That’s why, Lester said, rate stats like home hitting or nine innings strikeouts are better ways to show off the talent of players like Gibson and Paige.
Gibson was a powerful wide receiver whose Hall of Fame plaque says he “hit nearly 800 home runs in league and independent baseball,” but as of Tuesday only 165 were counted on Baseball Reference.
Other hurdles with Black League stats: Players have often participated in matches outside of league play, like barnstorming shows – some of which were played against players from the US and National Leagues – and there are gaps in the documentation. While Lester estimated researchers have statistics on at least 90% of Black League games from the 1920s and 1940s, they have about 60-75% of games from the 1930s, with gaps caused by the Great Depression.
A frustrating example for Lester is the belief, supported by at least three newspaper accounts, that Gibson achieved the rare feat of hitting four home runs in a game. The game was reportedly played in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1938, but Lester was unable to locate a full box score so that the achievement – and the entire game – could be officially counted.
Black League match-by-match data is currently not available on Baseball Reference, but Forman said he hoped to expand the site’s offerings as more research is done, including by other organizations such as Retrosheet, a website that documented box scores. of almost every game in American and National League history.
“We hope that our publication of these initial statistics will generate more research, and as the research is carried out the accuracy and completeness of what we present on the site will increase,” said Forman, who warned that player totals could change, such as like Gibson’s batting average in 1943, which, barring significant new discoveries, would eventually dethrone Hugh Duffy’s .440 mark in 1894 as the official record for major leagues.
When the MLB made the Black League announcement over the winter, Gibson’s great-grandson Sean said there were many unanswered questions about how the recognition would take place. . He said being included in this way in Baseball Reference was an example of the importance of change. He imagined how one of the few living players in the Black League, former outfielder Ron Teasley, 94, could be excited when he saw his page listed among the major leagues online. Gibson also questioned whether the change might strengthen the Hall of Fame case for players like Rap Dixon, a star outfielder in the 1920s and 1930s.