Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Major League Baseball has reclassified the Negro Leagues as a major league and will count statistics and official records from its thousands of Black players, the league said Wednesday.
MLB said in a news release that it is "correcting a longtime oversight in the game's history" with the elevation of the Negro Leagues to major league status.
About 3,400 players in seven Negro Leagues competed from 1920 to 1948 as "major league-caliber ballplayers," MLB said.
MLB officials had discussions with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the Negro League Researchers and Authors Group, and considered studies by other baseball researchers before the decision was made to reclassify the Negro Leagues.
"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," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said.
"We are now grateful to count the players of the Negro Leagues where they belong: as Major Leaguers within the official historical record."
The Negro National League I, which operated from 1920 through 1931, was the first of the Negro Leagues. The Eastern Colored League ran from 1923 to 1928. The American Negro League operated in 1929. The East-West League and Negro Southern League each operated in 1932.
The Negro National League II was in operation from 1933 to 1948. Athletes participated in the Negro American League from 1937 to 1948.
In 1945, Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League before he broke the MLB color barrier in 1947.
Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige was one of the best players in the Negro Leagues. Paige appeared in the Negro Southern League, Negro National League I, American Negro League, Negro National League II and the Negro American League before he joined MLB in 1948.
"The perceived deficiencies of the Negro Leagues' structure and scheduling were born of MLB's exclusionary practices, and denying them Major League status has been a double penalty, much like that exacted of Hall of Fame candidates prior to Satchel Paige's induction in 1971," said John Thorn, the official historian of MLB.
"Granting MLB status to the Negro Leagues a century after their founding is profoundly gratifying."