MLB adds Negro Leagues stats to record books (2024)

NEW YORK (AP) — Josh Gibson became Major League Baseball’s career leader with a .372 batting average, surpassing Ty Cobb’s .367, when Negro Leagues records for more than 2,300 players were incorporated Tuesday after a three-year research project.

Gibson’s .466 average for the 1943 Homestead Grays became the season standard, followed by Charlie “Chino” Smith’s .451 for the 1929 New York Lincoln Giants. They overtook the .440 by Hugh Duffy for the National League’s Boston team in 1894.

Gibson also became the career leader in slugging percentage (.718) and OPS (1.177), moving ahead of Babe Ruth (.690 and 1.164).

“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,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “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.”

A special committee on baseball records decided in 1969 to recognize six major leagues dating to 1876: the National (which launched in 1876), the American (1901), the American Association (1882-1891), Union Association (1884), Players’ League (1890), and Federal League (1914-1915). It excluded the National Association (1871-75), citing an “erratic schedule and procedures.”

MLB announced in December 2020 that it would be “correcting a longtime oversight” and would add the Negro Leagues. John Thorn, MLB’s official historian, chaired a 17-person committee that included Negro Leagues experts and statisticians.

“The condensed 60-game season for the 2020 calendar year for the National League and American League prompted us to think that maybe the shortened Negro League seasons could come under the MLB umbrella, after all,” Thorn said.

An updated version of MLB’s database will become public before the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants play a tribute game to the Negro Leagues on June 20 at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

Baseball Hall of Fame President Josh Rawitch said statistics on Cooperstown plaques would remain the same because they reflect the information available at the time of a player’s induction.

Standards for season leaders is the same for Negro Leagues as the other leagues: 3.1 plate appearances or one inning for each game played by a player’s team.

Gibson’s .974 slugging percentage in 1937 becomes the season record, and Barry Bonds’ .863 in 2001 dropped to fifth, also trailing Mules Suttles .877 in 1926, Gibson’s .871 in 1943 and Smith’s .870 in 1929.

Bond’s prior OPS record of 1.421 in 2004 dropped to third behind Gibson’s 1.474 in 1937 and 1.435 in 1943.

Willie Mays gained 10 hits from the 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, increasing his total to 3,293. Minnie Minoso surpassed 2,000 hits, credited with 150 for the New York Cubans from 1946-1948 that boosted his total to 2,113.

Robinson, who broke MLB’s color barrier with the 1947 Dodgers, was credited with 49 hits with the 1945 Kansas City Monarchs that increased his total to 1,567.

Among pitchers, Satchel Paige gained 28 wins that raised his total to 125.

The committee met six times and dealt with issues such as when compiled league statistics didn’t make sense, such as a league having more wins than losses and walks that were missing. Researchers had to identify whether players with the same name were one person or separate, tracking dates of birth, and identify people listed by nicknames. Documenting transactions and identifying ballparks in a time when neutral sites often were used is ongoing, along with uncovering statistics for independent teams.

Kevin Johnson and Gary Ashwill, researchers who had spent nearly two decades helping assemble the Seamheads Negro Leagues Database, were included in the project.

Thorn estimated 72% of Negro Leagues records from 1920-1948 are included and additional research might lead to future modifications. Thorn said a four-homer game by Gibson in 1938 and a home run by Mays in August 1948 could not be included because complete game accounts have not been found.

“Without a box score, we can’t really balance the statistics,” Johnson said. “Those games are kind of in limbo at the moment.”

Records include the first Negro National League (1920-31), Eastern Colored League (1923-28), American Negro League (1929), East-West League (1932), Negro Southern League (1932), second Negro National League (1933-48) and Negro American League (1937-48).

Some game details were obtained from newspapers that covered the Black communities. Johnson said while complete accounts were found for about 95% of games in the 1920s, coverage dropped off during the Great Depression in the 1930s and never fully recovered.



MLB adds Negro Leagues stats to record books (2024)


MLB adds Negro Leagues stats to record books? ›

Major League Baseball has announced that the stats of more than 2,300 former Negro League players are going to be incorporated into its record books, and that means the great Josh Gibson - well, let's put it this way. Babe Ruth was the white Josh Gibson.

Are Negro League stats added to MLB? ›

The MLB's push to add the accomplishments of stars from the Negro Leagues re-wrote the record books overnight and it shows how those players deserved much more recognition. More than three years after pledging to include statistics from the Negro Leagues in its official records, MLB officially added that data Tuesday.

Are Negro League stats accurate? ›

Negro League seasons were short, the stat-keeping inexact. Gibson never played more than 69 games in a season, never had more than 302 plate appearances. Gibson's Hall of Fame plaque says he hit “almost 800 home runs.” But officially, he hit 166. That's quite a disparity.

Were the Negro Leagues part of the MLB? ›

Major League Baseball officially recognized the Negro Leagues as "major" leagues in December 2020.

Who has the most home runs in the Negro League history? ›

It took Stearnes until 2000 to get elected to the Hall of Fame, but he ranks right up there with Gibson and Charleston as the best hitters in Negro League history with a .348 lifetime average and more home runs than Gibson (188 to 174 via the numbers at, although Gibson homered more often per at-bat).

What percentage of African Americans play Major League Baseball? ›

Tony Reagins, MLB's chief baseball development officer and the Angels' former general manager, said the percentage of Black major leaguers is down again this season. It fell to 6.0% from 6.2% in 2023, based on opening day numbers.

When could black men play in the MLB? ›

African-American baseball players were not allowed to play in what would come to be known as Major League Baseball until 1947 as Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

What was the greatest Negro League team of all time? ›

One of the Negro Leagues' preeminent clubs, the Homestead Grays won nine straight league titles from 1937-48 and three Negro World Series championships in that span. Initially based in Pittsburgh and later splitting time between the Steel City and Washington D.C., the Grays had a known winning percentage of .

Who was the best hitter in the Negro Leagues? ›

His legendary feats with the Homestead Grays have many experts regarding Gibson as the sport's greatest home run hitter. Negro Leagues statistics of the time are somewhat incomplete, but the legend of Gibson's power has always been larger than life. The 6-1, 220-pound Gibson was nearly indestructible behind the plate.

Why did the Negro League fail? ›

But while integration – baseball's great experiment – was a resounding success on the field, at the gates and in changing racial attitudes, Negro League teams soon lost all of their stars and struggled to retain fans. The teams hung on for a bit, before eventually folding.”

Who founded the Negro League? ›

The first viable Black league was formed in 1920 under the leadership of Rube Foster, manager of the Chicago American Giants. Foster had been Negro baseball's best pitcher in the early years of the 20th century and then its best-known manager and promoter.

Were any Negro Leagues born outside the US? ›

There are four Hall of Famers who played in the Negro Leagues and were born outside of the United States. All four were born in Cuba: Cristóbal Torriente made an immediate splash in the Negro Leagues, leading in batting average (. 411), on-base percentage (.

Why was there a Negro baseball league in 1920? ›

Successful Negro Leagues formed. On February 13, 1920 the Negro National League (NNL) was born and, where other previous attempts to organize African-American baseball teams into a league failed, this league found success. The force behind the creation of the Negro National League was Andrew "Rube" Foster.

Who was the best shortstop in the Negro League? ›

About Pop Lloyd. Generally considered to be one of the top shortstops in Negro League history, Pop Lloyd enjoyed a 25-year career in which he regularly batted well over . 300. In a time when pitchers dominated the game, Lloyd found a way to score runs.

Did Josh Gibson really hit 800 home runs? ›

Nobody knows how many Gibson launched in his sprawling baseball career. His Hall of Fame plaque posits that he “hit almost 800 home runs in league and independent baseball during his 17-year career,” though only a small percentage of those are official.

How much did a Negro League player get paid? ›

During World War II, many people had jobs in the defense industry. They had money to attend baseball games, and the Negro leagues flourished. Salaries for Black players, which had been about $150 a month during the 1920s, soared to $400 or more during the war.

How many Negro League players entered the National Baseball Hall of Fame? ›

The National Baseball Hall of Fame features over 300 members in its famous Plaque Gallery, but the path for 37 of them was longer than the rest. The Negro Leagues and Black baseball at large often rivaled the AL and NL, both at the gates and in the national consciousness, in the first half of the 20th century.

Did the Negro Leagues have baseball cards? ›

Although cards were created post-Negro League play as reprints, while the Negro National League was actually happening, cards were never created for players. In America, that is. "They just didn't exist," Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, said years ago.

How did the Negro League change baseball? ›

One major difference the MLB's team had to navigate was that Negro Leagues' regular seasons tended to be shorter, so players were evaluated based on their play across roughly 60-game seasons compared to the longer 150-plus game seasons other MLB leagues have played.

Which leagues allowed black baseball players to play? ›

Negro leagues

The Negro National League was founded in 1920 by Rube Foster, independent of the National Baseball Commission (1903–1920). The NNL survived through 1931, primarily in the midwest, accompanied by the major Eastern Colored League for several seasons to 1928.

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