Negro Leagues Statistics Become Part of Major League Baseball Historical Record

Negro Leagues statistics will become part of the official Major League historical record today, May 29. More than 2,300 players who played in the seven iterations of the Negro Leagues from 1920-1948 will be integrated into MLB’s database, a move that comes several years after MLB first announced it would elevate the Negro Leagues.

Black players were barred from MLB until Jackie Robinson broke the league’s color barrier in 1947 when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

“We are proud that the official historical record now includes the players of the Negro Leagues,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “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.”

“It’s a big day,” Negro League Museum president Bob Kendrick added to Yahoo Sports. “The great thing about it is that we’ve been saying that quite a bit over recent days and weeks as it relates to the Negro Leagues… This is the result of a lot of intensive effort by some incredible historians and researchers who have completely dedicated themselves to trying to do something that people thought probably wasn’t possible.”

MLB announced in December 2020 that it would be “correcting a longtime oversight” and would add the Negro Leagues. John Thorn, MLB’s official historian, led a 17-person committee that included Negro Leagues experts, former players, and statisticians. The statistics were compiled from data, box scores, statistics, and additional information from Seamheads, RetroSheet, and the Elias Sports Bureau.

“We looked for historians, statisticians, and stakeholders who all could be expected to have concern that MLB would get the process and the product right,” Thorn told Yahoo Sports. “We were not looking for ‘like minds’ but instead potentially contentious ones.”

The change has resulted in Negro League player Josh Gibson becoming the MLB’s single-season record holder in batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS. He has surpassed Ty Cobb for the all-time batting average lead, while his career slugging percentage and OPS surpassed Babe Ruth.

“When you hear Josh Gibson’s name now, it’s not just that he was the greatest player in the Negro Leagues, but one of the greatest of all time,” Sean Gibson, Gibson’s great-grandson, told USA Today in a statement. “These aren’t just Negro League stats. They’re major-league baseball stats. This means so much for not only the Josh Gibson family, but representing the 2,300 men in the Negro Leagues who didn’t get the opportunity to play [in the Major Leagues].”

Former Negro Leagues players who also played in the major leagues, including Willie Mays, Minnie Miñoso, Larry Doby, and Jackie Robinson, have had their Negro Leagues statistics integrated as well.


“I believe that the past is a living, breathing thing that informs every present moment,” Thorn told Yahoo Sports. “No sport is more attuned to its history and its heroes of old than baseball, and now we have a chance to tell the story of the game, and the nation, inclusively.”

MLB will pay tribute to the Negro Leagues on June 20 in a game between the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, which was once the home of the Birmingham Black Barons.