Watch CBS News

MLB's addition of Negro League players' stats helps rectify baseball history

Negro League historian helps reclaim baseball history
Negro League historian helps reclaim baseball history 03:00

The MLB officially recognized the contributions the Negro League made to baseball, and it's something that has been years in the making through the effort of various people.

Legendary play-by-play announcer Jon Miller still dreams of baseball, and sometimes, of when the mic gets taken away. 

"I have stress dreams sometimes when they said that I couldn't do this anymore," said Miller. 

The 72-year-old has been studying baseball his entire life, including players from the Negro Leagues, now being recognized in Major League Baseball's record books.   

"These were big leaguers who were excluded. It wasn't because they never made it to the big league. They weren't allowed to play in the big leagues," said Miller. 

As the country celebrates Juneteenth this week, the San Francisco Giants are honoring Negro League players who are being recognized in a new way. 

The Giants are playing Thursday on the field where Willie Mays first played in the Negro Leagues. Giants all-time great Willie Mays, who died on Tuesday, started his professional career as a Birmingham Black Baron.  

Baseball now has a generation of stars from the past, being seen in a whole different light. MLB's inclusion of Negro League stats is an inflection point, as stars like Josh Gibson have catapulted to the top of some of baseball's most heralded records.   

"Very little is known, I think of Oscar Charleston. Turkey Stearns is another guy. There are so many names like that," said Miller. 

Thursday's Juneteenth game at Rickwood Field, is a tribute to baseball's trailblazers, who were equally if not more talented, but denied equality, because of the color of their skin. 

"There are some great players that played in the Negro Leagues during those times, no more than when you talk about a guy like Willie Mays, you understand that," said Giants Manager Bob Melvin. 

"The big league story, the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown which is the story of baseball, it's not ever been complete because all those names have been missing," said Miller. 

It is a journey decades in the making, to retrieve and vet statistics from the seven Negro Leagues by fans, journalists, historians, and families of players who have passed, but are not forgotten.  

"A lot of people put in a lot of time like detective work to find out who these players were," said Miller.  "I think that's a boon to baseball fans."

The Hall of Fame broadcaster has a prime seat to weave a new history of the game, into a more fully encompassing story.  

"The stats will tell you a certain part of that story about how great they were in their careers, but the rest of it still has to be an oral history," said Miller. 

And there was no one better to do that than the voice of the San Francisco Giants. Willie Mays, who was 93 years old, was asked to do it, but had said he was unable to join the festivities of the Juneteenth game in Birmingham, Alabama, on Thursday. 

The Giants organization on Tuesday announced Mays had died.

This will be Major League Baseball's first regular-season game at Rickwood Field. 

It's the oldest still-existing professional ballpark in the country.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.