The Negro Leagues are Finally Recognized as a Major League

by Gina Williams

December 17, 2020

After 100 years, the Negro Leagues are receiving long, overdue recognition. Major League Baseball is “correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history” by recognizing the Negro Leagues as major-league level. The MLB Commissioner’s office announced the news on Wednesday as part of the Negro Leagues’ 100th-anniversary celebration.

“All of us who love baseball have long known that the Negro Leagues produced many of our game’s best players, innovators, and triumphs against a backdrop of injustice,” MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. said in a statement.

“We are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as Major Leaguers within the official historical record.”

While the Negro Leagues took on different structures over the years, the MLB recognizes 1920-1948 as its major-league period. After 1948, the Negro Leagues faced a significant decline with star players after the year prior, Jackie Robinson became MLB’s first Black player with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

(Original Caption) Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers’ star first baseman, signs autographs for baseball fans at spring training camp in the Dominican Republic. (Photo: Getty Images)

Among many things, the change means that the Negro Leagues’ stats will be placed into the major league record book — possibly changing some of the current major leagues’ rankings. Also, thousands of Black players — including stars such as pitching legend Leroy “Satchel” Paige and Josh Gibson, who was considered one of the game’s best hitters — will officially be regarded as major-league baseball players.

KANSAS CITY – 1942. Satchel Paige of the Monarchs talks with Josh Gibson of the Homestead Grays before a game in Kansas City in 1941. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images)

Per CNN, former Negro Leagues player, Ron Teasley, saw this day coming.

“I started practicing with some former Negro League players when I was 12 years old, and I used to hear stories about the greats — Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, and Buck Leonard,” Teasley said in an interview with CNN. “And, I had a feeling back then that they were just as good as the major leaguers.”

With seven leagues and about 3,400 players from 1920 to 1948, the Negro Leagues was Black Americans’ answer to a major-league sport that rejected them based on the color of their skin.

TORONTO, ON – February 1: Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum talks to a class at Nelson Mandela Park Public School about keeping the legacy of the Negros League alive as we head into Black History Month. (Randy Risling/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, told CNN that the recognition “serves as historical validation for those who had been shunned from the Major Leagues and had the foresight and courage to create their own league that helped change the game and our country, too.”

While Negro Leagues’ greats have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, they weren’t recognized as major-league players until now. This change marks a historical moment on the centennial celebration of a league that paved the way for Black men to play the sport that the major leagues once shunned them from.

 

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