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MLB now, officially, recognizes Josh Gibson as the greatest hitter who ever lived

josh gibson negro leagues
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As of yesterday, Ty Cobb, and his .367 career batting average, sat atop baseball’s record books. Today, we wake up to Josh Gibson’s .372 being the best all-time.

MLB integrated the season and career numbers from more than 2,300 players who played in the Negro Leagues from 1920-1948 into its official databases on Wednesday, a long-overdue recognition that the records we knew from white baseball were wholly incomplete.

Which isn’t to say that it isn’t going to take some getting used to, seeing Gibson, the Homestead Grays star, at #1 all-time in hitting, in slugging (.718, 28 points better than Babe Ruth, now #2 at .690).

OPS is a relatively new stat, but Gibson is the new #1 there as well (1.177; Ruth is second, at 1.164).

Six of the seven top single-season top batting averages are now from former Negro Leaguers, led by Gibson’s otherworldly .466 in 1943, and Satchel Paige is #3 all-time in single-season ERA, with his 1.01 in 1944 – notably, that’s the best of the live-ball era, which we date to 1920.

Only a few got to see what baseball could have, and should have, been back in that golden era. Black players who were barred from playing against whites between April and October got their chances in winter barnstorming leagues, when you’d get to see the likes of Gibson and Paige square off with the likes of Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson and Carl Hubbell.

I’ll go to my grave believing that the most significant event in American history took place on April 15, 1947, when Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the color barrier – a full seven years before the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education ordering school desegregation, eight years before Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott, 17 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 18 years before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 61 years before the election of Barack Obama to the highest job in the land.

Seventy-seven years later, Josh Gibson is now, officially, the greatest hitter who ever lived.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].