In a historic move on Wednesday, Major League Baseball announced it is formally recognizing the Negro Leagues as equal to the American and National leagues — setting in stone a truth that has always been understood by its athletes.
The Negro Leagues, which operated from 1920 to 1948, consisted of more than 3,400 players from seven different leagues. Now, each and every one of them will be considered major leaguers.
“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,” said Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, in a statement. “We are not grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as Major Leaguers within the official historical record.”
Records ranging from batting average to Hall of Fame statistics are expected to have some adjustments with the decision. After a thorough review of Negro league data by the Elias Sports Bureau, those adjustments will be added to the official statistics of Major League Baseball.
The Jim Crow era caused Black players to form their own leagues as early as the late 19th Century, The New York Times reports. Major League Baseball determined that though organization of the leagues varied, seven organizations met major league standards between 1920 and 1948. These leagues consisted of the Negro National League (I), Negro Southern League, Eastern Colored League, Negro National League (II), American Negro League, Negro American League, and East-West League.
35 Hall of Famers came out of those seven Leagues, including Willy Mays, Larry Doby, and Jackie Robinson.
Following the decision, Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, said that Major League Baseball has only formalized what was already known — that the Negro Leagues were as competitive and legitimate as any other.
“Having been around so many of the Negro League players, they never looked to Major League Baseball to validate them,” he said. “But for fans and for historical sake, this is significant, it really is.”