Move Over, Ty Cobb, and Kiss The Ring: MLB’s Acknowledgment Of Negro Leagues Stats Elevates Josh Gibson, Weakens Babe Ruth’s Legacy

Move over, Ty Cobb, and kiss the ring. Josh Gibson is the biggest sheriff in Cooperstown now. 

Major League Baseball officially recognized Negro Leagues statistics in its record book on Wednesday, making Gibson MLB’s all-time batting average leader at .372 — surpassing Cobb’s .367. 

Babe Ruth’s legacy as the greatest power bat in history also takes a hit as Gibson also accomplished his incredible power feats during the same era.

Related: Babe Ruth’s Daughter Says Racism Kept Him from Managing A MLB Team (

“It’s a great day,” Negro Leagues Museum President Bob Kendrick told Yahoo Sports. 

Larry Lester, a Baseball historian and Negro Leagues expert who served on the Negro Leagues Statistical Review Committee, said: “Stories, folklore and embellished truths have long been a staple of the Negro Leagues narrative. Those storylines will always be entertaining, but now our dialogues can be quantified and qualified to support the authentic greatest of these athletes. Every fan should welcome this statistical restitution towards social reparation.”

Negro Leagues Icon Josh Gibson Takes Over MLB Records

Several new major league records are now newly held by Hall of Famer Josh Gibson, who is being joined on all-time major league leaderboards by other Negro Leagues stars, Major League Baseball announced this week. Gibson is now MLB’s all-time career leader in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage, and he holds the all-time single-season records in all three of those categories.  

These historic changes to long-held baseball records follow an evaluation by the independent Negro Leagues Statistical Review Committee, whose public report is now available.

The Birth Of The Shadow League 

This monumental decision is also a proud day for The Shadow League, the longest-running Black-owned sports publication in the country.  

Started in 2012, The Shadow League name was masterminded in the spirit of the Negro Leagues, recognizing the racially-oppressed, supremely talented, charismatic, undervalued, and driven players that were forced to exist in the shadows of all-white MLB. 

It was this underdog concept that inspired TSL founder and former CEO Keith Clinkscales to name his cutting-edge digital sports, culture and entertainment site “The Shadow League.” 

A league of writers and creators who were talented enough to thrive in mainstream journalism, but instead exist as outliers — the true voice of the people — wielding a furious pen and speaking uncomfortable truths.

Underappreciated heroes on the front line in the battle against racism and oppression. Products of a movement born when the dark dagger of bigotry pierced through the heart of Black baseball, causing an explosion of talent and production that has stood the test of time and opened the doors of opportunity for others.

With the Negro Leagues generally running from 1920-1951, the committee went through box scores and other data in order to discover and validate various statistics, making way for the official move into MLB record books.

The merging of leaderboards was brought about by the Negro League Statistical Review Committee, a committee made up of former players, historians and writers tasked with uncovering and validating Negro Leagues statistics. 

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred Supports Integration Of Stats

“We are proud that the official historical record now includes the players of the Negro Leagues,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Their accomplishments on the field will be a gateway to broader learning about this triumph in American history and the path that led to Jackie Robinson’s 1947 Dodger debut.” 

The move is a monumental change to baseball statistics, giving the first Black baseball legends a chance to live on forever in major league history. The change comes just as the Negro League Tribute at Rickwood Field, the oldest standing field of its kind, brings the baseball world a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants in Birmingham on June 20. Willie Mays will be in attendance.

Negro League and MLB Stats Are Now One?

This week’s announcement is the first major step that makes the achievements of the players of the Negro Leagues available to fans via the official historical record.  

The statistics of more than 2,300 Negro Leagues ballplayers from 1920-1948 — including this era’s three living Negro Leagues players: Bill Greason, age 99; Hall of Famer Willie Mays, 93; and Ron Teasley, 97 — launch in a newly integrated database (career records here and season records here) that combines seven different Negro Leagues from 1920-1948 along with the American League, the National League and other major leagues in history. This effort will allow fans to view the statistics and records of Negro Leagues alumni as easily as all other historical Major League players.

Josh Gibson Becomes Single-Season Batting Leader

It doesn’t stop there, though. With the integration, Gibson will also be the single-season leader in batting average for his .466 batting average in 1943. Topping it off, he’s the single-season and career leader in slugging and on-base plus slugging percentage — overtaking Babe Ruth in the two career categories. 

Who Is Josh Gibson?

Gibson, a Baseball Hall of Famer, played from 1930-1946 where he became a 12-time Negro League All-Star and two-time Negro World Series champion thanks to his unprecedented power.

“This means so much for not only the Josh Gibson family,” Gibson’s grandson, Sean, told USA Today, “but representing the 2,300 men in the Negro Leagues who didn’t get the opportunity to play (in the Major Leagues).” 

Gibson is among the many Negro Leaguers who will see their Negro League stats enter the books, with Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige and living legend Willie Mays being some of the prominent players. 

Satchel Paige Is Officially One Of The Greatest Pitchers To Ever Do It 

Most notably, Paige moved to third in ERA in a season with 1.01, a mark he accomplished in 1944 with the Kansas City Monarchs. With the trio playing in both the MLB and Negro Leagues, their marks in MLB Leaderboards are set for a slight boost. 

Merging Statistical Leaderboards

The biggest part of the mission started in December 2020, when the MLB officially recognized Negro Leagues as a major league, allowing their statistics to be used in the books. 

MLB Acknowledges Negro League Stats 

Back in 2020, on the heels of the George Floyd “awakening,” commissioner Rob Manfred announced that MLB was officially elevating the Negro Leagues to Major League status.

The Leagues were rich with all-time great diamond-miners like Gibson, Monte Irvin, Cool Papa Bell and many others whose magnificence was lost in the oppression.

Via MLB’s press release:

“MLB credits all of the baseball research community for discovering additional facts, statistics, and context that exceed the criteria used by the Special Committee on Baseball Records in 1969 to identify six “Major Leagues” since 1876. It is MLB’s view that the Committee’s 1969 omission of the Negro Leagues from consideration was clearly an error that demands today’s designation.” 

Is Negro Leagues Recognition A Funeral Or The Future

“All of us who love baseball have long known that the Negro Leagues produced many of our game’s best players, innovations and triumphs against a backdrop of injustice,” Manfred said in a 2020 statement. “We are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as Major Leaguers within the official historical record.”

MLB’s press release names the following leagues as those being elevated: the Negro National League (I) (1920–1931); the Eastern Colored League (1923–1928); the American Negro League (1929); the East-West League (1932); the Negro Southern League (1932); the Negro National League (II) (1933–1948); and the Negro American League (1937–1948).

John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball, who chaired the Negro Leagues Statistical Review Committee, said: “Shortened Negro League schedules, interspersed with revenue-raising exhibition games, were born of MLB’s exclusionary practices. To deny the best Black players of the era their rightful place among all-time leaders would be a double penalty.”

Back to top