Joshua “Josh” Gibson was an American Negro league baseball player. Better known as “the Black Babe Ruth,” he was considered to be one of the greatest power hitter and catcher in the history of baseball. Elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in year 1972, his Hall of Fame plaque claims he hit “almost 800” homeruns in his 17-year career. In his honor the U.S. Postal Services on July 6, 2000, issued a 33 cents commemorative stamp featuring his painting and his name. Satchel Paige, who was Gibson's teammate on the Pittsburgh Crawfords and a Hall of Famer too, said, "He was the greatest hitter who ever lived." Another Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, said about Gibson "He hits the ball a mile,"
He never got to play a major baseball game, due to the reason that blacks were not allowed to play major or minor leagues in that time period. The irony was this rule soon changed 3 months after his death. Former Cleveland Buckeye pitcher and manager Alonzo Boone said “Josh was a better power hitter than Babe Ruth, Ted Williams or anybody else I’ve ever seen. Anything he touched was hit hard. He could power outside pitches to right field. Shortstops would move to left field when Josh came to the plate.”
Early Life and Death of Josh Gibson
Josh Gibson was born on 21st December, 1911 in Buena Vista, Georgia and moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1923. In Pittsburgh his father, Mark Gibson worked as a laborer in Carnegie-Illinois Steel Company. Josh was the eldest of 3 children. Before moving to Pittsburgh he completed 5 years of his elementary school. He wanted to become an electrician and thus attended Allegheny Pre-Vocational School and Conroy Pre-Vocational School. His education ended after the ninth grade after which he joined Gimbels departmental store where he worked as an elevator employee. It was a team sponsored by Gimbels for which Josh first played baseball in an organized manner. Later in 1929 he joined a semi pro team Pittsburgh Crawfords and then went on to join the Homestead Grays.
Josh married Helen in 1929. However she died shortly thereafter in 1930, while giving birth to a twin son. Their daughter was named Helen after her mother and son, Josh Gibson, Jr. Josh also died on 20th January, 1947 at age 35. He was diagnosed with brain tumor in 1943, but refused to take proper medical treatment. He died four years later in 1947, due to a severe stroke.
Career and Legacy of Josh Gibson
With height of 6.1 feet and weighing 210 pounds, Josh was a strong armed right handed hitting catcher. His batting stance (semi-crouched, flat-footed) helped him generate right swings to score tape measured home runs. Hitting 500 feet homeruns was common for Josh. He initially played professional baseball leagues with semi professional team, Homestead Gray in 1930 and moved to Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1932. He briefly played for Dominion Republic in 1937 but later again joined Grays during 1937 to 1939 and 1942 to 1946. During 1940 and 1941, Josh played in the Mexican League for Vera Cruz.
Paige described Josh: “You look for his weakness and while your lookin’ for it, he’s liable to hit 45 home runs.” Josh’s lifetime batting average was more than 0.350. In 1934 he hit 69 homeruns overall and 11 home runs in 52 games. Gibson is credited for a 580 foot homerun in 1987 at the Yankees Stadium. He also led Negro National League in homeruns for 10 consecutive seasons. He hit 84 homeruns in 1936 and 75 homeruns in 1931. In Mexico League he hit 44 homeruns in 450 at bats. He earned the Most Valuable Player award in Puerto Rican league and scored an average of .479.