I’ve been asked so many times about the best ever, that I almost already have a speach prepared. Bonds, Ruth, Mantle, Aaron, Mays, the list goes on and on. All of these guys were tremendous players in their own eras. In fact, they all had other great players to leap over in their eras to achieve this status. Aaron, Mays, and Mantle had one another for a great deal of time.
However, it’s strange to me that Negro League Baseball players are never included in this debate. In fact, some of you are rolling your eyes now over the fact that I’m even suggesting Josh Gibson would be included in a debate along with Ruth and Bonds. The biggest argument about Gibson is the level of talent of his competition. Let’s examine that.
Make a list of the 50 greatest players that ever played the game, sort of like the NBA did. Count how many races and nationalities those players cover. Consider that Ruth never played with or against any of those other races. He never played in an integrated league either. So the question for the Negro Leaguers is the same for Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Lou Gehrig, but that’s never offered as a debate when talking about those players. Their numbers seem to stand alone.
Another arugument, when talking about the Negro Leaguers is the consistency of their statistics. Consider this, Al Munro Elias started keeping stats because of his love affair with National League baseball in 1913. In 1922, he was hired by National League President, John Heydler to work for his league. The American League did not hire Elias until later. Wikipedia does not define what later is. Other websites give different years for all of the above accounts. So I ask, how were those stats reported? The fact that there a different dates reported for Elias taking over baseball’s record keeping suggests some inconsistencies.
No, I’m not suggesting the numbers for MLB are not correct, but I am suggesting that the Negro Leagues kept their stats the same way. They just did not employ Elias to record them.
So, when you have the ole’ debate about who’s the best, you can ignore some of the greatest players who ever graced the field with their presence, but their numbers tell the story, just like everyone else’s.