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Statistics from Negro Leagues officially integrated into MLB record books

MLB incorporates Negro Leagues statistics into record books
MLB incorporates Negro Leagues statistics into record books 04:37

In a milestone decision decades in the making, Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that it is now incorporating statistics of Negro Leagues that operated in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s into its record books.  

"This initiative is focused on ensuring that future generations of fans have access to the statistics and milestones of all those who made the Negro Leagues possible," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. 

Black players were barred from MLB until Jackie Robinson broke the league's color barrier in 1947 when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. That breakthrough ultimately led to the Negro Leagues ending play in 1960.

"Their accomplishments on the field will be a gateway to broader learning about this triumph in American history and the path that led to Jackie Robinson's 1947 Dodger debut," Manfred said in his statement.

In 2020, in the wake of America's reckoning with racial injustice following the murder of George Floyd, MLB announced that it was "elevating" seven Negro Leagues that operated from 1920 to 1948 to "major league" status, a move which, at the time, meant approximately 3,400 players in those Negro Leagues could be recognized by MLB for their on-field achievements. Wednesday's announcement, however, will take that a step further.

The immediate impact of the incorporation will see Josh Gibson, one of baseball's greatest players, take multiple records from the likes of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, per CBS Sports.

Josh Gibson Sliding Into Home
During the 12th annual East-West All-Star Game of the Negro Leagues, American baseball player Josh Gibson of the East team creates a cloud of dust as he slides into home plate during the fourth inning at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, on Aug. 13, 1944. West team's catcher Ted Radcliffe is visible at right. Bettmann

Gibson will become the all-time leader in career batting average at .372, passing Cobb's mark of .366, according to CBS Sports. His career .718 slugging percentage will also be the all-time high mark now, surpassing Ruth's previous record of .690, and he'll be the leader in career OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) with 1.177, passing Ruth's mark of 1.164.

"When you hear Josh Gibson's name now, it's not just that he was the greatest player in the Negro Leagues, but one of the greatest of all time," Sean Gibson, Gibson's great-grandson, told USA Today in a statement Tuesday. "These aren't just Negro League stats. They're major-league baseball stats."

In 2020, MLB acknowledged that it was seeking to rectify a 1969 decision by the Special Committee on Baseball Records — a group that was formed to determine which leagues would be recognized as "major leagues." That 1969 committee recognized six such "major leagues" dating back to 1876, but omitted all Negro Leagues from consideration.

"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 league said in 2020.

The late Hank Aaron played in the Negro Leagues before entering MLB and eventually breaking Ruth's career home run record. In the 2023 documentary "The League," he described the challenges Negro League players faced.

"We got one dollar a day meal money, and we would buy one loaf of bread and we would buy a big jar of peanut butter," Aaron said. "That's what we lived off of for three or four days."

— Zoe Christen Jones and Jericka Duncan contributed to this report. 

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