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MLB change hoists Indianapolis Negro League player to tops in baseball records

Indianapolis baseball legend makes MLB record books

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Tuesday was a huge day in baseball and for players from the Negro Leagues baseball teams. Major League Baseball agreed to list their stats alongside MLB players.

One of the players at the top of the list was Oscar Charleston, a native of Indianapolis.

Charleston was buried at Floral Park Cemetery. Two American Flags waved Wednesday at his grave.

At the age of 15, he enlisted in the military and served in the Philippines during World War I.

When he got back, he started his Hall of Fame career with the Indianapolis ABCs. Playing centerfield, he’s described by Baseball Hall of Fame historians as being a powerful hitter who could power the ball to all fields and also bunt. He was also extremely fast on the bases and in the field.

In 916 games over 18 years, he amassed more than 1,200 hits and 143 home runs, but what landed him at the top of MLB record books was his batting average.

Charleston officially holds the third-best career batting average of any baseball player ever at .363. He sits behind fellow Negro Leagues legend Josh Gibson (.372) and former first-place holder Ty Cobb (.367).

Scroll down for a look at updated all-time leaderboards courtesy of MLB on X.

He also has the sixth-best career on-base percentage (.449), the seventh-best slugging percentage (.614), and the fifth-best on-base plus slugging percentage (1.063).

For a single season, Charleston’s .434 batting average in 1921 is fourth-best, while his .427 in 1925 is seventh. Josh Gibson is now the single-season batting champ.

Charleston’s last season was 1941, six years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Charleston died in 1954 at age 57. Lynne Jackson, one of Charleston’s relatives, said the change to MLB records was going to be amazing, noting it was “just sad that they weren’t around themselves to see it.”

Jackson also said, “I think we’re in a season of recognition and reconciliation.”

On an additional tombstone placed in 2020, fellow baseball legend Honus Wagner, who was white, is quoted as saying, “I’ve seen all the great players in the many years I’ve been around and have yet to see anyone greater than Charleston.”

WISH-TV digital journalist Ashley Fowler contributed to this story.