Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that it was "correcting a longtime oversight" and reclassifying the Negro Leagues as major league. The change means all-time greats like Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Monte Irvin, and Willie Mays will have their accomplishments ranked alongside other baseball legends.
The Negro Leagues were a circuit of seven different leagues between 1920 and 1948 reserved for black athletes barred from participation in Major League Baseball. Once Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, the Negro Leagues began to disappear.
In 1969, Major League Baseball officially recognized six "major leagues" that dated back to 1876 for the purpose of establishing the sport's professional record books. The Negro Leagues were not included at that time – an error that Wednesday's decision rectified.
"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," Major League Baseball officials said.
MLB will now begin the process of evaluating the box scores from the Negro Leagues' record keeping in order to incorporate those players into the baseball history books. That means some players, like Irvin, Mays, and Paige, who joined the big leagues after Robinson paved the way in 1947, will see their statistics updated with new numbers that previously had not counted.
"All of us who love baseball have long known that the Negro Leagues produced many of our game's best players, innovations and triumphs against a backdrop of injustice," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "We are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as Major Leaguers within the official historical record."
Several baseball enthusiasts and experts applauded the move, with baseball historian John Thorn calling it "profoundly gratifying."