Baseball legend Willie Mays says it’s ‘amazing’ he has 10 more hits after MLB integrated Negro League statistics

Baseball legend Willie Mays never expected to get 10 more career hits five decades after his last game. But that’s exactly what happened last week when Major League Baseball integrated Negro League statistics into its record books.

“So that’s a very good thing,” Mays told CNN in a statement Wednesday. “It must be some kind of record for a 93-year-old.”

The Hall of Famer is considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Over the course of his career, he hit 660 home runs and had 3,283 hits in 23 MLB seasons, mostly with the New York Giants. He’s also remembered for making “The Catch,” an over-the-shoulder grab in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series – one of the best defensive plays of all time.

“The Say Hey Kid” had something to say about his experience as a teenager with the Negro American League’s Birmingham Black Barons. His 10 hits with the Barons now count, bumping his career hit total to 3,293 – good for 12th on the all-time hits list.

“I was still in high school,” when he joined the team in 1948, Mays told CNN. “Our school did not have a baseball team. I played football and basketball, but I loved baseball. So my dad let me to play … but ONLY if I stayed in school. He wanted me to graduate. I played with the team on weekends until school was out for the summer.”

“I thought that was IT; that was the top of the world. Man, I was so proud to play with those guys,” Mays said in the statement.

The New York Giants purchased Mays’ contract in 1950 – three years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier – and the next season his stellar MLB career began.

As a result of the MLB incorporating the statistics of former Negro Leagues players into its historical records on its website, legendary leaders in some categories like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb have now been replaced in the record books by players who were not allowed to play on the same fields as them during segregation.

Josh Gibson, one of the greatest sluggers in the history of the Negro Leagues, is now listed as MLB’s all-time career leader in batting average at .372, moving ahead of Cobb at .367. The MLB website shows Gibson also overtaking Ruth in career slugging percentage.

The MLB’s action added over 2,300 Negro League players from 1920-1948 to its database.

“I’m glad that all the guys who played are getting credit for their hits, because those pitchers were good,” Mays said, mentioning Satchel Paige, considered one of baseball’s greatest pitchers and who is now ranked third place all-time for earned run average in a single season with his performance in 1944 for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League.

Mays called his statistical accomplishment at age 93 “amazing.”

“I’m very grateful to all the people who looked out for me back then, and to MLB for going back and making sure we got credit for those years,” he said.

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