MLB Recognizes Negro League Stats- But Will Fans Recognize The Records?

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Few sports hold their records as sacred as baseball does. If you say “56” to even a casual fan, they immediately think of Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak. However Major League Baseball will now officially recognize the statistics compiled by players in the Negro Leagues from 1920-1948 as major league statistics, and that means turning some of baseball’s records on their ear. The new career high in batting average, for example, no longer goes to Ty Cobb, who hit .366, but to Josh Gibson, whose incomplete stats say he hit .372.

Bill Madden, national baseball columnist for the New York Daily News, appeared on 710 WOR’s Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning program to discuss the impact of the decision. While Madden feels Major League Baseball is long overdue with recognizing the Negro Leagues as legit, he’s split on how the numbers should be reflected in the record books.

Madden told Berman and Riedel, “The biggest problem I have with it is the fact that they are basing this on the 60-game season in 2020, that was interrupted by the pandemic, because of the fact that the Negro League seasons were typically around 60 games, and that’s where I have a problem, specifically with the in-season new records... [However] I don’t have any problems with the lifetime stats- okay, they were all based on seasons of 60 games or less- but the fact of the matter is that, cumulatively, they were legitimate stats.”

The spotty and incomplete record-keeping of the time is why Madden feels some fans won’t know exactly how to feel about the new records. “Apparently they got this committee together- and these people are legitimate historians- and they went back through all these newspapers and everything else to get them as accurate as they could. I give them credit, [but] there was a legendary four-homer game that Josh Gibson supposedly had in 1938; they couldn’t find any record of that, so it’s not included in this.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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