May 31, 2024 - News

A Negro Leagues baseball legend who played in D.C. is now top of MLB record books

A statue of Josh Gibson outside Nats Park

A statue of Josh Gibson. Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

D.C. baseball legend Josh Gibson, who played in the Negro Leagues in the 1930s and '40s, is now the all-time Major League Baseball batting champion.

Why it matters: After a long wait, the MLB this week decided to include performance stats from Negro Leagues players in its all-time leaderboards.

The big picture: Gibson, who played for the Homestead Grays in D.C., and other Negro Leagues players were barred from the MLB during segregation.

  • Gibson is often called "the Black Babe Ruth." He has been inducted into the Ring of Honor at Nationals Park.
  • His lifetime batting average of .372 has bested Ty Cobb, who batted .367 from 1905-28.
This is a list chart that visualizes the baseball players with the top 10 all-time career batting averages. Josh Gibson, who played in the Negro Leagues, leads with an average of 0.372, followed by Ty Cobb at 0.367 and Oscar Charleston, a Negro League player, at 0.363. Ted Williams is in the 10th spot with 0.344.
Data: MLB. Chart: Axios Visuals

State of play: Once overlooked Negro Leagues stars now populate top-ten lists, and more records may change as the MLB analyzes other numbers from seven professional Negro Leagues that operated between 1920 and 1948.

Catch up quick: MLB announced the change following years of debate and recommendations from the independent Negro Leagues Statistical Review Committee.

  • The murder of George Floyd in 2020 forced a national racial awakening. MLB responded by elevating the Negro Leagues to "major" status, meaning their statistics and records joined Major League Baseball history but didn't overtake MLB records at the time.
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