He added, “They knew that their role was as good as anyone’s.”
Numerous black-player leagues were formed as early as the late 19th century as a result of the color streak observed by the American and National Leagues. The quality and organization of tournaments varied greatly, but Major League Baseball determined that from 1920 to 1948, seven distinct organizations met the criteria for major tournaments.
“I think that’s a good thing,” said Mace on Wednesday in an interview with Jun Xia, his assistant on Diary 24, released in May. “He recognizes the men who played on the way home. I talk a lot about the good footballers.”
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 characters who made their full names in Negro leagues, such as Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston. The tournaments were dominated by champions such as the Chicago American Giants and the Kansas City Monarchs.
Play in the Negro League continued during the early years of the Major League Soccer compacts, but John Thorne, the official historian of Major League Baseball, said that the landscape changed dramatically after 1948 – the year that saw the last World Negro Championships – that he used Major League Baseball that season as the cut.
“The talent drain, plus the dissolution of the Second National Negro League at the end of 1948 – and the end of the World Championships, because you no longer have competing leagues – makes 1948 a good history,” Thorne said. “If you stretch into the stormy years of the 1950s through 1960, you bring in Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks. But we’re trying not to honor the individual players but the league experience and Black’s experience in baseball and America.”
The biggest challenge in integrating Negro League statistics into the official record is the sparse nature of the different leagues, which has resulted in somewhat inconsistent record keeping. The stats are complicated by the exhibitions – some against players from the National and American League teams – and other competitions not appearing in the numbers soon to be added to the official record.
Gibson’s Hall of Fame, for example, says he has “nearly 800 home hits in the league and independent baseball,” a vague description that wouldn’t be enough to surpass Barry Bonds’ career record of 762.