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Major League baseball's record book is being shaken up

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Major League Baseball's record book is about to change. News outlets report the league will announce that it's incorporating the statistical accomplishments of around 2,300 players from the Negro Leagues, covering the years 1920 up to 1948. Steve Futterman reports.

STEVE FUTTERMAN, BYLINE: The move by MLB will have a major impact on baseball's record book - for example, Babe Ruth. In some categories, like slugging percentage, Ruth will still be near the top, but he will no longer be number one. Taking over that spot will be Negro League legend Josh Gibson.

SEAN GIBSON: Oh, yeah. We're definitely elated. I mean, it's a long time coming.

FUTTERMAN: Sean Gibson is Josh Gibson's great-grandson. He was on the committee that made the recommendations to the league. Josh Gibson has always been viewed as one of the greatest players ever. Now it will be officially reflected in the record book.

GIBSON: Josh is known for his homerun greatness, but this shows that not only was he a great hitter, he was a great all-around baseball player.

FUTTERMAN: Among the other elite records that will now belong to Gibson are career batting average - he will replace Ty Cobb - and career slugging percentage - he will again replace Ruth. And it's not just long-ago players. Recent players will be impacted as well.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: And Bonds hits one high - hits it deep - it is out of here.

FUTTERMAN: Barry Bonds will remain the all-time homerun king, as we heard in that 2007 San Francisco Giants broadcast on NBC Sports Bay Area. But Gibson is replacing him as the leader in OPS - on-base plus slugging percentage. Longtime baseball writer Barry Bloom says the league is trying to rectify one of its darkest moments.

BARRY BLOOM: Major League Baseball created this situation with its segregationist policies and what they're doing now in recognizing the people for the worth they have - it's about time.

FUTTERMAN: For decades, we have heard stories about the exploits of the great Negro League players. During a documentary for the MLB Network, Negro League pitching great Satchel Paige talked about Josh Gibson.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: How about Josh Gibson? Did he really hit a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium?

SATCHEL PAIGE: Yes, he did. Josh was one of those superhuman people. It'll probably be a thousand years before another man come along like that.

FUTTERMAN: Of course, it isn't just the superstars of the Negro Leagues. Ordinary everyday players will have their statistics included as well. They won't be at the top, but they will be in there. Some baseball purists are sure to object. One possible complaint will be the difficulty in equating accomplishments in leagues that had so many differences, from stadiums to schedules to competition and the way statistics were kept. But Sean Gibson says the Negro League players believed they were good enough to be in the big leagues.

GIBSON: The Negro Leagues always thought they were major leaguers anyway. Society made that choice to divide them.

FUTTERMAN: And even Jackie Robinson will have his statistics changed. He will be credited with 49 additional hits when he played for the Kansas City Monarchs.

For NPR News, I'm Steve Futterman in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Futterman
[Copyright 2024 WYPR - 88.1 FM Baltimore]