Major leaguers praise inclusion of Negro Leagues statistics into major league records

FILE - In this Aug. 2, 1942, file photo, Kansas City Monarchs pitcher Leroy Satchel Paige warms up at New York's Yankee Stadium before a Negro League game between the Monarchs and the New York Cuban Stars. (Matty Zimmerman/AP)

CHICAGO — Buck Leonard. Charlie “Chino” Smith. Turkey Stearnes.

Baseball players and fans alike are learning more about the Negro Leagues after the statistics for more than 2,300 players — historic figures like Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, Satchel Paige and Mule Suttles — were incorporated into the major league record book following a three-year research project.

“You get to learn about a lot of names and a lot of people that we may not have heard about,” Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen said Wednesday. “Now that Josh Gibson is at the top of OPS and batting average and a few other categories, it’s great news. But it’s more than just that and the numbers. It’s great that you now get to learn about the players in the Negro Leagues. … I’ll be able to do some more deep diving into some names that I may not have heard of.”

A 17-person committee chaired by John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s official historian, met six times as part of the meticulous process of examining statistics from seven Negro Leagues from 1920-1948. Nearly 75 per cent of the available records have been included, according to MLB, and additional research could lead to more changes to the major league leaderboards.

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Hunter Greene called the move “long overdue.”

“It is really exciting,” he said. “I’m going to have to do a little bit more research and understand some of the history to kind of rewire my brain on some of the best players.”

Gibson became the majors’ career leader with a .372 batting average, surpassing Ty Cobb’s .367. Gibson’s .466 average for the 1943 Homestead Grays became the single-season record, followed by Smith’s .451 for the 1929 New York Lincoln Giants.

The mighty Gibson also became the career leader in slugging percentage (.718) and OPS (1.177), moving ahead of Babe Ruth (.690 and 1.164).

“Baseball history is a part of U.S. history, and I think (the) major leagues acknowledging and incorporating the Negro Leagues is a huge step in kind of bringing all the parts of baseball history together,” said Tyrus Cobb, Ty Cobb’s great grandson. “And I think it’s actually pretty exciting that there’s a new statistical batting average leader.”

After he saw the news, Tyrus Cobb, 32, of San Jose, California, said he took a closer look at Gibson’s career.

“I made sure to look up him and Oscar Charleston and some of the other guys who finished up near the top of the list,” said Cobb, who works in commercial real estate. “So I think it’s a really exciting thing for baseball history.”

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