The National Baseball Hall of Fame has not inducted any players from the Negro Leagues since 2006, when a special committee was established to acknowledge the contributions of Black players, the New York Times reports.
Between 1971 and 1977, nine former Negro leaguers were inducted, including legends such as Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Monte Irvin and Buck Leonard. Although some of the biggest names in the Negro Leagues were inducted, the Baseball Hall of Fame has failed to fully acknowledge the vast amount players and contributors whose names were not as well-known.
To address the lack of Negro League players in the Hall of Fame, a Special Committee on African-American Baseball was created in 2006 to finally recognize the contributions of Black baseball players who never played in the MLB because of segregation. The result was the election of 17 Hall of Famers who played in the Negro leagues and the preceding era of Black baseball. Since that groundbreaking induction class, the Hall of Fame has not selected any players from the Negro Leagues, a 15-year absence.
While 17 players reached enshrinement in Cooperstown, many argued that other contributors were overlooked at the time and haven’t received any serious consideration since the committee began its work.
“As great as it was to have all those candidates be recognized, we had two living candidates who were extremely popular among the common baseball fan and it just would have meant a lot to both of those men personally, as well as to the baseball community if they could have been feted,” said Dr. Raymond Doswell, vice president of curatorial services at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. “For many baseball fans, it leaves kind of a hole in their hearts.”
Some officials believed that after the 2006 class, the committee had served its purpose.
“The intent was to vote into the Hall of Fame such outstanding performers in the old Negro leagues who, in the opinion of the committee, would have made it anyway had they not been deprived of playing in the major leagues,” a spokesman said after the committee dissolved. “We are satisfied that mission has been accomplished.”
Although there has been silence regarding the induction of more Black and Hispanic players into the Hall of Fame who were excluded because of segregation, the MLB gave all former Negro players full status as official Major Leaguers in December of 2020.
Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that MLB was bestowing “major league” status on 2,400 Black and Hispanic players who were not allowed the opportunity to play Major League ball. These players played on the seven professional Negro Leagues that operated between 1920 and 1948, and their statistics and records will now be a part of the official record of the MLB.
“All of us who love baseball have long known that the Negro Leagues produced many of our game’s best players, innovations and triumphs against a backdrop of injustice,” Manfred said in a statement. “We are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as Major Leaguers within the official historical record.”
The seven leagues being grafted in is the Negro National League (1920-31), the Eastern Colored League (1923-28), the American Negro League (1929), the East-West League (1932), the Negro Southern League (1932), the Negro National League (1933-48) and the Negro American League (1937-48).
In regards to the Hall of Fame, Leslie Heaphy, a professor of history at Kent State University and the only woman appointed to the Hall’s Special Committee on African-American Baseball, expressed her frustration with the process of induction by the MLB
“I’ll just be honest,” Heaphy said, “it’s been a surprise, and more important, a disappointment, that there’s been nothing in the 15 years since. The idea was that, as there was more information, there’d be more opportunity. And there hasn’t been.”