The Negro Major Leagues are kind of like a Rubik’s Cube. Fun to play with, difficult to figure out. More than any other sport, baseball is a game of numbers. Except that much Negro Leagues data is inconsistent. If it exists at all. What’s more, since schedules were much shorter in length compared to Major League Baseball, sample sizes were smaller.
The participants also moved around, often for financial considerations. Many played in different leagues in different countries throughout the year. The competition level could vary from place to place, which made any statistics moot in some cases.
Because the final pitch was thrown seven decades ago, few with firsthand knowledge are still around to share it with us. We don't have film highlights or even much photographic evidence. We’re left to separate truth from hyperbole in what little analysis is available.
All we know is that some of the greatest baseball players who ever lived played in the Negro Leagues. Here are the best of the best in history.
Note: Players with brief Negro Leagues careers before they played in the major leagues were not considered. That includes Roy Campanella, Larry Doby, Luke Easter, Minnie Minoso, Don Newcombe and Jackie Robinson, to name a few. Statistics are courtesy of the Seamheads database. Incomplete data is marked by an asterisk.