“A day late and a dollar short?”
By Jerome 1 X,
On December 15, 2020, Major League Baseball announced that the team records and individual player stats from the Negro leagues would now be counted in unity with Major League Baseball stats. After 60 years since the disbanding of the Negro Leagues, hundreds of African American players will now have their stories and achievements documented for sports fans’ acknowledgment and admiration.
Furthermore, no longer will baseball fans have few examples to pull from when speaking about black professional baseball, throughout their evaluations of America’s great past time. Additionally, legendary Negro League teammates and foes of notable romanticized greats such as Willie Mays, “Hammering” Hank Aaron, and global icon Jackie Robinson will now be immortalized through time as well.
However, even though the enlightenment is good, and the acknowledgment is even better, has this decision by the MLB to highlight the Negro Leagues of the same stature come at an unseasonable time? For young black sports fans, athletes, entrepreneurs, and descendants the answer must be emphatically yes.
On a high note, with this announcement, the MLB may see some changes in key statistical areas. The categories that may be in line with some critical changes are as follows: On-base percentage, career batting average percentage, and no-hitters. One ranking that may garner some vigilant eyes will be the coveted home run crown.
Moreover, hall of fame slugger Josh Gibson is considered by some to be one of the greatest hitters of all time. Josh Gibson whose colossal career and skillset is compared to none other than the “Great Bambino” Babe Ruth. Gibson has been said to have hit “almost” 800 home runs throughout his storied career. However, to his detriment from the MLB’s perspective “almost” will not count, unfortunately, Consequently, the MLB will only tabulate a credit of around 194 career home runs for the African American “King of Swing”. Although the loss of key stats due to lack of historical tracking is quite madding, on the upside some players spent time in both the Negro and Major Leagues who will see their career stats changed to their benefit. For example, pitching phenom Satchel Paige will have his career ERA reduced from 3.29 to 2.58. Likewise, Hall of Famers Roy Campanella and Larry Doby will both enter the 1000 RBI club due to their shared time in the Negro Leagues.
The frustration with this six-decade-long concession is that no formal apology or visible financial retribution has been issued to the unsung heroes of the Negro Leagues. Furthermore, all the original MLB teams such as the New York Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Detroit Tigers were complicit in dissuading the equality of the Negro League players who will now be honored. The powerful gentlemen’s agreement made between Major League owners at that time to lockout the African American talent, not only stalled the careers of talented players but also contributed to the loss of generational wealth for African American families. Figures such as Famed pitcher Oscar Charleston, speedy outfielder James “Cool Papa” Bell, as well as Andrew “Rube” Foster who was a player, manager, owner, and founder never got to display their talents on the biggest stage. Many Negro League players could’ve commanded top salaries next to their white Major League peers.
The MLB should bare the culpability for the negative impact created towards these Negro League players. However, to the MLB’s benefit time is usually the best cure and with time the Major Leagues have seemingly exceeded the statute of limitations to make amends for their racist past.
Nevertheless, as sports fans, one of the greatest robberies that can now be exposed is that the MLB prevented fans from watching, evaluating, and documenting the best playing the best. Historical matchups, rivalries, and teams were crushed, all because of the color of a player’s skin and not their skill sets. The Impact of MLB’s sins is still noticeable in the African American community. During 1920- up into Jackie Robinson’s break into the “big leagues”, baseball was considered a major sport in the African American community. Consequently, the support and participation in baseball from the African American community has dwindled since then. Furthermore, with young black athletes and fans eyeing other tops sports such as football and basketball, Major League Baseball has no one to blame but themselves. By ignoring and hiding the achievements of great black sports icons, baseball has now become a 3rd or 5th option for talented young African Americans. Sadly, this is evidence that the sport of baseball is still suffering from an aged old disgrace. Lastly, although the deserved credit for the Negro Leagues is way past due.
The atonement by Major League Baseball will now help forgotten Negro League players back into the hearts and minds of the black youth in America. Who knows in time we may see black youth migrate back to America’s great past time? Who knows we may get some black MLB owners or a black MLB commissioner? Time will tell, but when the time and does come and the bill is due don’t forget to show us the money.