaking pitcher Babe Ruth for the all-time records in both slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage.

Gibson now holds the all-time record for slugging percentage at .718 while also claiming the all-time highest on-base plus slugging percentage at 1.177.

Expert estimates found that the MLB is roughly 75% finished incorporating these statistics, with a few minor changes to the all-time numbers expected to be released in the future, per NPR.

Many MLB players have spoken up about their support for the move, with Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen saying that many fans of the game will now “get to learn about a lot of names and a lot of people that we may not have heard about.”

“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,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Similarly, Brewers manager Pat Murphy said that the topic was “sensitive to me for a lot of reasons,” explaining that “it’s awful they weren’t allowed to go out and play” during their time.

“That’s just an awful thing. So, this is a statement saying that we recognize that. We recognize that it was a gross injustice,” Murphy detailed, per MLB.

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