One hundred years after the founding of the Negro Leagues, Major League Baseball has finally accepted what some of the best athletes in the sport’s history have always known — their play was on par.
On Wednesday, MLB announced that they would classify seven Negro Leagues operating from 1920 through 1948 with Major League status. In a league statement, the decision corrected a “longtime oversight” over the caliber of the Negro Leagues as an inferior product to its discriminatory, white-only counterparts.
“In the minds of baseball fans worldwide, this serves as historical validation for those who had been shunned from the Major Leagues and had the foresight and courage to create their own league that helped change the game and our country too,” said Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. “This acknowledgment is a meritorious nod to the courageous owners and players who helped build this exceptional enterprise and shines a welcomed spotlight on the immense talent that called the Negro Leagues home.”
Players who competed in the Negro Leagues over that span and integrated the American and National Leagues, will have their documented statistics included in their historical records.
Hall of Famers like Willie Mays will have the 17 document hits he had as a teenager with the Birmingham Black Baron, added to his 3,283 he stroked with the Giants (New York and San Francisco) and Mets. Satchel Paige, who debuted with Cleveland two days after his 42nd baseball and, in his middle age still posted a 3.29 ERA and two All-Star team selections across six seasons, will have his 2.36 ERA over 1,563 Negro League innings included in his record.
“The perceived deficiencies of the Negro Leagues’ structure and scheduling were born of MLB’s exclusionary practices, and denying them Major League status has been a double penalty, much like that exacted of Hall of Fame candidates prior to Satchel Paige’s induction in 1971,” said John Thorn, MLB’s official historian.
“Granting MLB status to the Negro Leagues a century after their founding is profoundly gratifying.”
However, only a handful of Negro Leaguers who have survived MLB’s discrimination and inaction will see their Negro League accomplishments reflected in MLB’s record. Mays, at 89, is still alive, but Paige died in 1982, almost forty years ago.
“About time,” Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman tweeted. “The fact that this is just now being acknowledged is a travesty. Beyond thankful for the African-American players and individuals who paved the way and allowed me to do what I love. You are all the true heroes!”
-Bradford William Davis, New York Daily News