Biography of African-American Baseball Player Josh Gibson Part 2

About the famous home run hitter John Gibson, biography and history of the hero of the negro baseball leagues.


Josh the Great

The following year "the Babe Ruth of the Negro League," as he was dubbed by writers of the day, jumped to the Pittsburgh Crawfords. So did other black phenoms such as Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Judy Sweet Juice Johnson, Oscar Charleston, and Leroy Matlock, and together they formed what might have been the best baseball roster ever. The focal point of the team was the amazing battery of Gibson and Paige.

During the five years Josh spent with the Crawfords, he chalked up his greatest accomplishments. In 1932 he walloped 75 home runs and registered a .380 batting average in 123 games. The years that followed saw him tally 72 and 69 four-sackers. Some accounts, according to the Guinness Sports Record Book, claim 85 homers for him in one season.

In his heyday, it was not uncommon for Gibson to guarantee the fans at least two home runs a game. After one such brag, he poled four balls into the Griffith Stadium seats. Of his many tape-measure clouts, one stands out above all the rest. Josh was the only person, black or white, ever to hit a fair ball over the triple-deck stands and out of Yankee Stadium.

At the end of the 1934 season, a Negro League all-star team faced their major league counterparts for a series of nine exhibition clashes. Paige was bested only by the immortal Dizzy Dean, and Gibson performed well against the most famous white pitchers. Later, Satch would rate Charley Gehringer as the one white man who even approached Josh as a hitter.

After the disbanding of the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1936, Gibson returned to the Grays. Except for a 1940-1942 stint in Mexico, he played out the rest of his career with them. In his declining years, he turned from home-run to batting champion. He had the league's best hitting percentage in 1936, 1938, 1943, and in 1945 with an incredible .393.

Weakened by recurrent headaches and knee cartilage damage, Gibson began to fade in 1946. He became despondent when other black players were offered jobs in organized baseball and he was dismissed as a bad risk due to his age and poor health. On Jan. 20, 1947, at 35, Josh Gibson died in his sleep of a cerebral hemorrhage.

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