Josh Gibson surpasses Ty Cobb: Who is the Negro League legend and new MLB record holder?

In 2020, Major League Baseball announced that it would recognize the statistics from seven different Negro Leagues between 1920 and 1948 as Major League history. Until now, those leagues' statistics have not been recognized as official MLB history. Despite several elite players putting together record-breaking careers, their stats had been overlooked in the records, but on Wednesday that changed.

MLB announced that it has followed the recommendations of the independent Negro League Statistical Review Committee in adding Negro Leagues numbers into the official historical record. With that news, the MLB record books look much, much different.

Most notably, Ty Cobb, who'd been the MLB record holder for career batting average (.366) for nearly a century has officially been dethroned. The crown now resides on Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays legend Josh Gibson's head.

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Who is Josh Gibson?

Josh Gibson was a catcher for the Memphis Red Sox, Pittsburgh Crawfords, and Homestead Grays in both the National Negro League and National Negro League II between 1930 and 1946.

In that time, Gibson was a menace to every pitcher he faced. He was a 12-time All-Star, two-time Negro League World Series champion, a three-time batting champ, a two-time Triple Crown winner, led the league in home runs 11 times, led the league in OPS eight times, recorded an OBP of .500 or better twice, and in 1943, he drove in 109 runs in just 69 games. Most importantly though, Gibson's career batting average sits at .373, seven points higher than Ty Cobb's.

Gibson played until he was 34 years old, and even led the Negro Leagues in home runs and slugging percentage his final year in the league. Gibson died of a stroke before the start of the 1947 season, just one month after his 35th birthday.

What other records does Gibson hold now?

Outside of batting average, Gibson is now also the all-time MLB leader in slugging percentage (.718) and OPS (1.1.76).

According to Major League Baseball, Gibson also holds the single-season records for each of those categories now. Gibson's .466 average in 1943, his .974 slugging percentage in 1937, and 1.474 OPS in 1937 are each all-time records now. In fact, in regards to OPS, Gibson is both first and second in single-season OPS. In 1943, Gibson's OPS was 1.427, six points higher than 2004 Barry Bonds' (1.421).

Does Ty Cobb still hold any records?

Ty Cobb has long been remembered as the career batting average champ. Without that title, is there anything else Cobb can be remembered by? Well, yes.

Cobb still holds a very niche, but fun record: the most successful steals of home base. Cobb holds that distinction both all-time (54) and in a single season (8). The latter of those records came in the 1912 season. Cobb is also fourth all-time in career stolen bases (897).

What other Negro Leaguers have been added to the record books?

Among the top-ten in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS, five other Negro Leaguers have been added:

  • Oscar Charleston: .363 AVG (3rd all-time); .449 OBP (6th); .614 SLG (7th); 1.063 OPS (5th)

  • Jud Wilson: .350 AVG (5th); .434 OBP (10th)

  • Turkey Stearnes: .348 AVG (6th); .616 SLG (6th); 1.033 OPS (9th)

  • Buck Leonard: .345 AVG (8th); .452 OBP (5th); 1.042 OPS (7th)

  • Mule Suttles: .621 SLG (5th); 1.031 OPS (10th)

Is Josh Gibson a Hall of Famer?

Yes. He was inducted in 1972.

In total, there are 37 Negro League players in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The first to be inducted was Satchel Paige in 1971. The latest to be inducted was Bud Fowler, who was inducted in 2022.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Josh Gibson surpasses Ty Cobb: Who was new MLB record holder?