The other day, MLB commissioner Manfred announced that the Negro Leagues will be part of MLB history. Stats of former Negro League players will be included in those of MLB. While many applaud this move, I tend to say it is a bad one.
We all know that blacks were considered inferior by many whites, including the MLB owners (them again…). As a result, the owners upheld a “gentlemen’s” agreement to keep blacks from playing in the Majors.
Since 1920, when the Negro National League was founded, the Negro Leagues have been mostly ignored by white baseball until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. Only then, MLB owners knew to find the Negro Leagues because they could harvest talented players they did not sign before. And this turned out to be the death blow for the Negro Leagues. Sure, a guy like John McGraw, manager of the New York Giants, desperately wanted to sign black players, but he simply couldn’t. Once, he hired Rube Foster to give a “clinic” to the Giants’ pitchers. But that was about it.
Of course, some players liked to play vs. Negro League players in barnstorming tours. Despite the threat of being banned by commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis, the Dizzy Deans and the Bob Fellers kept playing teams with Negro League stars on it in the offseason.
After Jackie Robinson was enshrined in the HOF in 1962, it took nine more years for the next Negro League player to be enshrined. In 1971 Satchel Paige became a member of the Hall of Fame. After Paige, more Negro League stars became a HOF member gradually. But still, the number of them is very bleak. Until today, only thirty-five have been enshrined.
Let me get this very straight. I am not against the fact that MLB has declared that the Negro Leagues were the equals of MLB, not at all. What I am against is the fact that the stats are incorporated into those of MLB. This should simply not happen. In this way, it will look like both leagues peacefully coexisted, which wasn’t the case at all. There was a reason why the Negro Leagues were there, we all know that. But when the current generations are gone, the newer generations will only see it like both leagues were each other’s equals. It will be a similar case as the rewritten history of Walter O’Malley, who is worshipped like a god by Los Angeles Dodger fans and people who don’t know the real history of the move of the Dodgers to Los Angeles.
It is a good thing that MLB has finally recognized those leagues as equals (it is about time after a hundred years) but the stats of both leagues should be kept separated to keep the Negro League history alive and prevent it from getting forgotten.
By incorporating the Negro League stats, MLB is doing nothing more than attempting to improve its own image, as we all know about the dark role it played in the segregation days.