The Negro Leagues is a Great Addition to MLB The Show 23

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storylines mode the negro leagues

The Negro Leagues is a Great Addition to MLB The Show 23

Baseball Is Fun

If we’re being honest, there is no reason for big sports video game franchises to innovate. These franchises basically print money every year, so there’s no real reason to try anything new. Madden NFL 23, FIFA 23 and MLB the Show all ranked in the top 10 of highest-selling video games last year. Fans complain that these games are the same year-to-year, but they still end up buying them en masse.

It’s for that reason the folks behind MLB The Show 23 deserve praise for coming up with something new. San Diego Studio created a brand new mode for this year’s game called Storylines mode: The Negro Leagues. Not only is it a first-of-its-kind mode for a sports game, but it’s also really good.

This new mode tells the stories of eight of the greatest players to play in the Negro Leagues. The cast ranges from well-known legends like Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige to lesser-known players like Martin Dihigo. Dihigo was a Cuban wizard who played all nine positions and excelled at all of them. 

MLB The Show 23 Storylines mode: The Negro Leagues A Visually Stunning History Lesson

Each player gets their own segment in the game. Their stories are told by Bob Kendrick, the President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Kendrick tells great anecdotes about the players and then you get to play a challenge as that player. The mode is meant to be educational as much as anything else.

I know getting a history lesson while playing a video game may not seem like everybody’s idea of fun. I’ll even admit, I usually have little patience for cut scenes and anything that isn’t straight gameplay. But the producers of Storylines really put a lot of love into it and their passion for the project really shows. 

Using a blend of archival footage, still photos, and really beautiful animations, the player vignettes narrated by Kendrick are really wonderfully done. If you’re a fan of baseball history, you’ll love it. Even if you aren’t a baseball historian, I think you’ll appreciate what you’ll learn. If nothing else, they look really great.

Take Satchel Paige, for example. Paige is on the short list of the most well-known Negro League players, but the stories Kendrick tells really come to life. The first is about how nobody knew how old he was because a goat ate the bible with his birth certificate in it. The second vignette is about the nicknames Paige had for his pitches. Starting with the second challenge, his pitches are no longer referred to as a fastball, curveball, etc. They’re called by the names he gave them. 

MLB The Show 23 Storylines mode: The Negro Leagues Features Painstaking Detail

I didn’t find the challenges themselves all that engrossing to play. They’re quick gameplay snippets designed to just give you a taste of what these players were as ballplayers. That said, the painstaking detail that went into everything surrounding the gameplay is remarkable. 

storylines mode the negro leagues

Negro League games were played on Sundays so most spectators came right from church to the ballpark in their Sunday best. The designers went into great detail to make the fans in the stands era appropriate which as I understand it was quite a lengthy process. The crowd all features white and black spectators sitting together which is not only historically accurate but was also unique to the Negro Leagues as crowds at Major League games were segregated. These kinds of details really show how much thought and effort went into developing Storylines.

MLB The Show 23 Storylines mode: The Negro Leagues has a Chicago twist

Storylines mode features an icon with Chicago ties. Kendrick called Andrew “Rube” Foster the greatest mind the sport of baseball has ever seen. Foster was a heck of a ballplayer, legend has it he taught Hall-of-Famer Christy Mathewson how to throw his famed “fadeaway” pitch which is now known as a screwball.

But Foster etched his name in baseball history as an owner-manager for the Chicago American Giants. In 1920 Foster convinced seven other owners to start the Negro National League. It became the first African-American baseball league to achieve a level of stability. Foster’s story is covered in great detail in Storylines.

The designers of Storylines are calling this season one with the intention of telling more stories in the future. One notable name missing from this year’s collection is Josh Gibson, but there are plans to include him in future editions of the game. You gotta leave your audience wanting more, right? 

As for the rest of MLB The Show 23, I’ll let people who are far more into it than I am dig in on the gameplay, changes from last year, etc. I was just intrigued by a new feature in this year’s game and to use an extremely cheesy pun, Storylines mode: The Negro Leagues is a home run.

Author: Dan Weiner

Hailing from Atlanta and attending college at the University of Texas, Dan is passionate about sports, particularly college football and soccer. He's a diehard Atlanta pro sports and Texas Longhorns fan. He likes every sport and will watch anything and everything the weirder the better. He joined Betsperts after an 11 year career in television production at ESPN.