As MLB incorporates stats, a look at Houston's deep ties to Negro League baseball

Adam Winkler Image
Thursday, May 30, 2024
A look at Houston's deep ties to Negro League baseball
After a three-year project, the MLB is incorporating statistics for more than 2,300 Negro League players into its books.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Negro League statistics are no longer a longtime oversight in Major League Baseball.

After a three-year research project, MLB has officially incorporated statistics for more than 2,300 Negro League players into its record books. By doing so, Josh Gibson became Major League Baseball's career leader with a .372 batting average, surpassing Ty Cobb's .367. Gibson also became the career leader in slugging percentage, moving ahead of Babe Ruth.

From the Houston Black Buffaloes to the Houston Eagles - whose jerseys the Astros have worn multiple times - our city boasts a rich tradition of Negro League baseball. Now, those communities who supported those teams and those incredible athletes can feel a new sense of pride today - as the Negro Leagues and Major Leagues are seen as equals.

Via Zoom, ABC13 visited with Texas native Dr. Rob Fink. He's not only a Negro Leagues scholar with a PhD in history, but he authored a book titled "Playing in Shadows: Texas and the Negro Leagues."

Through his vast research on the topic, Fink learned the major Negro Leagues would hold spring training in our area. And if local players performed well in exhibition games - they'd be signed by the major Negro League teams. They're the same teams that produced some of the best players in baseball history.

"The Houston Black Buffaloes, any of those teams, they had the idea that these are heroes to see and celebrate their successes," Fink noted to ABC13. "The whole nature of racism and segregation is designating somebody as other and making them less than. This is a tangible way to show we are not less than. We are equal or better. This meant so much to that community."

Fink says even though so few Negro League players are still alive today, the fact their stats are now officially incorporated in major league record books is significant - and will remain significant for generations to come.

"It's good for the players to get their due," Fink said of MLB incorporating Negro League statistics. "For future people to see this, fans who don't know the stories of the Negro Leagues, they can go back and look it up and learn stories that have faded away over the years. For these families, it's going to be a really big deal - validation of what their ancestors went through."

Newly-incorporated MLB records feature stats from seven different Negro Leagues. Among those: the Negro American League. For two years, the Houston Eagles competed in that league.

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