By 1955, the Negro Leagues clearly were minor league best. But not in 1950. The year 1952 might be a line of demarcation. Black players made up 2.9% of major-league rosters in 1951 and 1952; that number rose to 3.7% in 1953 and 5.6% in 1954.
In 1953, the Clowns started barnstorming as a comedy act and signed a couple of female players. So the Negro Leagues had a quick fall.
Still, Kendrick maintains hope that the time period will be broadened.
Of course, Aaron remains stuck on five home runs with the Clowns. But there’s hope there, too.
The Negro Leagues’ database has been painstakingly built over decades through newspaper and periodical research. Basically, scouring box scores and reading stories from journalists who covered the games.
“We’re going to trust the data they have, take it and do the best we can with it,” said John Labombarda, editorial head of the Elias Sports Bureau, to USA Today. “This will be an evolving project. As more data is unearthed, we will add it — and that’s true of Major League Baseball history. Finding holes, correcting mistakes. This will be no different.”
This happens with every sport, on all levels. I’ve done similar research on high school football. My pal Mike Brooks has done similar stuff for Sooner football, scouring The Oklahoman archives for long-lost stats from OU’s pre-World War II days.
Maybe someone will find more Clowns box scores. Maybe baseball will broaden the Negro Leagues era it considers official.