Major League Baseball reclassifies Negro Leagues as major league

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Black Crackers made Ponce de Leon Park in the Old Fourth Ward their home for two decades.

They played opposite the Atlanta Crackers minor league ball team in the 1920s and 30s, never allowed to play on the field at the same time because of the color of their skin. Now their accomplishments on the field - every hit, every win - are officially part of major league history.

The statistics and records of the Black Crackers and 3,400 players in seven different negro leagues have been added to the MLB record books.

Willie Mays will add some hits to his record, Monte Irvin’s big league batting average should climb over .300 and Satchel Paige may add nearly 150 victories to his total.

MLB said Wednesday it was “correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history” by elevating the Negro Leagues on the centennial of its founding. The Negro Leagues consisted of seven leagues, and MLB will include records from those circuits between 1920-48. The Negro Leagues began to dissolve one year after Jackie Robinson became MLB’s first Black player with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

Those leagues were excluded in 1969 when the Special Committee on Baseball Records identified six official “major leagues” dating to 1876.

“It is MLB’s view that the Committee’s 1969 omission of the Negro Leagues from consideration was clearly an error that demands today’s designation,” the league said in a statement.

Channel 2′s Tom Jones spoke with Atlanta native C.J. Stewart about the decision. Stewart played for the Chicago Cubs organization and now leads a youth baseball foundation where a replica Black Crackers jersey is on display.

“When I think about the legacy of the Negro Leagues and the things they had to do. They showed up every day. They played good baseball. They put up stats. So now for them to be combined with what we see as the Major Leagues as the gold standard, I’m elated,” Stewart said.

Stewart wants the young men who he trains to understand the importance of the league and the sacrifices players made.

“They wanted to go into the all white major league to prove they were better,” Stewart said.

The league will work with the Elias Sports Bureau to review Negro Leagues statistics and records and figure out how to incorporate them into MLB’s history. There was no standard method of record keeping for the Negro Leagues, but there are enough box scores to stitch together some of its statistical past.

The Associated Press contributed to this article

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