Friday, May 23, 2014

"My Skin is Against Me": Critical Race Theory & Baseball, Part III. B. i. Pre-integration player's statistics should be marked with an asterisk

i)  Pre-integration player's statistics should be marked with an asterisk.
            Unfortunately, there is not nearly the support by fans to place an asterisk by the most tainted numbers in baseball's history: the statistical achievements of pre-integration players.  More specifically, pre-integration player's statistical achievements are not on par with those of post integration players and if there were any numbers that required asterisks it would be those of pre-integration players. 
            This counter-story would not be well received by the dominant group, whites, in baseball.  Iconic names such as Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, and Cy Young are perceived as some of the greatest players ever, despite not playing with any African Americans.  Further, Babe Ruth is considered by many[i]  to be the greatest player of all time.  The dominate group uses their non-asterisked statistics to advance this narrative.
            The counter story is to put an asterisk, either real or perceived, next to all of the statistics of pre-integration players.  Those players simply were not playing against the best competition, as current players are.  Black players were not excluded because of inferior play.  In fact, there is ample evidence that many of the negro league stars were on par with, if not better, than the major league players.
            First, Negro League teams frequently beat all white teams consisting of major league players in exhibition games.[ii]  It is estimated that all-black teams played all-white teams in exhibitions at least 438 times prior to integration; the black teams won 309 of these games and the white teams won just 129.[iii]  Further, John McGraw, a renowned pre-integration manager/racist,  died with a list of all of the black players he secretly wished he could have signed while a Major League manager.[iv]  By beating white teams and being secretly sought after by white managers, black baseball players were shown to be on par with, if not superior to, white players at the time.  In fact, many Negro League personal statistical achievements surpass those of white players.  Satchel Page estimated he won 2000 games, nearly four times Cy Young's major league record.[v]  The "black Babe Ruth" Josh Gibson, hit over 70 home runs in a single season and over 950 in his career, both of which easily surpass Major League records.[vi]
            The obvious argument against a counter story affixing an asterisk to pre-integration players is that the statistical achievements were earned within the rules as they were at the time.  However, the problem is that these statistical achievements are in the record book and are seemingly compared on an equal plane against those of post-integration players.  For example, the record books show Tony Gwynn and Nap Lajoie as having the exact same career batting average (.3382), good enough to be tied for 16th place all time.[vii]  However, because Gwynn played post integration, he played against better pitchers who were more likely to get him out and against better fielders, whom made it more difficult to get hits.  This is due to the overall level of play increasing with integration, players who were worthy to play in the major leagues were no longer excluded.  The quality of competition increased every time a black player signed with a major league team and took the spot of a lesser white player.  Stated simply, it was more difficult for a post-integration player to achieve statistical milestones; therefore, such achievements are more impressive than similar achievements by pre-integration players and should be treated as such.

[i] See, Supra Note II.
[ii] Baseball: Fifth Inning.
[iii] Id.
[iv] Id.
[v] Id.
[vi] Id.
[vii] Baseball Reference, Career Leaders& Records for Batting Average,, (last visited April 11, 2014). 

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