Cubs News

How new Negro League inclusion affects Cubs history

3 years agoBruce Levine

Will the history of the Chicago Cubs be impacted by the addition of Negro League statistics going forward?

As Chicago Cub fans watch the new edict by MLB and commissioner Ron Manfred, one can only wonder how many more home runs Ernie Banks will be awarded from his games in the Negro league. Since 1948 is the cutoff date, the answer is very likely zero.

Earlier this week, MLB said they will legitimize records and stats from the Negro Leagues. Part of the idea of this declaration is sanctioning the stats by players and teams as equal to players in the major leagues from 1920-1948.

A group of individuals led by MLB historian John Thorn will delve into the history of these new cases in order to make those great Negro League players and teams more inclusive into the long history of the major league baseball record book.

The commissioner said the recognition was long overdue. More importantly, it means that the Negro League players from that era will now be allowed (close to 3,400 players) to be considered major league players with their stats and records becoming a part of MLB history.

“All of us who love baseball have long known that the Negro Leagues produced many of our game’s best players,” Manfred said. “That included innovations and triumphs against a backdrop of injustice. We are grateful to count the players from the Negro Leagues where they belong as Major Leaguers within the official historical record.”

The seven leagues included are the Negro National team, the Eastern Colored League, the American Negro League, the East-West League, the Negro Southern League, the Negro National League and the Negro American League. Thirty-five players from those leagues are now in the Hall of Fame.

The first two former Negro League players to wear a Chicago Cubs uniform were shortstop Ernie Banks and second baseman Gene Baker. Both were purchased from the Kansas City Monarchs by the Cubs in 1953. According to the Negro League Baseball Museum archives, at age 19, Banks hit .255 for the Monarchs in 1950 and then missed two seasons due to Army service before returning to hit .347 for Kansas City in 1953. As we know, Mr. Cub went on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977 after a MLB career that spanned from 1953-1971.

Late in the 1953 season, Banks was scouted, purchased and signed by the Cubs at the recommendation of Buck O’Neil, who was his manager in KC during the 1950 season. Banks had started his semi-pro career at age 17 barnstorming with different teams in 1948. After the Cubs purchased him, he played 10 games for the team in September of 1953, skipping the minor leagues entirely.

Banks’ rookie season of 1954 showed his readiness for the major leagues and the quality of baseball played in the Negro Leagues as he hit .275 with 19 home runs. In 1955, he set an MLB record for home runs by a shortstop in a season with 44.

With the new MLB edict and 1948 being the cutoff year, Banks’ 512 career home runs and his other stats will not likely be changed.

Other Cubs with Negro League experiences like Baker, pitcher Sam Jones, outfielder Solly Drake, and HOF outfielder Monte Irvin are also in line to have stats added to their MLB numbers as the new committee goes to work on this important project.

As part of the new finding by MLB, they along with the Elias Sports Bureau will begin a review process to determine the full view of player’s records from the Negro leagues. This research will include that statistical data and the effects it may have on the record books. Needless to say, a change of the MLB record book will not happen overnight.

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