Who is Josh Gibson? Meet MLB's new (old) batting champ

FILE-A portrait of baseball great Josh Gibson in a Homestead Grays baseball uniform. Known as the "Black Babe Ruth" for his home run prowess, Gibson played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays in the Negro Leagues. (Getty Images/Bettm

Josh Gibson is now Major League Baseball’s all-time career leader in batting average with a .372 batting average, surpassing Ty Cobb’s .367 average. 

Gibson earned the accolade after Negro League records of over 2,300 players were added to an MLB database following a three-year research project. 

Who is Josh Gibson and what other baseball records does he have?

Josh Gibson played for the Homestead Grays, Memphis Red Sox, and Pittsburgh Crawfords. He was considered one of the greatest baseball players in the Negro leagues as a power-hitting catcher with a combination of a strong arm, agility, and a quick release. 

The Georgia native also became the career leader in slugging percentage (.718) and OPS (1.177), moving ahead of Babe Ruth (.690 and 1.164), per the updated MLB database.

RELATED: Josh Gibson shakes up MLB records as Negro Leagues stats officially recognized

josh gibson batting record mlb

FILE-Josh Gibson, catcher for the Negro League Homestead Grays, is approaching first base as he runs out a ground ball in Griffith Stadium circa 1940 in Washington, D.C. (Photo Reproduction by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)

In 1943, Gibson’s .466 batting average for the Homestead Grays was the season benchmark, followed by Charlie "Chino" Smith’s .451 for the 1929 New York Lincoln Giants. They overtook the .440 by Hugh Duffy for the National League’s Boston team in 1894.

Gibson’s .974 slugging percentage in 1937 became the season record, and Barry Bonds’ .863 in 2001 dropped to fifth, also trailing Mules Suttles' .877 in 1926, Gibson’s .871 in 1943, and Smith’s .870 in 1929.

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Bond’s prior OPS record of 1.421 in 2004 dropped to third behind Gibson’s 1.474 in 1937 and 1.435 in 1943.

Gibson appeared in 568 games and amassed 806 hits, 725 RBIs, and 165 home runs, according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. 

The AP noted that standards for season leaders are the same for Negro Leagues as the other leagues: 3.1 plate appearances or one inning for each game played by a player's team.

A special committee on baseball records decided in 1969 to recognize six major leagues dating to 1876: the National (which launched in 1876), the American (1901), the American Association (1882-1891), Union Association (1884), Players’ League (1890) and Federal League (1914-1915). But it excluded the National Association (1871-75), citing an "erratic schedule and procedures.

In 2020, the MLB announced it would correct an oversight and add the Negro League records. John Thorn, MLB’s official historian, chaired a 17-person committee that included Negro Leagues experts and statisticians.

What other Negro League records were added to the MLB database?

Willie Mays gained 10 hits from the 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, raising his total to 3,293. Minnie Minoso surpassed 2,000 hits, credited with 150 for the New York Cubans from 1946-1948, which bolstered his total to 2,113.

Jackie Robinson, who broke MLB’s color barrier with the 1947 Dodgers, was credited with 49 hits with the 1945 Kansas City Monarchs, raising his total to 1,567.

Among pitchers, Satchel Paige gained 28 wins, increasing his total to 125.

An updated version of MLB’s database will become public before the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants play a tribute game to the Negro Leagues on June 20 at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  This story was reported from Washington, D.C.