MLB records set for major shakeup as Negro Leagues stats set to be officially recognized: report

Major League Baseball’s record books will look a lot different later this week.

The league is reportedly set to officially recognize statistics from the Negro Leagues and incorporate them into its own data.

MLB elevated Negro League stats as “major league” in 2020, a move they said was “a longtime oversight in the game’s history.” 

Since then, MLB has been working with the Elias Sports Bureau in order to figure out a way to incorporate them into MLB’s history.

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One player in particular, one you may have never heard of, will now be considered one of MLB’s all-time greats.

Josh Gibson has gone down in history as perhaps the best player to never suit up in an MLB game. He was known as the “Black Babe Ruth” during his playing career, with rumors speculating he had hit over 800 home runs in Negro and independent league play.

But now, the catcher will hold numerous MLB records, and he will now be in the GOAT conversation, without any intricacies.

Gibson’s true statistics remain a mystery, but according to USA Today, come Wednesday, Gibson will now hold the records for highest career batting average (.372, surpassing Ty Cobb’s .366), slugging percentage (.718, soon-to-be formerly held by Babe Ruth’s .690) and OPS (1.177, beating Ruth’s 1.164). He played in 602 Negro League games, according to Baseball-Reference.

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The outlet says his .446 average in 1943 for the Homestead Grays will now be a record, as will his .974 slugging percentage from 1937 — that record was held by Barry Bonds, who slugged .863 in his 73-homer 2001 season. 

He also will hold the two-best single seasons in terms of OPS, including his 1.474 from 1937, also beating out Bonds.

Despite his successes, it was Jackie Robinson, not Gibson, who broke the color barrier in 1947, three months after Gibson died at the age of 35. Gibson’s last professional game was the year prior, after being named a Negro League All-Star for the 12th time.

Gibson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, the same year Robinson died.

Gibson isn’t threatening any cumulative numbers, as the Negro League season was much shorter than the 162 games played today — and the 154 played in the majors during his career.

His Hall of Fame plaque does read that he hit approximately 800 home runs, but given the lack of total data, and inconsistent statistics, the true number remains unknown. Baseball-Reference lists the total at 166, while MLB recognizes 194.

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