The Negro Leagues are officially part of Major League Baseball. On Wednesday, MLB announced it was "correcting a longtime oversight in the game's history" by elevating the Negro Leagues to "major league" status. The leagues operated from 1920 to 1948, and the move means 3,400 players who played in the Negro Leagues during the time period will now be considered Major Leaguers, with their stats and records now in the MLB record books.
"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," 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 seven leagues that competed at the time were the Negro National League (I) (1920-31), the Eastern Colored League (1923-28), the American Negro League (1929), the East-West League (1932), the Negro Southern League (1932), the Negro National League (II) (1933-48) and the Negro American League (1937-48). The seven leagues produced 35 Hall of Famers, including Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell and Beck Leonard.
"For historical merit, it is extraordinarily important," Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick said. "Having been around so many of the Negro League players, they never looked to Major League Baseball to validate them. But for fans and for historical sake, this is significant, it really is. So we are extremely pleased with this announcement. And for us, it does give additional credence to how significant the Negro Leagues were, both on and off the field."
The next question is what does this mean for overall leaders in top categories? The league and Elias Sports Bureau, MLB's official statistician, have had and will continue discussions on how the stats in the Negro Leagues will be measured. Gibson had a career batting average of .365 and had at least 3,000 plate appearances. That would place in the top-10 all-time. However, Gibson is one of four players who had a career batting average of at least .350, and adding those guys in would push legendary players like Ted Williams and Babe Ruth out of the top 10.
"Peculiarities of their schedule were the outcome of prejudice," MLB's official historian John Thorn said. "When we view the white Major Leagues of 1920-1948, it's a binary construct -- the American League and National League. That doesn't work."