Major League Baseball (MLB) has announced that records of Negro Leagues players will be included in the game’s official statistics, “correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history”. Thousands of Black players including Josh Gibson, who was considered to be one of the best hitters baseball has ever seen, were barred from MLB play years before Jackie Robinson would professional baseball’s race barrier.
“All of us who love baseball have long known that the Negro Leagues produced many of our game’s best players, innovations and triumph 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.”
The Negro League, which some 3,400 Black athletes played from 1920 to 1948, was comprised of seven leagues: the Negro National League, the Eastern Colored League, the American Negro League, the East-West League, the Negro Southern League, the Negro National League (II) and the Negro American League. These leagues were formed because Black players were not allowed to join the National and American leagues.
In 1969 when the Special Committee on Baseball Records was asked to identify the leagues that deserve statistical inclusion in the MLB, it chose six leagues. The committee did not recognize the Negro Leagues, and this is what MLB now calls an error.
MLB’s announcement comes as the country comes to terms with systemic racism following protests against police brutality and racial injustice. This June, a statement from the MLB said it will address “symptoms of systemic racism, prejudice, and injustice.”