“They knew their league was as good as everyone else,” he added.
Numerous leagues made up of black players were formed as early as the late 19th century due to the color line observed by American and national leagues. The quality and organization of the leagues varied widely, but Major League Baseball found that from 1920 to 1948 seven different organizations met the standards of the major leagues.
“I think that’s a good thing,” Mays said Wednesday in an interview with John Shea, his collaborator on a memoir, “24,” which was published this May. “It recognizes people who have been playing for a long time. I speak to a lot of good ball players. “
The group of seven leagues has already produced 35 Hall of Famers, including well-known major league stars like Mays, Larry Doby and Jackie Robinson, as well as personalities who have made a name for themselves exclusively in the Negro leagues like Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston. The leagues were dominated by champions such as the Chicago American Giants and the Kansas City Monarchs.
Negro League play continued through the integrated majors’ early years, but Major League Baseball’s official historian John Thorn said the landscape had changed so profoundly after 1948 – the year of the last Negro World Series – that the Major League Baseball used that season as the cutoff.
“The bleeding of talent and the breakup of the second Negro National League in late 1948 – and the end of the World Series because you no longer had two competitive leagues – make 1948 a good ending date,” Thorn said. “If you stretch into the barnstorming years of the 1950s to 1960, bring Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks with you. But we’re trying not to honor individual players, but rather the experience of the league and the experience of blacks in baseball and America. “
The biggest challenge in including Negro League stats in the official records is the dispersion of the different leagues which resulted in somewhat inconsistent records. The statistics are complicated by barnstorming exhibitions – some against players from national and American league teams – and other competitions that don’t appear in the numbers soon to be added to the official record.
For example, Gibson’s Hall of Fame plaque states that he has “completed nearly 800 home races in league and independent baseball,” a vague description insufficient to eclipse Barry Bond’s 762 career record.