"The Negro Leagues have always been major leagues," Baseball Reference said in its announcement Tuesday. "We are changing our site's presentation to properly recognize this fact." In the statistics website's new presentation, Sports Illustrated reports, the numbers posted by players who competed in seven Negro leagues will run alongside those of major league players. Major League Baseball had announced in December that the Negro leagues, which operated from 1920 to 1948, now have major league status. In granting "long overdue recognition," MLB said the statistics compiled by more than 3,400 players will be added to its books, as well, probably within a year. Jackie Robinson was the first black player in Major League Baseball, joining in 1947.
Baseball Reference already had stats from the Negro leagues, the New York Times reports, but they were less complete and weren't part of features such as advance searches. And MLB players' pages were designed differently. Half of the widely used site's employees have spent four months gathering information on the Negro leagues. Researchers and players' families were consulted. On Monday, per the Times, Stan Musial led the National and American leagues with a .357 batting average in 1943. On Tuesday, Tetelo Vargas topped him with .471, and Josh Gibson was listed at .466. "As baseball reinvents itself, every fan should welcome this statistical reconstitution towards social reparation," said Larry Lester, a co-founder of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo. "The beauty of these stats is that they now humanize these folk heroes, and they're no longer mythical figures," he said, adding, "These stats legitimize their accomplishments." (Read more Major League Baseball stories.)