1-Man’s Opinion on Sports-Thursday. “MLB & Negro Leagues”

Posted by on May 30th, 2024  •  0 Comments  • 


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Question:  What are the most sacred things in baseball?
Answer:  It’s history, its stars, its record book.

This does not feel right to me, and I apologize, I am a purist I admit.

MLB this week, officially incorporated the Negro League statistics of 2300-players from the Black League era that stretched from 1920-thu-1954.

And in recognizing them, the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown has started adding yesteryear greats from the Negro Leagues as members, the Buck O’Neill’s of the world, and that is great.

But in incorporating  all these statistics, the great performances of Josh Gibson and others have now overwhelmed the historically accepted stars of our modern times, and that does not sit well with purists.


The Negro Leagues records are fragmented.  Baseball says  there were lost boxscores, no game stories, no newspaper accounts of games, series and chunks of seasons.  They claim they have been able to validate about 85% of the stats they are giving out credit for.

But the Negro Leagues involved teams playing in league games, like the Homestead Grays.  But those teams, the Kansas City Monarchs included, also barnstormed, and some of those stats are included in the compilation of career numbers.

We have the National League and American League records in modern day baseball shifting all the way back to the early 1900s-Babe Ruth era, all in sanctioned games.

But how do you compile Homestead Gray numbers against the House of David touring team, or semi pro games and say that’s equal to a 1920-Yankees-Red Sox game with the Bambino.

So the new record book uses records of the Black leagues against all types of competition.  So this morning if you open up the baseball record book you see these stats:

BATTING AVERAGE:  Josh Gibson (.372)..Ty Cobb drops to (.367)
BATTING AVERAGE:..Josh Gibson (460)..bypassing Ted Williams (.406) season
SLUG PERCENTAGE..Josh Gibson (.718)..Babe Ruth (.690)
OPS PERCENTAGE..Josh Gibson (.1177)..Babe Ruth (1164)
SEASON SLUG PERCENTAGE..Josh Gibson (.974)..Barry Bonds (.863)

You can theorize dead ball-live ball…steroid sluggers vs clean players all you want, but the new records were compiled from what would be league games and touring exhibition games.

A league season in the Black Leagues could last 60-to-65 games, but the Pittsburgh Crawfords played 125-games one summer against All Star teams and touring teams.  That would be like taking Yankees statistics and including games against their minor league teams.

Baseball back then excluded the negro from playing until Branch Rickey and the Dodgers broke the barrier in 1947.

There were so many great African Americans back in that era, who rightfully belong in Cooperstown.  But how do you determine-compare Josh Gibson to Mickey Mantle?   Satchel Paige to Nolan Ryan?  Cool Papa Bell to Lou Brock?

And then there is the argument, Josh Gibson did not have to bat against Walter Johnson..so how do we equate the catcher’s greatness against the Washington Senators great?

And the deep background rationale for doing this at this time?

Guilt on baseball’s behalf for snubbing blacks from 1920-till-Jackie Robinson?
Whitewashing what happened for decades in sports-society?
Fearful you don’t want ‘Separate-but-Equal’ in the hallways at Cooperstown?

Tough call for baseball, righting a wrong, but you know the legendary NFL does not include AFL stats in the record book; neither does the NBA recognize the greatness of ABA players; and the NHL does not include the time players spent in the WHA.

What’s next, recognizing Ichuro Suzuzki’s lifetime record in Japan’s Nippon Leagues with his Mariners marks?

Love seeing the bios of the legends in Cooperstown and knowing the history of the personalities that made them very special.  As a talk show host, I interviewed a whole group of Negro League stars in the sunset of their lives.  They loved the game if not the entire segregated society they lived thru.

I flashback to the stories they told me..from Cool Papa to O’Neil, to Buck Leonard, Will Foster, Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, Quincy Troupe, Judy Johnson, plus Ernie Banks, Henry Aaron, Joe Black, who started in the Negro Leagues just as the barrier in MLB came down.

But something doesn’t feel right about this because the Negro League stats keep appearing out of the shadows, just like the players who produced them were in the shadows too-sadly.

I hate *asterisks, though emotionally I guess we will likely think of that in the steroid era and who-who is not Cooperstown.

Congrats on the greats of that era and the recognition they are getting.  We could close a bar down some night over beers discussing all this.  It is worth talking about.


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