LONGBALL LORE OR GIBSON GRANDEUR?
Written by Jim Rednour
Saturday, 02 January 2010
Some Credit Josh Gibson With Hitting Ball Out Of Yankee Stadium
While several players, including Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth are credited with hitting gargantuan blasts that NEARLY left the confines of old Yankee Stadium…only one man, Josh Gibson, is said to have hit a fair fly ball that completely cleared the rooftops of the “House That Ruth Built” but never fully conquered.
Affectionately known as “The Basher” for his incredible power at the
plate, Gibson is said to have accomplished the ultimate long ball feat
in 1930 at the tender age of 18 while playing for the Homestead Grays
of the Negro Leagues. With the Grays leading four games to two in a
best-of-11-championship series against the New York Lincoln Giants, the
teams traveled to New York for two doubleheaders at Yankee Stadium.
Sept. 27, Gibson hit what biographer John Holway describes as "perhaps
the longest home run ever hit in the House that Ruth Built." But how
far did it really travel? According to the Amsterdam News: “Gibson's
blast outdistanced any other hit at Yankee Stadium "by any player,
white or colored, all season." And the Pittsburgh Courier said it was
the longest hit in Yankee Stadium that season.
biographer John Holway interviewed several players there that day and
concluded, "We can assume that the ball probably did not go over the
roof but instead went over the corner of the third tier of upper-deck
That's not the end of the story, though. The Chicago
American Giants' Jack Marshall claimed that Gibson hit one out of
Yankee Stadium in 1934 against the Philadelphia Stars. Holway tracked
down this story, too. Apparently, this home run came against the New
York Black Yankees rather than the Stars, and two Yankees did remember
the blast. But both men saw the ball land in the left-field bleachers
beyond the bullpen (which in those days was a long, long way from the
It seems likely that if Gibson really had hit the ball
completely out of the ballpark, somebody at the time would have written
about it, or Gibson would have later bragged about it. But it also
seems likely that Gibson's 1930 home run (and perhaps the 1934 homer)
ranks as one of the longest ever hit at Yankee Stadium, along with a
famous homer by Mickey Mantle in 1963 that came within a few inches of
leaving the stadium well beyond right field (see Mantle’s 734 feet
Teammate Buck Leonard later said, "Nobody hit the ball
as far as Gibson. I didn't see the one he is supposed to have hit out
of Yankee Stadium. But I saw him hit a ball one night in the Polo
Grounds that went between the upper deck and lower deck and out of the
stadium. Later the night watchman came in and asked, 'Who hit the damn
ball out there?' He said it landed on the El. It must have gone 600
Now that’s what we call bashing the ball!