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M.L.B. Will Add Negro Leagues to Official Records

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tags: racism, baseball, sports, African American history, Negro Leagues



If baseball somehow reflects America, as romanticists like to believe, then it also shares in its blemishes. The National and American leagues were segregated until 1947, and the decades since have been marked by a halting kind of reckoning.

On Wednesday, Major League Baseball took one of its biggest steps to redress past racial wrongs: It formally recognized several of the Negro leagues as on par with the American and National leagues, a distinction that will alter the official record books to acknowledge a quality of competition that the long-excluded players never doubted.

With the change, more than 3,400 players from seven distinct Negro leagues that operated between 1920 and 1948 will be recognized as major leaguers. And the statistical records will be updated.

“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,” Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, said 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.”

The adjustments to the statistics will almost assuredly result in a new single-season record for batting average. But the impact on other records will be fairly small as a result of the shorter schedules played in the Negro leagues, most of which played only 80 to 100 games, as compared to the 154 per season that was standard in the other major leagues of the era.

Records for some of the game’s biggest stars will receive at least mild adjustments. The Hall of Famer Willie Mays, for example, is likely to be credited with 17 more hits, though no home runs, from his time with the Birmingham Black Barons in 1948. That would bring his career total, including hits from his time with the Giants and the Mets, to 3,300. The actual adjustments will be made after a review of available data by the Elias Sports Bureau, keeper of Major League Baseball’s official statistics.

The decision to recognize Negro league players as major leaguers was a welcome change for the people who have fought for years to keep the leagues’ memory alive. But Bob Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, said that no announcement from Major League Baseball could validate leagues that earned their own legitimacy.

“It gives greater context to the Negro leagues in a quantifiable way, as opposed to the lore and legend that sometimes drives this story,” Kendrick said of the changes. “But I can tell you this: For those who called the Negro leagues home, they never questioned their own validity.”

“They knew that their league was as good as anybody’s league,” he added.

Read entire article at New York Times

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