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MLB bestows major-league status on Negro Leagues

The stats for seven Negro Leagues which played from 1920-1948 will be added to the major league record books.

Satchel Paige Meets Josh Gibson Getty Images

Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that it will bestow major league status on seven Negro Leagues that played from 1920-1948: the Negro National League (I), which played from 1920-31; the Eastern Colored League (1923-28), the American Negro League (1929), the East-West League (1932), the Negro National League (II), which played from 1933-48; and the Negro American League (1937-48).

With the Negro Leagues being recognized as major leagues, the stats from that time period will be integrated into the MLB record book. However, numbers from barnstorming and exhibition games will not be included, so Josh Gibson — who has been rumored to have hit as many as 800 homers during his Negro Leagues career — will only get credit for the 238 home runs he hit in official games, placing him alongside very good but not necessarily legendary major leaguers such as Ray Lankford and J.D. Martinez.

On the other hand, MLB and the Elias Sports Bureau are still discussing whether to include Negro Leagues players on the leaderboards for rate stats. For example, if MLB and Elias ultimately decide to include them, Gibson would rank second all time on the career batting average leaderboard, with his .365 average trailing only Ty Cobb’s .366.

While this announcement has received praise from numerous figures with stake in preserving the history of the Negro Leagues, such as Bob Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, it’s already drawn criticism for its inherent suggestion that the Negro Leagues needed to be “validated.” ESPN’s Clinton Yates and the New York Daily News’ Bradford William Davis criticized elements of the annnouncement Wednesday: