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Josh Gibson, excluded by MLB, takes his place in baseball history

Hall of Fame catcher Josh Gibson was one of the most dominant players in baseball history, but he got scant credit from the wider public during his playing days in the 1930s and '40s, because his exploits took place in the Negro Leagues. Major League Baseball helped amplify his legacy Wednesday, adding Gibson's stats and those of other Negro Leagues players to its official record. The decision allowed Gibson's lifetime batting average of .372 to eclipse Ty Cobb's .367 and surge to the top of the historical ledger - and prompted curiosity about one of the sport's all-time greats.

Gibson was a Bunyanesque figure, known for his prodigious home runs, and sportswriters called him the "Black Babe Ruth" of his era. It's fitting, then, that MLB's decision vaulted Gibson over Ruth in two key offensive categories. Gibson now tops the MLB leader board in slugging percentage, at .718, surpassing Ruth's .690; and in OPS, with his 1.177 mark topping Ruth's 1.164. Gibson also now holds the single-season batting average mark of .466, which he recorded for the Homestead Grays in 1943.

Gibson's posthumous recognition comes more than 75 years after his playing career ended, a tragic story of exclusion during MLB's tightly enforced Jim Crow era. Suffering from high blood pressure and the ill effects of excessive drinking, he died of a stroke at the age of 35 in January 1947 - just three months before Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier.


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