Homer Willie Mays Negro Leagues could give him 661

There are a handful of numbers throughout the history of baseball that are so important, so revered, so iconic that they need no further explanation. 714 and 755 count there, too .406 or 56 in a row. If we move from baseball card statistics to uniform numbers, then 42 he is also part of that club. You know right away what all this means.

For almost 50 years, 660 it was also one of those numbers. Willie Mays won the 660th and final leg of the regular season of his career on August 17, 1973, at Shea Stadium, as a member of the Mets in Don Gullett, Cincinnati. Sure, he hit one in the playoffs (’71) and three more in the All-Star Games (’56, ’60 and ’65) and certainly countless others in Spring Training and other shows, but 660 is the number. It’s on the Hall of Fame plaque. It’s on some of his autographs. It is written on the wall at Oracle Park. When someone goes over 660, it’s a big deal. He is as associated with Mays as the 24 he was carrying on his back.

That number 24 will never change. But the 660, believe it or not, could. Forty-seven years after Mays last played professional baseball, he could have won another dinger. How to 661 sound?

What we are going to explain is not set in stone, to be clear. There are many things to research, clarify, approve and update. But as this research continues, so does our understanding of historical record.

“We have that home … 1948 for Willie Mays,” Larry Lester, a prominent Black League historian, said in Thursday’s episode of the Ballpark Dimensions podcast. “We’ll add that; he’ll have 661. I found the box score.”

So much, 660, hello 661? That would be earth-shattering. Let’s explain how we got here.

On December 16, Major League Baseball announced that the Black Leagues – especially a group of seven leagues who were active between 1920-48 – will be granted Major League status. This was done to correct the wrong decision of a “Special Baseball Record Committee” that met in ’68 and granted four major leagues (along with current U.S. and national leagues) major league status, but failed. not even consider black leagues. This designation was long overdue and beyond the need to recognize that black and Latino players of generations ago were not younger and should not be neglected.

“It gives an additional belief in how significant the Black Leagues have been, both on and off the field,” said Black League Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick. “These men and women, from players to owners, don’t “For me, this baseball move is more about correcting a mistake,” he told legendary sports writer Claire Smith.

This immediately opened up the world of baseball to a lot of questions about how the inclusion of Black League statistics could change the number we all know. For example, Hall of Fame’s career statistics, Joe Tinker, include his time in the NL and his two years in the Federal League from 1914-15, which is considered a Major League. He has 31 career goals, which is a combination of “29 in the National League and two in the Federal League.” On the other hand, the pages of Major League legend players such as Mays, Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby do not include Black League numbers – yet, anyway.

While we have tried to speculate, using the Black League database compiled at Seamheads.com, it seems that the inclusion of these statistics could have some significant effects on the rankings of all time. Josh Gibson will not be the all-time leader for the home team, but he may have the best batting average for a single season (.466 in 1943). There will be about two dozen new players, including Leon Day who will join Bob Feller as the only men to throw the Opening Day no-days. There will be many more changes like this.

But that work is not yet complete, as only about 75% of the boxing scores for the popular Black League games between 1920-48 were collected and cataloged in the Seamheads database. Without a box score, there will be no official number, even if it is known that an event has occurred. Like, say, an extra run for Willie Mays. Mays played briefly for the black barons of Birmingham at 48 and is not recorded at home on his Seamheads page. But as Ben Lindbergh, who deserves a lot of credit for bringing up black league status in the spring this summer, pointed out this week, he pointed out this week:

“Mays has sunk at least once in his rookie campaign for the Black Barons, but no boxing score has been found. Until one is found, his famous 660 Homer mark will remain the same.”

And that, we thought, was that. The fact that Mays’ home was probably missing 25% of the boxing scores. It may take years for him to be found. May not To be found. Six hundred and sixty will be going nowhere soon.


Except … on Thursday, we invited Lester to join us on the podcast to discuss the process of getting to this point and how the news affected him. After all, Lester is a co-founder of the Black League Baseball Museum and chair of the Black League Committee of the American Baseball Research Society (SABR). He is an author and editor in many fields and is one of the most prominent researchers in the Black League. Probably none of this would have been possible without his efforts.

When we brought up the point of missing scores, he agreed, but said there would be more.

“We’ve found more than that,” Lester said, “but we only have about 75 percent in the database right now.”

So, right away, I knew that our speculative guess as to how the numbers would change – such as Gibson’s .466, or 200 OPS +, or Satchel Paige’s 1,563 extra innings – it was incomplete. These numbers can and will change as more information is entered.

“We probably found 99% of the games in the 1920s, and the ’30s are difficult. In the 1940s and late 1930s, we probably found 90% of the scheduled games,” Lester continued. “We are in good shape. It takes some time to gather the numbers. Each line in that box must be entered manually into a spreadsheet, which is loaded into a database that we created.

“And that database information belongs to Gary Ashwill with Seamheads, so that this data is available to everyone on the Internet. We will get there and they will change some records, good bad and indifferent. Some people will be upset to learn that Josh Gibson has never run 800 runs from home. “

But the real news was not what has not been found yet. It is what It has – the one who is missing run home.

The flight home was hit on August 11, 1948, when Mays was about three months old at 17 years old. As Lindbergh noted, that home was mentioned in newspaper articles. She appeared in Birmingham and, if this news is correct, was hit by a 20-year-old Clarke “webbo” from Cleveland Buckeyes, Vibert, Panama. (Clarke will continue to appear briefly in seven games for Washington senators in ’55).

So if the tape score exists and just hasn’t been entered into the system yet, it looks like it will be pretty soon. (As the process continues, MLB and Elias Sports Bureau – MLB’s official statistician – are convening for a formal review to determine how to proceed.) The majors will have 661 home rounds in the Major League – 660 NL homers and one in black Leagues. one regular season at home, anyway.

“We also have a round that he managed in the third game of the World Series in 1948,” Lester continued. “There was no boxing score. Albert Pujols is safe now with 662 … but don’t count me yet. I’m still searching. “

Of course, Pujols also has 19 home runs in the postseason and we don’t count those in his career total. Six hundred and sixty-one, if and when Mays arrives, they seem safe.

In 2015, the New York Times recounted the end of Mays’ action in a story entitled “The night Willie Mays hit number 660 was just another number,” noting that he had little fanfare because he didn’t broke records and with six weeks left in the season, no one knew it would be his last; functionally, he was no different from number 657 or number 648. He will always be his last home, but maybe the Times was more accurate than they knew. May be was just another number.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and host of the Ballpark Dimensions podcast.