Manfred announced that negro league status is being updated to major league with ramifications no doubt related to representation in the HoF and museums, but also to effectively merge stats.
@RickJay and other experts: please share thoughts on what oddities/ quirks we might see from this. Is the record keeping of a comparable quality that we can draw good conclusions? Are there names that we should learn that would have been legendary if given equal status?
That is an odd decision. The top negro league teams were great, but a lot of their stats were against teams that were not major league quality at all. Many were barely professional teams. Factory teams and the like.
Josh Gibson is a great example of a player that never got a chance due to racism. He was very possibly the best Catcher of all time.
So what’s right? How do you compile a list of HR leaders with Gibson listed at 800-1000 per wiki.
How do you avoid saying, well, yea, but who’s the real leader? And I suppose that still happens with differences in games/season and adjustments to the game over the years.
Some of his article talks about competition against teams that were not of comparable talent… Certainly great for discussion— imagine Ruth playing exhibition games against amateurs, or what if we include stats from Japan/Korea/Latin America?
I think the big names that aren’t well known are guys like Oscar Charleston, Turkey Stearnes and Pop Lloyd. They’re all members of the Hall of Fame, but are still pretty obscure. The record-keeping isn’t entirely complete, but it’s pretty good. A lot of the numbers that aren’t in there are from the barnstorming days and exhibitions. I would doubt that numbers from those would count though - it’ll likely only be Negro League-only games that count. Charleston was legendary - but your average fan has never heard of him.
I don’t think it’s either. There’s a strong movement to recognize the achievements of the players of the Negro League era, and recognize the incredibly shitty hand they were dealt in not being given access to the MLB. The President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame is lauding this move as extraordinarily important and significant. Historical segregation is almost as ugly as actual segregation, and this elevates the very real and very meaningful work that thousands of people accomplished in spite of the odds against them.
The point is, for any great player, of any race, in any league, and in any era, you can find great players whom that player never had a chance to play against. If we’re going to be comparing players at all, we have to have some way of dealing with that issue. And I don’t think that anyone is suggesting that we just stop comparing players at all.
The volume of Negro League stats is very limited. You can already look this up on Baseball Reference - to use an example, Oscar Charleston is listed as having 5334 plate appearance, which would be maybe 1400 games. That is a preposterously low number; Oscar Charleston, who was one of the greatest ballplayers who ever lived, played at least 3000-4000 ballgames. He played for over twenty years.
In 1925 Charleston, then playing for Harrisburg, batted .451 with what is now the fourth highest OPS in major league history, but he is only listed as having 301 plate appearances (about half a season) and that is the second most he’s listed as ever having played in a season. Obviously there is no fucking way Oscar Charleston only batted 301 times in 1925, but
We are missing a lot of data, and
Negro League baseball was not organized the same way.
Negro League teams didn’t have reserve clauses, and each team was a much more independent business than MLB teams are. The Harrisburg Giants - who also had Ben Taylor, another Hall of Famer - would play a great many exhibition games against any number of city and factory teams. Their exhibition schedule could be awesomely full, and they made a lot of money that way. Actually, The Giants basically WERE Oscar Charleston; he was the manager, too, and was the primary reason the team drew as well as it did. If the Giants were playing the Smalltown Bumpkins, people would sure as hell pay to see that, even if the Bumpkins were going to get their asses kicked. Imagine if you heard a local beer league team was going to get to play a team that featured Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton. You’d pay a couple of bucks to see that, I bet, but box scores don’t exist. And quite often in the offseason the Negro League stars would then play exhibitions against white stars, and now you can see Oscar Charleston take on Lefty Grove? Hell, yeah. But it’s hard to find box scores for that too.
Well, as it stands Gibson is credited with 113 homers. They’re not going to credit him with a thousand based on guesses. We have the records we have, and anyway, most of those home runs were not in league play in the leagues they have designated as major league.
I would point out that this has happened before; 40 years ago or so they decided the Federal League counted as a major league.