Major League Baseball on Wednesday sought to correct a long-standing mistake by recognizing the Negro League as a major league and counting the stats and records of thousands of black players as part of the game’s history.
“I heard my daughter and children and they were all excited and they came to talk and cheer up the good news,” said Tesley, 93, who played for the Cuban New York team in 1948, over the phone from his home in Detroit.
“It’s early Christmas and it will make the New Year a lot happier, especially after my wife passed away in January. I think about all the guys … It’s amazing.”
The MLB announcement comes during the celebration of the Negro Leagues’ centenary, which featured stars such as Josh Gibson – considered one of the best hitters in the game’s history – and Leroy “Satchel” Paige, the legend who made his league debut in 1948 at the age of 42.
Tesley noted that the official recognition only confirms what the Negro League players have known for a long time.
“I started training with some of the ex-Negro League players when I was 12 years old and I was hearing stories about the greats – Josh Gibson, Sachel Page and Buck Leonard,” he said. “And I had a feeling at the time that they were as good as the top two leagues.”
The historic recognition coincided with the decision of the Cleveland Baseball Club this week to remove “the Indians” from its name as US corporate brands re-examine their use of racist cartoons and stereotypes.
“Everyone who loves baseball has known for a long time that the Negro Leagues have produced many of our best players for our game, innovations and victories against a backdrop of injustice,” MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred Jr. said in a statement.
“We are now grateful to count the Negro League players where they belong: as key leaders in the official historical record.”
MLB said it was “correcting a long omission in gaming history” by raising the profile of the Negro Leagues – which consisted of seven leagues and nearly 3,400 players from 1920 to 1948.
The decline of the Black Leagues began when Jackie Robinson became the first black player in the MLB with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
In 1969, the Special Committee on Baseball Records did not list the Negro leagues among the six “major leagues” it had identified since 1876.
MLB said: “The MLB believes that the 1969 committee’s omission of the Negro Federation from consideration was a mistake that requires determination today.”
“Notable deficiencies in the Negro leagues’ structure and scheduling have spawned out of MLB exclusionary practices, and denying them major league status was a double penalty, just like the one imposed on Hall of Fame candidates before Satchel Paige was launched in 1971,” John Thorne, official historian For Major League Baseball, in a statement.
“Granting MLB status to the Negro federations a century after their founding is very interesting.”
I started reviewing the old records
MLB said it has begun a review, with the Elias Sports Bureau, to “determine the full extent” of the major league standings’ implications for stats and records. The Bureau is the official statistician for Major League Baseball.
The statement stated that “MLB and Elias will work with historians and other experts in the field to assess relevant issues and come to conclusions upon completion of this process.”
Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, said the honor “is a historic testament to those who were ostracized from the major leagues and had the insight and courage to create their own league that helped change the game and our country as well.”
He said in a statement that the recognition is “an appreciated sign of the brave owners and players who helped build this exceptional project and highlights the tremendous talent that has described the Negro Union at home.”
On Twitter, the museum described MLB’s move as “extremely important” but added that the Negro League players “never looked to Major League Baseball to validate it.”
The seven leagues to be awarded major league status are the Negro National League (I) (1920-1931); Eastern Colorful League (1923-1928); The American Negro League (1929); East-West League (1932); Southern Negro League (1932); Negro National League (II) (1933-1948); And the American Negro Association (1937-1948).