The Negro Leagues have been recognized as official “Major Leagues” for the Major League Baseball’s statistical records. This recognition was long overdue. Some of the best players in history of the sport played in these leagues, and it was the top aspiration black baseball players they could have back in the day.
This means that new records will be added to the MLB historical numbers. One of the main questions was if Josh Gibson (USA) would become the official home run king. The mythology has it that he hit over 800 or even 900 Home Runs throughout his career.
Nevertheless, the official numbers -after decades of research- have recorded less than 300 Homers, which will not put him among the top 250 home run hitters ever.
An intrinsic difficulty to track down some of these statistics is that white-dominated media often did not cover Negro League games, meaning some of the scorecards are simply lost. Nevertheless, most of the records have reportedly (CBS) been found.
The mismatch in the numbers is that, for example, several of Gibson’s homers were achieved in México, Puerto Rico or Cuba, and these numbers do not count for MLB record books.
Nor do exhibition games or “barnstorm” games, where a team would tour professionally for exhibition matches. Potentially also maybe some of the numbers were inflated, but there is no way of verifying it so far.
Official numbers do not account for legend but sometimes legend is larger than the numbers. The legacy of these black players and their contribution to the sport and public culture goes above and beyond the numbers. But being precise, we cannot place Gibson among the very top Home Run total kings of all time.
The numbers also do have it that he hit Homers at about the same rate as Babe Ruth (USA), so they do tell part of the story. And he will be the single-season batting average champion, with a .441 mark in 1943, placing him among the history’s best in the numbers (Slate).