Josh Gibson Surpasses Ty Cobb: A New MLB Record Holder from the Negro Leagues

Josh Gibson, Ty Cobb, Negro League, MLB records, career batting average, baseball history, Josh Gibson stats, MLB Hall of Fame, Negro League players, Josh Gibson records, MLB batting leaders, Josh Gibson slugging percentage, Negro League legends

Discover the incredible story of Josh Gibson, the Negro League legend who has officially surpassed Ty Cobb as the MLB career batting average record holder. Learn about Gibson’s illustrious career, his newly recognized records, and the impact of MLB’s decision to include Negro League statistics in its official history.

Josh Gibson
Josh Gibson

In December 2020, Major League Baseball (MLB) made a monumental decision to recognize the statistics from seven different Negro Leagues, spanning the years 1920 to 1948, as part of official Major League history. This long-overdue acknowledgment has reshaped the landscape of baseball records, finally giving due credit to the incredible talents that flourished in the Negro Leagues. As a result, one of the most significant changes in MLB history has been the dethroning of Ty Cobb as the career batting average record holder, replaced by the legendary Josh Gibson.

Who is Josh Gibson?

Josh Gibson, often referred to as the “Black Babe Ruth,” was a powerhouse catcher for the Memphis Red Sox, Pittsburgh Crawfords, and Homestead Grays. His career spanned from 1930 to 1946 in both the National Negro League and National Negro League II. Gibson was known for his prodigious hitting ability and was a dominant force against every pitcher he faced. Throughout his career, he amassed numerous accolades:

  • 12-time All-Star: Gibson’s consistent performance earned him multiple All-Star selections, highlighting his status as one of the premier players of his era.
  • Two-time Negro League World Series Champion: His contributions were pivotal in securing championships for his teams.
  • Three-time batting champion: His exceptional hitting prowess was recognized with multiple batting titles.
  • Two-time Triple Crown winner: Gibson’s ability to lead the league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in (RBIs) in the same season showcased his all-around offensive skills.
  • 11-time home run leader: His power at the plate was unmatched, leading the league in home runs numerous times.
  • Eight-time OPS leader: Gibson’s overall hitting efficiency was demonstrated by his league-leading on-base plus slugging (OPS) scores.

One of Gibson’s most remarkable achievements was his career batting average of .373, surpassing Ty Cobb’s long-standing record of .366. In 1943, he drove in 109 runs in just 69 games, underlining his ability to perform under pressure. Tragically, Gibson’s life was cut short when he died of a stroke at the age of 35, just before the start of the 1947 season. Despite his early death, his legacy has now been firmly cemented in baseball history.

Gibson’s New Records

With MLB’s recognition of Negro League statistics, Josh Gibson now holds several major records:

  • Career Slugging Percentage: Gibson’s slugging percentage of .718 is the highest in MLB history, showcasing his extraordinary power-hitting ability.
  • Career OPS: His on-base plus slugging (OPS) of 1.176 is also the highest ever recorded, reflecting his comprehensive offensive dominance.
  • Single-Season Records: Gibson’s .466 batting average in 1943, his .974 slugging percentage in 1937, and his 1.474 OPS in 1937 are all-time single-season records. Remarkably, he also holds the second-highest single-season OPS with 1.427 in 1943, edging out Barry Bonds’ 2004 OPS of 1.421.

Ty Cobb’s Remaining Records

Although Ty Cobb has lost his title as the career batting average leader, he still holds several notable records. Cobb is remembered for his aggressive base running and holds the record for the most successful steals of home base, with 54 in total and eight in a single season (1912). Additionally, Cobb ranks fourth all-time in career stolen bases with 897, showcasing his speed and base-running acumen.

Other Negro Leaguers in the Record Books

The inclusion of Negro League statistics has brought several other legendary players into the official MLB records. Among the top ten in various categories, we now see:

  • Oscar Charleston: Ranked third all-time in batting average (.363), sixth in on-base percentage (.449), seventh in slugging percentage (.614), and fifth in OPS (1.063).
  • Jud Wilson: Fifth all-time in batting average (.350) and tenth in on-base percentage (.434).
  • Turkey Stearnes: Sixth in batting average (.348), sixth in slugging percentage (.616), and ninth in OPS (1.033).
  • Buck Leonard: Eighth in batting average (.345), fifth in on-base percentage (.452), and seventh in OPS (1.042).
  • Mule Suttles: Fifth in slugging percentage (.621) and tenth in OPS (1.031).

Josh Gibson’s Hall of Fame Status

Josh Gibson was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, a testament to his outstanding contributions to the game. He is among 37 Negro League players honored in the Hall of Fame, with the first being Satchel Paige in 1971 and the most recent inductee being Bud Fowler in 2022.


The inclusion of Negro League statistics into Major League Baseball’s official records is a significant and overdue recognition of the immense talent that existed outside the MLB’s historical scope. Josh Gibson, with his incredible career and now-official records, stands as a towering figure in baseball history. His achievements not only highlight his greatness but also serve as a reminder of the rich, yet often overlooked, history of the Negro Leagues. This decision by MLB ensures that the legacies of these players are remembered and celebrated as they rightfully deserve.

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