The MLB has announced it will finally recognize former Negro League players as part of the major leagues. Over 70 years after the Negro League ended, the organization will now include the records and statistics of all 3,400 players as part of MLB history.
On Wednesday, December 16, the MLB said this change is “correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history,” as all seven leagues were excluded in 1969 when the Special Committee on Baseball Records selected six official major leagues dating back to 1876. Just one year after Jackie Robinson became the first Black player for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, the Negro Leagues dissolved and were not considered in any of the MLB’s stats between 1920-1948.
The MLB will work with Elias Sports Bureau to piece together records of the Negro League’s statistical past, since there was no standardized effort to archive their games.
In a statement made by the league, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said baseball analysts and fans alike “have long known that the Negro Leagues produced many of our game’s best players, innovations, and triumphs against a backdrop of injustice.”
Although the change in re-classifying Negro League players has come very recently, historians and players have advocated for the change for decades. According to The Ringer, Hall of Famer James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell once said, “The Negro Leagues was a major league. They wouldn’t let us play in the white leagues and we [were] great ballplayers in the Negro Leagues, so how can you say we [weren’t] major league?”
Bob Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, expressed his excitement about the inclusion of such a critical part of baseball history.
“The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is thrilled to see this well-deserved recognition of the Negro Leagues,” Kendrick said. “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. This is a historic ending to the year following years of lack in recognition in the sports world.”