Josh Gibson

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Josh Gibson
Josh Gibson HOF Plaque.JPG
Gibson's plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Catcher
Born: (1911-12-21)December 21, 1911
Buena Vista, Georgia
Died: January 20, 1947(1947-01-20) (aged 35)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Batted: RightThrew: Right
Professional debut
Negro leagues: July 31, 1930 for the Homestead Grays
Last professional appearance
1946
Career statistics
Batting average.359
Slugging percentage.648
Teams
Career highlights and awards
  • 12× All-Star (1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1939-Comiskey, 1939-Yankee, 1942-Comiskey, 1942-Griffith, 1943, 1944, 1946-Griffith, 1946-Comiskey)
  • Negro World Series champion (1943, 1944)
Inducted1972
Election MethodNegro Leagues Committee
 
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For the Australian rules footballer, see Josh Gibson (footballer).
Josh Gibson
Josh Gibson HOF Plaque.JPG
Gibson's plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Catcher
Born: (1911-12-21)December 21, 1911
Buena Vista, Georgia
Died: January 20, 1947(1947-01-20) (aged 35)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Batted: RightThrew: Right
Professional debut
Negro leagues: July 31, 1930 for the Homestead Grays
Last professional appearance
1946
Career statistics
Batting average.359
Slugging percentage.648
Teams
Career highlights and awards
  • 12× All-Star (1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1939-Comiskey, 1939-Yankee, 1942-Comiskey, 1942-Griffith, 1943, 1944, 1946-Griffith, 1946-Comiskey)
  • Negro World Series champion (1943, 1944)
Inducted1972
Election MethodNegro Leagues Committee

Joshua "Josh" Gibson (December 21, 1911 – January 20, 1947) was an American who played the position of catcher in baseball's Negro leagues. He played for the Homestead Grays from 1930 to 1931, moved to the Pittsburgh Crawfords from 1932 to 1936, and returned to the Grays from 1937 to 1939 and 1942 to 1946. In 1937, he played for Ciudad Trujillo in Trujillo's Dominican League and from 1940 to 1941, he played in the Mexican League for Rojos del Aguila de Veracruz. Gibson served as the first manager of the Santurce Crabbers, one of the most historic franchises of the Puerto Rico Baseball League. He stood 6-foot-1 (185 cm) and weighed 210 pounds (95 kg) at the peak of his career.[1]

Baseball historians consider Gibson to be among the very best catchers and power hitters in the history of any league, including the Major Leagues, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. Gibson was known as the "black Babe Ruth."[2] (In fact, some fans at the time who saw both Gibson and Ruth play called Ruth "the white Josh Gibson.") [3] He never played in Major League Baseball because of an unwritten "gentleman's agreement" policy that prevented non-white players from participating.

Early life[edit]

A water tower in Buena Vista, Georgia, proudly proclaims the town to be the "Home of Josh Gibson".

Gibson was born in Buena Vista, Georgia, c. December 21, 1911.[4] In 1923, Gibson moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where his father, Mark Gibson, found work at the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Company. Entering sixth grade in Pittsburgh, Gibson prepared to become an electrician, attending Allegheny Pre-Vocational School and Conroy Pre-Vocational School. His first experience playing baseball for an organized team came at age 16 when he played third base for an amateur team sponsored by Gimbels department store where he found work as an elevator operator. Shortly thereafter, he was recruited by the Pittsburgh Crawfords, which in 1928 was still a semi-professional team. The Crawfords, controlled by Gus Greenlee, was the top black semi-professional team in the Pittsburgh area and would advance to fully professional, major Negro league status by 1931.[5]

In 1928, Gibson met Helen Mason whom he married on March 7, 1929. When not playing baseball, Gibson continued to work at Gimbels, having given up on his plans to become an electrician to pursue a baseball career. In the summer of 1930, the 18-year-old Gibson was recruited by Cum Posey, owner of the Homestead Grays, which was the preeminent Negro league team in Pittsburgh; Gibson debuted with the Grays on July 31, 1930. On August 11, Gibson's wife, Helen, who was pregnant with twins, went into premature labor and died while giving birth to a twin son, Josh Gibson, Jr., and daughter, Helen, named after her mother. The children were raised by Helen's parents.[5]

Baseball career and statistics[edit]

The Negro leagues generally found it more profitable to schedule relatively few league games and allow the teams to earn extra money through barnstorming against semi-professional and other non-league teams.[6] Thus, it is important to distinguish between records against all competition and records in league games only. For example, against all levels of competition Gibson hit 69 home runs in 1934; the same year in league games he hit 11 home runs in 52 games.[1][6]

In 1933, he hit .467 with 55 home runs in 137 games against all levels of competition. His lifetime batting average is said to be higher than .350, with other sources putting it as high as .384, the best in Negro league history.[7]

The Baseball Hall of Fame maintains he hit "almost 800" homers in his 17-year career[8] against Negro league and independent baseball opposition. His lifetime batting average, according to the Hall's official data, was .359.[6] It was reported that he won nine home run titles and four batting championships playing for the Crawfords and the Grays. It is also believed that Gibson hit a home run in a Negro league game at Yankee Stadium that struck two feet from the top of the wall circling the center field bleachers, about 580 feet (180 m) from home plate.[citation needed] Although it has never been conclusively proven, Chicago American Giants infielder Jack Marshall said Gibson slugged one over the third deck next to the left field bullpen in 1934 for the only fair ball hit out of Yankee Stadium.[citation needed] Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith once said that Gibson hit more home runs into Griffith Stadium's distant left field bleachers than the entire American League.[9]

There is no published season-by-season breakdown of Gibson's home run totals in all the games he played in various leagues and exhibitions.

The true statistical achievements of Negro league players may be impossible to know as the Negro leagues did not compile complete statistics or game summaries.[6] Based on research of historical accounts performed for the Special Committee on the Negro Leagues, Gibson hit 224 homers in 2,375 at-bats against top black teams, 2 in 56 at-bats against white major-league pitchers and 44 in 450 AB in the Mexican League.[10] John Holway lists Gibson with the same home run totals and a .351 career average, plus 21 for 56 against white major-league pitchers.[10] According to Holway, Gibson ranks third all-time in the Negro leagues in average among players with 2,000+ AB (trailing Jud Wilson by three points and John Beckwith by one).[10] Holway lists him as being second to Mule Suttles in homers, though the all-time leader in HR/AB by a considerable margin - with a homer every 10.6 AB to one every 13.6 for runner-up Suttles.[10]

Recent investigations into Negro league statistics, using box scores from newspapers from across the United States, have led to the estimate that, although as many as two thirds of Negro league team games were played against inferior competition (as traveling exhibition games), Gibson still hit between 150 and 200 home runs in official Negro league games.[6] Though this number appears very conservative next to the statements of "almost 800" to 1000 home runs, this research also credits Gibson with a rate of one home run every 15.9 at bats, which compares favorably with the rates of the top nine home run hitters in Major League history. The commonly cited home run totals in excess of 800 are not indicative of his career total in "official" games because the Negro league season was significantly shorter than the Major League season; typically consisting of less than 60 games per year.[11] The additional home runs cited were most likely accomplished in "unofficial" games against local and non-Negro league competition of varying strengths, including the oft-cited "barnstorming" competitions.

Despite the fact that statistical validation continues to prove difficult for Negro league players, the lack of verifiable figures has led to various amusing "Tall Tales" about immortals such as Gibson.[12] A good example: In the last of the ninth at Pittsburgh, down a run, with a runner on base and two outs, Gibson hits one high and deep, so far into the twilight sky that it disappears from sight, apparently winning the game. The next day, the same two teams are playing again, now in Washington. Just as the teams have positioned themselves on the field, a ball comes falling out of the sky and a Washington outfielder grabs it. The umpire yells to Gibson, "You're out! In Pittsburgh, yesterday!"

Death[edit]

In early 1943, Josh Gibson fell into a coma and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After he regained consciousness, he refused the option of surgical removal and lived the next four years with recurring headaches. In 1944, Josh was hospitalized in Washington, DC at Gallinger Hospital for mental observation.[13]

He died of a stroke in Pittsburgh in 1947 at age 35 just three months before Jackie Robinson became the first black player in modern major league history. Some believe the stroke was linked to drug problems that plagued him in his later years.[14] He was buried at the Allegheny Cemetery in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville, where he lay in an unmarked grave until a small plaque was placed in 1975.[15]

Legacy[edit]

Larry Doby, who broke the color barrier in the American League a few months after Robinson broke it in the National League, stated at the time of Robinson's signing with a minor league team of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945, "One of the things that was disappointing and disheartening to a lot of the black players at the time was that Jack was not the best player. The best was Josh Gibson. I think that's one of the reasons why Josh died so early - he was heartbroken."[16]

In 1972, Gibson's accomplishments were recognized, along with Buck Leonard's. Gibson and Leonard became the second and third players, respectively, behind Satchel Paige, inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for their outstanding careers in the Negro leagues.[17] Gibson's Hall of Fame plaque claims "almost 800" home runs for his career.

The U.S. Postal Service issued a 33-cent U.S. commemorative postage stamp which features a painting of Gibson and includes his name.[18]

In 2000, he ranked 18th on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, the highest-ranking of five players to have played all or most of their careers in the Negro leagues. (The others were Satchel Paige, Buck Leonard, Cool Papa Bell and Oscar Charleston.) That same year, he was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

In 2009, a statue of Gibson was installed inside the center field gate of Nationals Park along with ones of Frank Howard and Walter Johnson.

Ammon Field at 2217 Bedford Ave., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was renamed Josh Gibson Field in his honor and is the site of a Pennsylvania State Historical Marker.[19]

His son, Josh Gibson, Jr., played baseball for the Homestead Grays.[20] His son also was instrumental in the forming of the Josh Gibson Foundation.[21][22][23]

Films[edit]

Miscellany[edit]

Career statistics[edit]

Negro leagues[edit]

According to the Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia, Josh Gibson's Negro official league stats were as follows: Total years played - 16. Total games played - 501. Total career at bats - 1679. Total career hits - 607. Total career 2B hits - 89. Total career 3B hits - 35. Total career HR - 146. Total career SB 11. Career Batting Average .362

The first official statistics for the Negro leagues were compiled as part of a statistical study sponsored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and supervised by Larry Lester and Dick Clark, in which a research team collected statistics from thousands of boxscores of league-sanctioned games.[6] The first results from this study were the statistics for Negro league Hall of Famers elected prior to 2006, which were published in Shades of Glory by Lawrence D. Hogan. These statistics include the official Negro league statistics for Josh Gibson:

YearTeamGABRH2B3BHRRBISBBBBASLG
1930Homestead217113242051705.338.577
1931Homestead32124263885623011.306.597
1932Pittsburgh491913462105828021.325.555
1933Pittsburgh3813832546283119.391.638
1934Homestead1201000000.500.500
1934Pittsburgh5219039621431127219.326.605
1935Pittsburgh351453754102829716.372.634
1936Pittsburgh2690273932618113.433.711
1937Homestead25973941741336117.423.979
1938Homestead2810531384139113.362.505
1939Homestead21742227321022320.365.865
1940Homestead1210000002.000.000
1942Homestead42138364261738232.304.514
1943Homestead5519269912451274339.474.839
1944Homestead34123274443934115.358.659
1945Homestead1762121724215011.274.532
1946Homestead33111223262731012.288.568
Total16 seasons51018554676661094111543222255.359.648

Source:[6]

Dominican League[edit]

YearTeamABHBA
1937Ciudad Trujillo5324.453

Source:[10]

Mexican League[edit]

YearTeamGABRH2B3BHRRBISBBBBASLG
1940Veracruz22923243741138316.467.989
1941Veracruz9435810013431333124775.374.754
Total2 seasons116450132177387441621091.393.802

Source:[29] , p. 151.

Cuban (Winter) League[edit]

YearTeamABRH2B3BHRRBISBBASLG
1937/38Habana61112132313.344.607
1938/39Santa Clara16350587311392.356.638
Total2 seasons22461791051452.353.629

Source:,[30] pp. 222, 225.

See also[edit]


References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Riley, James A. (1994). The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues. New York: Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-0959-6. 
  2. ^ "Josh Gibson". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 
  3. ^ Brashler, William (1978) Josh Gibson: A Life in the Negro Leagues. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. ISBN 1-56663-295-1
  4. ^ Hellmann, Paul T. (May 13, 2013). Historical Gazetteer of the United States. Routledge. p. 221. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Ribowsky, Mark (2004). Josh Gibson: The Power and the Darkness. Urbana, Illinois, USA: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-07224-3. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Hogan, Lawrence D. (2006). Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African-American Baseball. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic. ISBN 0-7922-5306-X. 
  7. ^ Kroichick, Ron (August 27, 2010). "NEGRO LEAGUE LEGEND / THE BLACK BABE / Josh Gibson may have been the greatest home-run hitter ever". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  8. ^ "Gibson, Josh". Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 19, 2013. 
  9. ^ Lowry, Philip (2006). Green Cathedrals. Walker & Company. p. 236. ISBN 978-0-8027-1608-8. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Holway, John B. (2001). The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues: The Other Half of Baseball History. Fern Park, Florida: Hastings House Publishers. ISBN 0-8038-2007-0. 
  11. ^ 1939 in baseball#Negro National League final standings
  12. ^ Peterson, Robert (1970). Only the Ball Was White. 
  13. ^ "Negro League Star Held in Hospital for Mental Observation". Ghosts of DC. Retrieved August 14, 2012. 
  14. ^ *Ribowsky, Mark (2004). Josh Gibson The Power and The Darkness. Urbana IL: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-07224-6. 
  15. ^ "A Legendary Baseball Player: Josh Gibson". Allegheny Cemetery. Retrieved January 11, 2008. [dead link]
  16. ^ Moore, Joseph Thomas (1988). Pride and Prejudice: The Biography of Larry Doby. New York, NY: Praeger Publishers. ISBN 0275929841. 
  17. ^ [1][dead link]
  18. ^ The following article includes a photo of a poster-size copy of the postage stamp. "Awards To Honor Legacy Of Negro League Baseball Great". CBS Pittsburgh KDKA-2. CBS Local Media. August 12, 2011. Retrieved October 21, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Joshua (Josh) Gibson Marker". Hmdb.org. Retrieved March 19, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Negro Leagues Baseball eMuseum: Personal Profiles: Josh Gibson, Jr". Coe.ksu.edu. August 11, 1930. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Josh Gibson Foundation". Joshgibson.org. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  22. ^ Maroon, Annie (June 25, 2011). "Pittsburgh's Negro League heritage celebrated". The Batchelor Pad. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved October 21, 2011. "The Josh Gibson Foundation ... will host the Josh Gibson Centennial Negro League Gala on Aug. 13 at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh. The event will honor the 100th anniversary of the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords slugger's birth in 1911." 
  23. ^ Gonzalez, Alden (February 1, 2010). "Negro Leagues Museum in financial straits: Deficit reflects dwindling donations in struggling economy". Kansas City Royals website. MLB Advanced Media, L.P. Retrieved October 21, 2011. "... Sean Gibson, the great-grandson of Hall of Famer Josh Gibson and the head of the Josh Gibson Foundation in Pittsburgh." 
  24. ^ "ESPN.com: No joshing about Gibson's talents". Espn.go.com. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  25. ^ Vázquez, Edwin; ''Beisbol De Ligas Negras''-''James "Cool Papa" Bell Beisbox Caribe''; December 22, 2006[dead link]
  26. ^ Bjarkman, Peter C.; Winter pro baseball's proudest heritage passes into oblivion[dead link]
  27. ^ Curry, Jack (August 9, 2007). "No. 757 for Bonds follows long night". The New York Times. 
  28. ^ Hyde, Christopher (May 9, 2014). "'The Summer King' takes risks, but has potential to be a classic". Portland (Me.) Press Herald (PressHerald.com). Retrieved May 9, 2014. 
  29. ^ Treto Cisneros, Pedro (2002). The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics, 1937–2001. Jefferson, North Carolina, USA: McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-1378-6. 
  30. ^ Figueredo, Jorge S. (2003). Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History, 1878–1961. Jefferson, North Carolina, USA: McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-1250-X. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]