Negro Leagues finally get recognition as Major League

Negro Leagues finally get  recognition as Major League
December 23
14:00 2020

Major League Baseball (MLB) announced on Wednesday that the records of Negro Leagues players and teams will be included in the game’s official statistics. This is a recognition that is well deserved and also a tad bit late for most of the Negro League players to enjoy.

The statistics and achievements of players that competed in seven leagues for Black players from 1920 to 1948 will now be recognized by MLB. Those players who played in both the Negro Leagues and MLB will have both sets of stats counted on their résumé, per The Ringer’s Ben Lindbergh. This list will include more than 3,400 players having their name in the MLB record books.

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

While I am happy for many of these unsung heroes to finally get their just due, I am also upset that it took MLB this long to recognize these great players and teams. The Negro Leagues were denied major league status in 1968 following a ruling by MLB’s Special Baseball Records Committee. The voting panel, which consisted of all white people, gave other leagues major league status, although those leagues’ “level of play was far lower than that of Negro Leagues,” per Lindbergh.

If MLB would have done the right thing in 1968 by recognizing Negro Leagues as a major league, then many more of the former players would have been able to enjoy it while they were still alive. It was bad enough they were not allowed to showcase their skills with and against white players, but to have their leagues not recognized as major league had to be a slap in the face.

Jackie Robinson did not integrate MLB until 1947, so many of the Negro Leagues’ stars did not get their deserved notoriety. The segregation of Black players from MLB also deprived fans and baseball purists the chance to see how good some of these Black players actually were.

I wrote a previous sports column about how some of the records in sports need to have an asterisk beside them if they were set prior to the integration of the sport. I still feel that way because many of the Negro Leagues’ players were just as good, or even better than their white counterparts.

It also makes me think how the white players of that time would have gone down in history if they had to face the likes of Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Oscar Charleston, Walter Leonard, Monte Irvin, or Smokey Joe Williams. I have always wondered if the white stars of that time would have been able to put up some of those gaudy numbers in wins, batting average, home runs or earned run average if Black players would have been allowed to play in the league.

That is a question that will never be answered, but I think it is a good discussion topic due to the fact that the Negro Leagues had so many talented players that would have made MLB rosters during that era.

The Negro Leagues and Major League teams routinely played in exhibition games during the golden era of the Negro Leagues. Although the MLB teams were not always at full strength, the Negro League teams more than held their own against their white counterparts.

We all know Robinson broke the color barrier in MLB, but there were several Black MLB players that got their start in the Negro Leagues. Players like Willie Mayes, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Roy Campanella, Larry Doby and Don Newcombe all got their start in the Negro Leagues.  

It did not take long for the Negro League players to make an impact once they were given the opportunity. From 1949-1959, the National League MVP was a Black player nine times. That is an amazing feat when you realize that Black players were only allowed to play 12 years earlier. This is further evidence that the Black players were more than capable of competing in the Major Leagues.

Even though this acknowledgement is long overdue, I am happy that it has happened. Now I am wondering if MLB will combine the stats from the players that played in both the Negro Leagues and MLB. If so, the numbers for legendary players like Mays, Aaron, Banks and Campanella will be even better.

My biggest wish is that MLB goes back to targeting young Black players into the sport, because there is a dire need for Black players in the sport. I could see no better way to pay homage to those Negro League players that have died than to integrate more young Black players into the sport.

About Author

Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors