Numbers drive baseball, a game whose managers, analysts and fans obsess over matchups, tendencies and results. Its box scores, those proto-spreadsheets, instantly turn human accomplishments into history. The quest is for clean, comparable data.
But for decades, the human aspect of the game — specifically, the racism that pro baseball both reflected and perpetuated — clouded that data. While the feats of white players were carefully recorded and celebrated, the accomplishments of Black players in the Negro Leagues were set apart or forgotten entirely.