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Negro League scores are now in MLB's record books, a 'triumphant' story for Kansas City museum

Negro Leagues players like Josh Gibson, left statue, and Martín Dihigo, right, are among the more than 2,300 new additions to the official MLB record books.
Noah Taborda
KCUR 89.3
Negro Leagues players like Josh Gibson, left statue, and Martín Dihigo, right, are among the more than 2,300 new additions to the official MLB record books.

Major League Baseball's record books were officially updated Wednesday to include Negro Leaguers who played in one of seven leagues from 1920 to 1948.

The statistics of more than 2,300 Negro League baseball players shut out of Major League Baseball are now reflected in official record books.

Kansas City Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick said the newly integrated books can be a gateway to understanding an era not only of segregation but also of perseverance.

The statistical changes come after four years of research spurred by a 2020 MLB decision to officially recognize Negro Leagues players as major-league caliber. That year — the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues — was marked by protests against racial injustice.

Kendrick said statistical integration is another chapter in that story.

“This is the story of America at her worst but also at her triumphant best,” he said. “While America was trying to prevent them from sharing the joys of her so-called national pastime, the American spirit allowed them to persevere. What's not to love about that kind of story?”

The seven Negro leagues were home to 35 players already enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Players like Satchel Paige, who some say is the greatest pitcher ever, and Josh Gibson, arguably the best power hitter in the sport’s history, will jump to or near the top of different statistical categories.

Gibson is now the MLB’s all-time career leader in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage, and holds the single-season record in all three categories. He leapfrogs legends like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth.

Some other well-known stars like Willie Mays and Minnie Miñoso, who would go on to play in the MLB, will have statistics from their time in the Negro Leagues added to their existing totals.

Kendrick said the move could also draw attention to less well-known players who are just as deserving.

“Sometimes it takes these kinds of efforts that will hopefully open the minds, hearts and the imaginations of those who will eventually want to learn more about the history of the Negro Leagues,” Kendrick said.

When announcing the decision to recognize Negro League baseball players on an even playing field, the MLB said it was “correcting a longtime oversight.” In the 1960s, MLB leaders met to discuss what past professional leagues would be recognized in the record books but did not even discuss the Negro Leagues.

The MLB says Negro League records for the window are now about 75% complete, which means there could be more updates to record books if more verifiable information comes to light.

"All of us who love baseball have long known that the Negro Leagues produced many of our game's finest players, innovations and triumphs against the backdrop of injustice," MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred said in a statement announcing the efforts in 2020.

Copyright 2024 KCUR 89.3

Noah Taborda is a Sports Broadcasting Journalism major who hopped on the short flight from Chicago to hone his trade at the University of Missouri. He hopes to cover a meaningful moment or two in his future career.