Josh Gibson Becomes MLB Career And Season Batting Leader As Negro Leagues Statistics Incorporated

NEW YORK: The Negro Leagues statistics for over 2,300 players were added on Tuesday following a three-year research project, making Josh Gibson the Major League Baseball career leader with a batting average of.372, beating Ty Cobb’s.367.

Charlie “Chino” Smith’s.451 average for the 1929 New York Lincoln Giants was the season’s high average, after Gibson’s.466 mark for the 1943 Homestead Grays. In 1894, they surpassed Hugh Duffy’s.440 for the Boston squad in the National League.

In addition, Gibson surpassed Babe Ruth (.690 and 1.164) to become the lifetime leader in slugging percentage (.718) and OPS (1.177).

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred stated in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, “It’s a show of respect for great players who performed in the Negro Leagues due to circumstances beyond their control and once those circumstances changed demonstrated that they were truly major leaguers.” The success of players who played in the Negro Leagues before moving up to the major leagues may have been the single biggest reason.

Six major leagues dating back to 1876 were recognized in 1969 by a special committee on baseball records: the National (1876–1876), American (1901), American Association (1882–1891), Union Association (1884), Players’ League (1890), and Federal League (1914–1915). The National Association (1871–75) was not included because of “erratic schedule and procedures.”

In December 2020, MLB declared that the Negro Leagues will be added, “correcting a longtime oversight.” A 17-person team led by MLB’s official historian John Thorn comprised statisticians and specialists on the Negro Leagues.

According to Thorn, “we thought that maybe the shortened Negro League seasons could come under the MLB umbrella, after all.” The National League and American League’s shortened 60-game season for the 2020 calendar year encouraged this thought.

Before the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants play a memorial game to the Negro Leagues on June 20 at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, an updated version of MLB’s database will be made available to the public.

The figures on Cooperstown plaques, according to Baseball Hall of Fame President Josh Rawitch, won’t change because they are based on data that was available when a player was inducted.

The Negro Leagues follow the same rules for season leaders as the other leagues: 3.1 plate appearances, or one inning for each game in which a player’s team participates.

The season record is set by Gibson’s.974 slugging percentage in 1937. Barry Bonds’.863 in 2001 fell to sixth place, behind only Mules Suttles’.877 in 1926, Gibson’s.871 in 1943, and Smith’s.870 in 1929.

After Gibson’s 1937 and 1943 OPS records of 1.474 and 1.435, Bond’s previous OPS record from 2004 (1.421) fell to third place.

The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons gave Willie Mays ten more hits, bringing his total to 3,293. After being awarded with 150 hits for the New York Cubans between 1946 and 1948, Minnie Minoso’s total hits reached 2,113, surpassing 2,000.

Jackie Robinson, who blasted 49 home runs with the 1945 Kansas City Monarchs, bringing his career total to 1,567. Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier with the 1947 Dodgers.

Among pitchers, Satchel Paige gained 28 wins that raised his total to 125.

The committee convened six times to discuss various issues, including instances in which league statistics that were collected were illogical, such as a league with a higher number of victories than losses or walks that were absent. Researchers had to track birth dates, determine whether players going by the same name were one person or separate, and identify participants listed by nickname. Finding statistics for independent teams, tracking down ballparks during an era when neutral locations were frequently utilized, and documenting transactions are all continuing projects.

Manfred stated, “We took the decision when we were convinced that we could obtain reliable statistics and properly incorporate them into our record books.”
Included in the initiative were scholars Kevin Johnson and Gary Ashwill, who had contributed to the creation of the Seamheads Negro Leagues Database for nearly twenty years.

According to Thorn, 72% of the Negro Leagues data from 1920 to 1948 are included; further investigation may result in changes along the road. According to Thorn, full game accounts for a home run by Mays in August 1948 and a four-home run game by Gibson in 1938 could not be included.

Johnson stated, “We can’t really balance the statistics without a box score.” “At the moment, those games are kind of in limbo.”

Among the leagues with records are the first Negro National League (1920–31), Negro American League (1937–48), American Negro League (1929), East-West League (1932), Negro Southern League (1932), and Eastern Colored League (1923–28). Exhibition games for barnstorming are not included.

Newspapers that covered Black neighborhoods provided some game specifics. According to Johnson, while comprehensive accounts were available for roughly 95% of games in the 1920s, coverage fell off in the 1930s during the Great Depression and never fully recovered.


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