Some of the best baseball players who were denied the chance to play at the highest level might soon be able to finally call themselves big leaguers.
Major League Baseball is considering granting major-league status to the Negro Leagues, which housed Black players for several decades while baseball was segregated, a league spokesperson confirmed to Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times.
Discussions on the subject are ongoing, the spokesperson said.
"The Negro Leagues merit consideration as majors," John Thorn, MLB's official historian, told Baxter.
Six Negro Leagues are being considered for major-league status. If they're accepted, MLB's record books will be amended to officially include all of their statistics. Because of poor recordkeeping, Negro League stats are currently being compiled by historians and researchers through newspaper clippings and box scores.
A similar change to MLB's record books occurred in 1968 when a committee headed by then-commissioner William Eckert ruled on what constituted a major league. Six circuits - the AL and NL, plus the long-defunct American Association, Players' League, Union Association, and Federal League - made the cut. The AA, PL, and UA all folded before 1900.
"We accept 19th-century numbers without so much as batting an eye, but with the Negro Leagues, people have been like, 'Woah! Slow down! Not so fast with those Negro League stats!'" Negro Leagues researcher Scott Simkus said. "Why? Racism, plain and simple."
Although Black baseball teams were first formed in the 19th century after the color line went into effect, the most famous Negro Leagues operated from around 1920 until as late as 1960. These leagues were home to some of the best baseball players in the world. The best teams would meet annually in what was called the Negro World Series.
Thirty-five former Negro League players and executives, including stars like Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige, have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Baseball's color line was broken by Jackie Robinson - whose professional career started with the Negro League's Kansas City Monarchs - in 1947. Larry Doby followed Robinson to the majors several months later.