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Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday that it will elevate the Negro Leagues to Major League status, granting recognition to players in that league from 1920 to 1948 and immediately rewriting the game’s record books, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The league said in a statement that they are “correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history” with the move. Roughly 3,400 Black and Latino players from seven distinct leagues, who were barred from joining the segregated National and American Leagues, will now be classified as “major-leaguers,” alongside white stars of the era. All statistics and records for those players will become part of MLB’s official history.
Before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, the Negro Leagues were the highest level of professional baseball open to Black players. Those leagues produced players who are considered among the most talented ever to step onto a field, including Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and Oscar Charleston. “All of us who love baseball have long known that the Negro Leagues produced many of our game’s best players, innovations and triumphs against a backdrop of injustice,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said.
Bob Kendrick, the president the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo., called the move “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.” The Players Alliance, a nonprofit organization made up of former and current Black players dedicated to increasing Black participation in the sport, said that increased visibility on the history of Black baseball will help its efforts.“This is just going to bring more attention and attract more kids,” said retired pitcher CC Sabathia, a six-time All-Star. “It’s a long time coming, and these guys deserve to be recognized.”
The question of how baseball should treat Black players from the era of the Negro Leagues has been an ongoing question for decades. Ahead of the publication of the first edition of “The Baseball Encyclopedia” in 1969, commissioner William Eckert convened the Special Baseball Records Committee to settle issues related to baseball’s statistics, which were filled with discrepancies. That group gave major-league status to six leagues dating back to 1876, including some in which the quality of play was lower than that of the Negro Leagues.
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