A couple of months ago Joe Posnanski wrote the following, in the course of a “manifesto” about the Hall of Fame:
He’s not trying to claim that Negro Leaguers don’t belong in the Hall of Fame or anything like that (obviously), but rather he’s arguing that there’s no way to use them to help establish standards for the Hall—because all we have are “some great Turkey Stearnes stories.” This pretty much presents, in a nutshell, the conventional wisdom that all our research is dedicated to overthrowing—the notion that the Negro Leagues exist in some hazy netherworld of unverifiable myth, tall tales, gut feelings, subjective judgments. There is, in fact, a vast body of quite verifiable fact and analyzable data waiting for us, locked away in crumbling newspaper files and microfilm spools and old records.
The great task of Negro League researchers is to make it as difficult as possible for sportswriters (especially ones as sympathetic to the Negro Leagues as Poz) to say something like this. We’ll never fully succeed in banishing such assumptions, or putting the records of Negro Leaguers on the same footing (in terms of accuracy and comprehensiveness) as those of major leaguers, but we have to try.
And wouldn’t it be great if you could eventually say of some player, “Well, his career looks a lot like Turkey Stearnes’s—how can you keep him out of the Hall?”