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Revising the record

SPORTS | MLB adds Negro League stats, shaking up all-time lists


Revising the record
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Recognizing that many black ballplayers deserved to be major leaguers but never got the chance before 1947, Major League Baseball has integrated Negro League statistics into its record books. In the process, MLB has displaced some of its most revered record-holders from their spots atop baseball’s all-time lists—creating controversy among fans.

Ty Cobb is perhaps the most high-profile example: For nearly 100 years, baseball historians recognized the speedy but notoriously cantankerous outfielder’s lifetime batting average of .366 as the highest in major league history. But when MLB incorporated Negro League stats into its records database in late May, Negro League catcher Josh Gibson’s .372 average moved to the top of the list.

The controversy lies in whether Gibson truly deserves that spot: In 24 years with the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Athletics, Cobb collected 4,189 hits in 11,440 career at-bats. Gibson, by contrast, played just 13 years in the Negro Leagues, mostly with the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays, before dying at age 35 in 1947, mere months before Jackie Robinson broke MLB’s color barrier. Gibson collected 808 hits in just 2,168 official Negro League at-bats, according to

Gibson was known as the “Black Babe Ruth” for his home-run hitting prowess—his Baseball Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y., states that he walloped roughly 800, more than Barry Bonds or Hank Aaron. In official Negro League games, however, he only hit 166. Negro League teams mostly played exhibition games as part of cross-country barnstorming tours, often facing white semi-pro teams that weren’t exactly major league caliber.

Responding to fans’ concerns about celebrated players being bumped down on all-time lists, Bob Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, told reporters, “That does not diminish them. It is just now providing some names that you should have known about before now, and you’re getting a chance to learn about them.”

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Fans get louder for fair play

Is public booing getting bolder against transgender policies in high school sports? Fans at state high school track-and-field championship meets in the Pacific Northwest in late May made their displeasure known when male sprinters who self-identify as transgender claimed state girls’ titles.

In Oregon, fans loudly jeered sophomore Aayden Gallagher of Portland’s McDaniel High when Gallagher won the 200-meter title in Class 6A on May 18. Gallagher also finished second in the 400—Lake Oswego senior Josie Donelson had to set a state record (52.83 seconds) to beat Gallagher’s time of 52.98, which also surpassed the previous state record by nearly a full second.

In neighboring Washington, the crowd erupted in cheers for Lauren Matthew of Spokane’s West Valley High on May 25 as she received her second-place medal for the 400 at the Class 2A state meet. The race’s winner, Veronica Garcia (née Donovan Brown) of Spokane’s East Valley High, received a smattering of applause at most, along with a few boos. —R.H.

Ray Hacke

Ray is a sports correspondent for WORLD who has covered sports professionally for three decades. He is also a licensed attorney who lives in Keizer, Ore., with his wife Pauline and daughter Ava.



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