Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Wednesday that Major League Baseball is elevating the Negro Leagues to “Major League” status, meaning the statistics and records of the 3,400 players who took part in the seven involved leagues from 1920 to 1948 will officially be recognized.
In 1969, MLB’s Special Baseball Records Committee — a group comprising five men, all of them White — identified six “Major Leagues” as worthy of statistical inclusion: The National League, American League, American Association, Union Association, Players’ League and Federal League. The Negro Leagues were not even considered for inclusion even though some of its players had an indelible impact on the game and even though the leagues involved were operational for much longer than most of the leagues on that list.
“It is MLB’s view that the Committee’s 1969 omission of the Negro Leagues from consideration was clearly an error that demands today’s designation,” MLB announced Wednesday in a statement. “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,” Manfred said. “We are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as Major Leaguers within the official historical record.” Kevin B. Blackistone: Baseball is honoring the Negro Leagues. It needs to explain why they existed.
Said John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s official historian: “The perceived deficiencies of the Negro Leagues’ structure and scheduling were born of MLB’s exclusionary practices, and denying them Major League status has been a double penalty, much like that exacted of Hall of Fame candidates before Satchel Paige’s induction in 1971. Granting MLB status to the Negro Leagues a century after their founding is profoundly gratifying.” Seven organized leagues are recognized as members of the Negro Leagues, starting with the Negro National League in 1920. MLB is using 1948 as a cutoff date because by that year stars such as Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, and others had left the Negro Leagues after being signed by MLB clubs, reducing the leagues’ quality of play. The year 1948 also was the last in which the Negro World Series was played between the champions of the Negro National League and Negro American League.