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The once and future king: Josh Gibson is number one after Negro League stats join MLB


Just a few months before Jackie Robinson would make history and break the color barrier that prevented Black players from competing in Major League Baseball, Josh Gibson passed away at 35-years-old. In the early 1940s, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died on January 20, 1947, of a stroke.

But Josh Gibson lives in his statistical achievements which place him at the top of all baseball players of all time. Major League Baseball (MLB) announced on May 29, that it added to their statistics of more than 2,300 Negro Leagues players from 1920 to 1948. The update in records means that Josh Gibson is now Major League Baseball’s all-time career leader in batting average at .372. Gibson overtakes Ty Cobb who is at .367. Gibson also surpasses baseball legend Babe Ruth in career slugging percentage.

Gibson’s legendary career in the Negro Leagues was showcased during the many years he played for Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays. He was commonly referred to as the “Black Babe Ruth,” and hit nearly 800 home runs during his career. Gibson, who was a catcher, played in numerous East-West All-Star Games and helped lead his teams to multiple league championships.

Gibson’s legacy has been recognized and celebrated in the years following his untimely death. In 1972, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This induction helped to solidify his place in baseball history and brought renewed attention to the contributions of Negro Leagues players. Gibson’s story continues to inspire and his career is a reminder of the racial barriers in professional sports.

Pitcher Satchel Paige, whom many consider one of the best pitchers to play the game, is also a big winner on the updated stat sheet. In 1948, at the age of 42, Paige broke into MLB with the Cleveland Indians, becoming the oldest rookie in major league history. Paige’s career in the Negro Leagues spanned more than two decades. He played for the Birmingham Black Barons, the Pittsburgh Crawfords, and the Kansas City Monarchs. Paiges’ dominance on the mound was legendary and he often pitched multiple games in a single day.

The incorporation of the stats of Negro Leagues players has been pushed for by many Negro Leagues historians for years. Now, the full history of professional baseball moves a bit closer to being valid.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent investigative journalist and the publisher of Black Virginia News.