“Baseball is my life buddy, of course I know who the greatest hitters were. Williams, Aaron, Mantle, Gibson….I could go on for hours.”
“Who? Yeah I know Bob Gibson, but I thought we were talking hitters? Maybe you meant Kirk Gibson? He made some clutch hits in his day, but I don’t think he’s one of the greatest. Josh Gibson……who’s that?”
That is usually how my conversations go when I mention the great Josh Gibson. When I talk baseball with people, my baseball world has no boundaries, as long as it was baseball. Most baseball fans didn’t know who Josh Gibson was until he was inducted into The National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, and it still left people scratching their heads.
So, if you’re reading this and are not sure who this legendary ball player is and why you may not of heard of him, don’t feel left out. Players like Josh were part of The Negro Leagues, an American dynasty and in some cases an American tragedy.
On Dec. 21 , 1911 in Buena Vista Georgia, baseball legend Josh Gibson was born. He was recruited by the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1928, his position would be the catcher. The Crawfords were semi-professional team at the time, buy would become professional in 1931. At the age of 18 he would then be picked up by the Homestead Grays who were the one of the most dynamic professional team of the Negro Leagues at the time.
On July 31, 1930, Josh died at the age of 35 from a brain tumor, leaving behind his two children Josh Jr. and daughter Helen who was named after their mother who died while giving birth. His stats will never be complete like most Negro League players due to the lack of compiling stats and recording game summaries. Legend has it that he hit close to or more then 800 home runs during his 17 year career of official and unofficial games, and hit a ball 580 feet in Yankee Stadium, then only to top that by hitting one over the triple decker seats and out of the park.
Other legendary Negro League players stats would also be shrouded in mystery, for example Satchel Pages wins and strikeouts, or “ Cool “ Papa Bells stolen base record. Accurate or not these are the players that paved the road that current players now walk on. Remember Jackie Robinson? So when asked who I think is the best, or who my top ten favorite baseball players are, I say “ Well we know what happened as far as stats, numbers, and game summaries since baseball became a professional sport, but I always like to take into consideration what might of happened. I would like to think that fun, imagination, and mystery are three great reasons to love baseball, and thanks to iconic players like Josh Gibson always can.