MLB: MLB adds Negro Leagues stats: Josh Gibson now all-time BA leader

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Hall of Fame catcher Josh Gibson officially became Major League Baseball’s career leader with a .372 batting average after Negro Leagues records for more than 2,300 players were included into MLB history.

Gibson, who spent nine of his 14 Negro Leagues seasons with the Homestead Grays, passed Ty Cobb (.367) for the honor.

Gibson also became the career leader in slugging percentage (.718) and OPS (1.177), this time ascending ahead of New York Yankees slugger Babe Ruth (.690 and 1.164). Gibson, who died in 1947, also holds the all-time single-season records in each of those categories.

“This is a historical moment for the game of baseball as these great players will forever be recognized within Major League Baseball’s official record books. Congratulations to all these great players, especially Pittsburgh’s own Josh Gibson,” Pirates chairman Bob Nutting said. “The Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays are an important part of the rich history of baseball in Pittsburgh.

“The Pirates have long celebrated these great teams and players such as Josh Gibson, Ray Brown, Oscar Charleston, Buck Leonard and so many others for their tremendous accomplishments. Whether it is in our Pirates Hall of Fame, the large baseballs on the riverwalk, the Crawfords and Grays Championship banners, the many other displays throughout PNC Park, or the support of educational displays and programs within our community, we are proud to continue to share the stories of these great players for generations to come.”

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred offered the following statement:

“We are proud that the official historical record now includes the players of the Negro Leagues,” Manfred said. “This initiative is focused on ensuring that future generations of fans have access to the statistics and milestones of all those who made the Negro Leagues possible. Their accomplishments on the field will be a gateway to broader learning about this triumph in American history and the path that led to Jackie Robinson’s 1947 Dodger debut.”

Back in 1969, there was a special committee focused on baseball records that determined six major leagues should garner recognition, with the earliest of those, the National, starting in 1876.

The committee also chose to acknowledge the American Association (1882-91), the Union Association (1884), the Players’ League (1890), the American (1901) and the Federal League (1914-15). The National Association (1871-75) was excluded.

It wasn’t until December 2020 that MLB decided it would be “correcting a longtime oversight” by incorporating the Negro Leagues into its records. A 17-person committee featuring Negro Leagues experts and statisticians then got to work.

“Stories, folklore and embellished truths have long been a staple of the Negro Leagues narrative. Those storylines will always be entertaining, but now our dialogues can be quantified and qualified to support the authentic greatest of these athletes,” Negro Leagues expert and historian Larry Lester said. “Every fan should welcome this statistical restitution towards social reparation.”

–Field Level Media

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