It took until 2020 before MLB would recognize the Negro League records, with recognition and their contributions to baseball..
Joshua "Josh" Gibson and Baseball
Born to Mark and Nancy Gibson in 1911 in Buena Vista, Georgia. His parents were sharecroppers until his father moved to Pittsburg in 1921 to work in the steel mills, saving money to bring the family up by 1924. Josh also went to work in the steel mills while playing for the amateur baseball team for Gimbels. Legend tells of Gibson being in the stands in 1930 when the Homestead Grays catcher, Buck Ewing, was hurt, and Gibson was asked to suit up.
Here's where Gibson played during his career:
- 1930-31 Homestead Grays
- 1932-36 Pittsburg Crawfords
- 1933-39 Homestead Grays
- 1930 Cuidad Dominican League
- 1940 Mexican League
- 1942-46 Homestead Grays
In 1929 Josh met and married Helen Mason. Shortly after, Helen gave birth to twins but died in childbirth. The twins were raised by Helen's parents.
In the seventeen-year career of Josh Gibson had a batting average of .359 (Babe Ruth's was .342). Gibson won batting championships in 1936, 38, 42, and 45. Clearly, he was a great slugger. Ted Williams' batting average was .406 in 1941, and Gibson had a .441 in 1943. Records are still being validated, but it is challenging because of the lack of records.
Major League Baseball Recognizes Records of Negro Leagues
It makes you wonder why it took so long for Negro League Baseball players. To remedy this omission. It took them until December 2020 to correct these long-deserved records. The Negro Baseball League was founded in 1920 and ended in 1948.
And then it took until 1971 when the Baseball Hall of Fame even inducted any Negro League players. Satchel Paige was the first to be installed in 1971, followed by Josh Gibson in 1972. All in all, 35 Negro League players have made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Some names are Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Bud Leonard, Monte Irvin, Cool Papa Bell, Oscar Charleston, Rube Foster, and others.
Note that Rube Foster is considered the best African American pitchers of the early 1900s and is also the 'Father of Black Baseball."
Many fans, players, coaches, etc., have believed that Josh Gibson was the greatest baseball player ever.
Here are a few prominent quotes regarding Josh Gibson from other players:
Walter Johnson, "he can do everything, hits the ball a mile, catches so easy he could be in a rocking chair and can hit a ball a mile."
Satchel Paige, "greatest hitter I ever pitched to."
Monte Irvin, "Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were no Josh Gibson."
Many in the baseball field called Josh Gibson "the Black Babe Ruth," and others say Babe Ruth was the "White Josh Gibson."
Records of the Negro League
Records were not always recorded or even accurate. Many of their games were not 'official', or played according to the rules of baseball. For instance, it is said Gibson hit a ball some 587 feet at a game in Tampa, Florid. Another was about hitting a ball out of Yankee Stadium.
Stats for Josh Gibson:
- 238 Home Runs
- 359 Batting Average
Remember, this was all before TV cameras and serious record keeping. So it is difficult to verify what fans and sportswriters were witness to. But no one denies that Josh Gibson was truly a legend.
Pittsburg Baseball Field Renamed
Ammon Field, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, was formally renamed Josh Gibson Field in 2008. His son, Josh Gibson, Jr., also played a short time for the Homestead Grays, established the Josh Gibson Foundation, and focus on the youth of Pittsburg. A made for cable movie, Soul of the Game was released in 1996.
In 1943 Gibson was diagnosed with a brain tumor with doctors suggesting surgery, but Gibson refused, afraid he would be a vegetable. He died in 1947 at the age of 35 and is buried in Allegheny Cemetery, Section 50, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.