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MLB finally elevates Negro Leagues to ‘Major League’ status

Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that they are officially recognizing the Negro Leagues as a Major League. MLB, which celebrated the Negro Leagues’ 100th anniversary this past August, will incorporate the stats accumulated by Negro League players from 1928-1940 into its record books.

The Phillies celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues on Aug. 16. (Destiny Lugardo/Phillies Nation)

“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 Rob Manfred said in a press release. “We are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as Major Leaguers within the official historical record.”

In the press release, the league recognized that a mistake was made when MLB’s Special Committee on Baseball Records excluded the Negro Leagues when six “Major Leagues” since 1876 were identified in 1969.

“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,” MLB’s official historian John Thorn said. “Granting MLB status to the Negro Leagues a century after their founding is profoundly gratifying.”

MLB and the Elias Sports Bureau are working with community researchers to evaluate the historical statistics and how they can be interpreted for record-keeping purposes. Josh Gibson, a 12-time Negro League All-Star who is considered one of the best power hitters to ever live, could surpass Barry Bonds as MLB’s all-time leading home run hitter if there’s enough evidence to conclude that Gibson hit more than 762 home runs in his professional career.

The Philadelphia Phillies celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues during their Aug. 16 matchup against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park this past season. Both teams, as well as the umpiring crew, wore a commemorative patch on their uniforms and cardboard cutouts featuring former Philadelphia Stars greats were placed in left field.


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