It may have taken too long in the eyes of many, but Major League Baseball announced Wednesday it will formally elevate the Negro Leagues between 1920 and 1948, when baseball was segregated, to “major league” status, Ben Lindbergh reports for The Ringer.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, per a statement from the league, said “we are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as major leaguers within the official historical record.”
That means statistics compiled in the aforementioned timeframe — for example, no-hitters thrown by Satchel Paige, or home runs hit by Josh Gibson — will be integrated into MLB’s record book. While consistent record-keeping has been challenging for Negro League historians, the counting stats like hits and homers that have been tallied should transition fairly easily. On the other hand, there will likely be some debate over rate stats, like batting average, since Negro League seasons were shorter, although John Thorn, MLB’s official historian, said he believes integration means integration, full stop.
Statistical discussions will take place over time, but, most importantly, the decision is seen as a long-overdue move to right a wrong, and it has been warmly received by baseball writers and former Negro League ballplayers, few of whom from the designated time period are still living, alike. Ron Teasley, a 93-year-old who played for the New York Cubans in 1948, told The Ringer “it’s a wonderful thing.” Teasley was actually signed by the Dodgers, per The Ringer, but never played a game for them. Now, he will officially have played in the majors regardless.
Of course, people who played in or are knowledgeable about the Negro Leagues never thought they weren’t on par with the American and National Leagues. Bob Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, told The Ringer the players “knew how good they were” and “didn’t need the validation,” but added that “for history’s sake, this is significant.” Read more at The Ringer. Tim O’Donnell