The Negro Leagues Always Were Top Tier

When news broke that Major League Baseball has officially declared the Negro Leagues to be a part of Major League Baseball, I reflexively thought, “That’s good.” Inclusion is good and I support it. It didn’t take long for my initial reaction to change to confusion. The whole reason there were Negro Leagues is because of Jim Crow and the fact that Major League Baseball wouldn’t let black people play. How are these things that were specifically set up as an alternative to Major League Baseball now Major League themselves? So, I read a few articles about it.

Apparently, in 1969 a special committee of baseball records chose six official major leagues. They excluded the Negro Leagues. So, this is baseball trying to right a wrong they committed fifty years ago (which had compounded a wrong they committed a hundred years before that). In theory, it’s a good thing to try to right prior wrongs. But, this doesn’t feel right to me.

Part of that is because it feels condescending. I’m sure baseball didn’t mean it that way, but Rob Manfred and the league executives are awful. I have a lot of trouble trusting their motives. Part is that it feels like too little, too late. That may be petty, but it’s how I feel.

Baseball “officially” recognizing the Negro Leagues reminds me of Trump pardoning Susan B. Anthony. Anthony’s conviction was for an act of protest. Pardoning her, in a way, seems like it’s nullifying the protest she was making. The Negro Leagues were also a form of protest even if many people didn’t explicitly think of them that way. Mainstreaming them somehow minimizes that.

The main reason it doesn’t sit right with me, though, is Major League Baseball simply doesn’t deserve the Negro Leagues. They have a wonderful history and legacy. Major League Baseball shouldn’t be able to just decide to incorporate that history and that legacy. It wasn’t theirs because of their own bigotry and stupidity. There’s a problem with an act of restitution when it benefits the wrong-doer more than the wronged.

I know I’m in the minority on this, but that’s why I felt compelled to say something. Virtually everything I’ve read has been celebrating the change in status. Clinton Yates (@clintonyates) is the only one I’ve seen who seems to agree with me. His piece is worth checking out. The bottom line is that the Negro Leagues never needed Major League Baseball’s validation.

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