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Front Page Talking Points


Negro Leagues stars from a bygone era gain new standing in Major League Baseball records


1.gifShare two facts from other coverage related to race.

2.gifRead about a different sports topic and tell why you chose it.

3.gifPick a photo of a Black newsmaker and describe why she or he is notable.

Change reaches a sport that embraced century-old traditions. Major League Baseball (MLB) has incorporated statistics from more than 2,300 Negro Leagues players into its official records. As a result, Josh Gibson takes over the spot Ty Cobb long held as the best hitter to ever live. The list of elite sluggers such as Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig now also includes Mule Suttles, Turkey Stearnes and Oscar Charleston, who played when pro baseball and other parts of American life were segregated by race. "Though the Negro Leagues never played under the auspices of Major League Baseball, they absolutely played big-league baseball," writes Boston sportswriter Steve Buckley, a columnist for The Athletic. "Now it is a fact backed up by statistics." (The word Negro was used before African American and Black.)

All-Black teams played against each other from 1920-48. (MLB integrated in 1947 when first baseman Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. Josh Gibson died three months earlier from a stroke at age 35. "When people look at MLB stats now, they'll get a truer picture of who was good, great or transcendent, regardless of which league they played in," writes CNN analyst Harry Enten.

Sean Gibson, great-grandson of the legendary Negro Leagues power hitter, says: "Now the conversation begins where Josh Gibson ranks as the greatest of all time or one of the greatest of all time." Gibson, a catcher who in 1972 became the second Negro League player in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, now outranks Cobb narrowly as MLB's career leader in batting average (.372). His slugging percentage of .718 is higher than the .690 that kept Babe Ruth as the leader for nearly a century. And his .466 batting average in 1943 with the Homestead Grays in Pittsburgh is 60 percentage points higher than Ted Williams’s legendary mark of .406 in 1941.

Players who competed in both leagues, including Robinson and Minnie Miñoso of the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox, also get a statistical boost from their combined records. Inevitably, not everyone welcomes the consolidation of player stats. "The Negro Leagues were not part of MLB. To include Negro League stats in MLB stats is dishonest and factually incorrect," writes sports columnist Mark Madden of the Tribune-Review in Pittsburgh – where Gibson played. "Records for MLB should be limited to games played in MLB. Thinking that is dubbed racism by the woke mob. But it’s just common sense."

Historian says: "This is a step toward more recognition down the road." – Larry Lester, co-founder of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo.

Descendant says: "You would like things to go sooner than later. But for me, I'd rather have it later than nothing at all." – Sean Gibson, great-grandson of No. 1 slugger Josh Gibson

Next goal: The Negro Leagues Family Alliance wants MLB to establish May 2 as Negro Leagues Day, marking the anniversary of the first Negro National League game May 2, 1920.

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for, Copyright 2024

Front Page Talking Points Archive

Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.