"Salute to the Negro Leagues Day" displayed at T-Mobile Park in Seattle. GETTY IMAGES

Major League Baseball’s record books are finally set to be re-written, as it officially announced on Wednesday that statistics from the racially segregated Negro Leagues will be added into its official history to confronts the sport's racist past.

In a long-overdue decision, the league doubled down on its 2020 announcement that seven different Negro Leagues from 1920-1948 would be recognized as Major Leagues. Now, commissioner Rob Manfred has followed the recommendations of the independent Negro League Statistical Review Committee in absorbing the available Negro Leagues numbers into the official historical record.

"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 on the league's website. "We are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as Major Leaguers within the official historical record."

The achievement of African-American players in the former discriminated league deserved to be ranked alongside baseball's most iconic names like Babe Ruth, Willie Mays or Hank Aaron. Now, some blatant omissions of Negro Leagues superstars like Hall of Fame catcher Josh Gibson or legendary pitcher Satchel Paige have been partially corrected.

“The Negro Leagues were a product of segregated America, created to give opportunity where opportunity did not exist,” Negro Leagues expert and historian Larry Lester told MLB.com. “As Bart Giamatti, former Commissioner of Baseball, once said, ‘We must never lose sight of our history, insofar as it is ugly, never to repeat it, and insofar as it is glorious, to cherish it.’”

Black players were barred from competing in the major leagues due to racism and segregation laws until Jackie Robinson famously broke baseball's colour barrier by debuting for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Instead, African-American players plied their trade in the Negro Leagues, which ran from 1920 to 1948.

However while the segregated league produced many players who would go onto forge dazzling careers in Major League Baseball, their statistical achievements from that era were never recognised. In 2020 however, with the United States plunged into nationwide soul-searching over racial injustice following the death of George Floyd, MLB chiefs said it was time to finally grant "Major League" status to the Negro Leagues, in a move Manfred described as "correcting a longtime oversight" in the game's history. A panel of Negro Leagues experts and historians subsequently pored over the record books to evaluate statistics from the era and determine how to incorporate them into MLB history.

John Thorn, official MLB historian and chairman of the Negro Leagues Statistical Review Committee, said the new database can be understood “by realizing that stats are shorthand for stories, and that the story of the Negro Leagues is worthy of our study.”

Gibson, for one, played his entire career in the Negro Leagues between 1930 and 1946, accumulating statistical benchmarks which are now acknowledged as surpassing some of the most longstanding records in the sport. He is now baseball's all-time leader in batting average, his career average of .372 eclipsing Ty Cobb's record of .366 -- a hitherto untouchable record which had stood since Cobb's retirement in 1928. Gibson also takes over the records for single season batting average (.466), single season slugging percentage (.974) and single season OPS (on-base plus slugging).

In several categories, Gibson replaces Babe Ruth, regarded by many as the greatest player in baseball history. Gibson now betters Ruth's records for career slugging percentage (.718) and OPS (1.177). "When you hear Josh Gibson's name now, it's not just that he was the greatest player in the Negro Leagues but one of the greatest of all time," Gibson's great-grandson Sean Gibson told USA Today ahead of Wednesday's announcement. "These aren't just Negro League stats. They're Major League Baseball stats."

The integrated record books will also boost some of the existing records of Black players who competed in the Negro Leagues before going on to participate in Major League Baseball following Robinson's trailblazing move to the Dodgers in 1947. Paige's wins total has increased to 124 from 28 after the inclusion of his Negro League stats, giving the Hall of Famer the third best single season earned run average (ERA) in history at 1.01.

"People will be, I don't know if upset is the word, but they may be uncomfortable with some Negro League stars now on the leaderboards for career and seasons," Lester told the New York Times. "Diehards may not accept the stats, but that's OK. I welcome the conversations at the bar or the barbershop or the pool hall. That's why we do what we do."