MLB decision on Negro League's 'long overdue'

NOW: MLB decision on Negro League’s ’long overdue’

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- “It was great news but it was something that was well overdue. Long overdue,” said Dennis Biddle.

That’s a sentiment that was shared by many, including Major League Baseball, which used “long overdue” in its own release of its December 16th decision to reclassify the Negro Leagues as “Major League”.

100 years after the founding of the Negro Leagues, an estimated 3,400 players will now earn the major league distinction. Dennis Biddle, 85, is a former Negro League player himself and says this isn’t something they needed to be told.

“Man we knew that there were two major leagues...one white, one black and unequal,” said Biddle.

Biddle played in 1953 and 1954 for the Chicago American Giants before an ankle injury ended his career. In 1995, along with fellow former Negro League player Sherwood Brewer, Biddle created the Yesterday Negro League Baseball Player’s Foundation to represent the living players of which he says there are now less than 40. He hopes this decision is the start of something more for them.

“The history of the players that’s still living is with you today. These men in their 80s and 90s I think they should be recognized also,” said Biddle.

He thinks it’s important because the greats of the players who already passed away will not get to celebrate this decision.

“Seeing those old men not get the benefits, the recognition that they truthfully deserve it hurts me to my heart now because I became friends to some of them. I buried some of them.”

This is not the first time MLB had the opportunity to reclassify the Negro Leagues. In 1969, a Special Committee on Baseball Records added six leagues from 1867 as “Major League” but left out the Negro Leagues. MLB factored that decision then into its decision now in its release, “It is MLB’s view that the Committee’s 1969 omission of the Negro Leagues from consideration was clearly an error that demands today’s designation.”

“You know it wasn’t an oversight. It was blatant dismissal,” said Bob Kendrick, the President of the Negro Baseball League Museum in Kansas City.

Even though some Negro Leagues continued until 1960, MLB determined that seven leagues from 1920-1948 will be added to the league's history. Stats were not kept as well following Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947 and the Negro Leagues began to dissolve. While the historic record could be incomplete, Kendrick sees the benefits.

"For future generations of baseball fans who will now see these names right there alongside the legends of Major League Baseball when Major League Baseball was all white,” said Kendrick. “For historical significance that is extremely meaningful.”

At the same time, he feels it is up to organization’s like the museum to make sure the context is not be forgotten.

“We should never forget that once upon a time by no choice of these Black and Hispanic players, they couldn’t play in the major leagues,” said Kendrick.

“The conditions that led to a need for a Negro League were sorrowful and shameful. Segregation is one of the most shameful chapters in this country's history. But the negro leagues themselves that is America at her finest. You won’t let me play with you; I create my own.”

That is why Kendrick sees this as a salute to all who participated in the Negro Leagues for their perseverance.

“It may be one of the greatest tools of hope, determination and inspiration in the annals of American history. And it's all wrapped up in these brothers that just wanted to play ball,” said Kendrick.

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