CHICAGO (CBS Chicago/CBS News) — Major League Baseball is correcting what it calls a “longtime oversight” in the game’s history.
The Negro Leagues are being elevated to Major League status – 100 years after their creation. The seven leagues, which played primarily from 1920 to 1948, will have their stats and records added to MLB history.
“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,” Commissioner Robert Manfred said in a statement Wednesday. “We are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as Major Leaguers within the official historical record.”
The goal is to ensure baseball fans and “future generations” remember the 3,400 players who made up the Negro Leagues. In August, the league MLB held a league-wide celebration of the Negro Leagues’ 100 anniversary.
The Negro Leagues’ players were barred from joining the American and National leagues before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.
The new recognition also means that players who beat MLB records while they were in the Negro League could receive recognition for their accomplishments. The MLB is working with the Elias Sports Bureau to review how the new designation changes affect the record books.
As CBS 2’s Matt Zahn reported, the new recognition could mean a new home run champ. Josh Gibson is estimated to have hit more than 800 home runs in 16 Negro League seasons, compared to Barry Bonds’ 762 homers.
Hall of Famers like Willie Mays could see their hit totals go up, as those stats from 1920 to 1948 will now officially be classified as Major League.
But more important than the stats is long overdue recognition.
The Negro League 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. The leagues were formed because Black players were banned from joining the National and American leagues.
In 1969, the Special Committee on Baseball Records identified six leagues from which to recognize statistics and facts going back to 1876. The committee did not recognize the Negro Leagues, despite the fact that they included players such as Minnie Miñoso and Satchel Paige.
It is something MLB now calls an error.
“It is MLB’s view that the Committee’s 1969 omission of the Negro Leagues from consideration was clearly an error that demands today’s designation,” the statement said.
The news comes as the country confronts systemic racism throughout the country following a year of protests against police violence and racial inequality. In June, a statement from the MLB promised to address “symptoms of systemic racism, prejudice, and injustice.”
“The perceived deficiencies of the Negro Leagues’ structure and scheduling were born of MLB’s exclusionary practices, and denying them Major League status has been a double penalty, much like that exacted of Hall of Fame candidates prior to Satchel Paige’s induction in 1971,” John Thorn, the league’s historian, said in a statement. “Granting MLB status to the Negro Leagues a century after their founding is profoundly gratifying.”
Cubs great Ernie Banks began his career in the Negro Leagues with the Kansas City Monarchs in 1950. Since that came after 1948, it looks like his career stats will remain unchanged.
Contributing: Zoe Christen Jones, CBS News
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