Josh Gibson, the man that many regard as the greatest Negro League player ever, was born on December 21, 1911, in Buena Vista, Georgia. He relocated to southwestern Pennsylvania in 1924 after his father found work in a Pittsburgh area steel mill.
After playing for the Gimbel Brothers and Westinghouse Airbrake company teams, Josh began catching for the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1927. With the addition of Gibson, the Crawfords rose to the top of the city's sandlot teams and challenged Cumberland Posey's Homestead Grays, a stellar club of Black professional baseball players from across the nation.
Josh Gibson safe at Home
In 1930, Posey persuaded Gibson to join the Grays at mid-season. The Homestead Grays won Black Baseball's Championship that year, with “Josh The Basher” hitting what might have been the first ball over the centerfield fence in Forbes Field, as well as, a prodigious blast that some say went completely out of Yankee Stadium.
During Gibson's career, he played ball with Hall of Famers Oscar Charlston, Cool Papa Bell, Judy Johnson, and Satchel Paige. The Homestead Grays won an unprecedented nine consecutive Negro National League pennants with Gibson behind the plate, and he was named the Negro National League MVP 1940 (see picture of ceremony below)
Josh Gibson at Bat
Due to sporadic statistical accounting in the Negro Leagues, reports vary regarding the number of home runs Josh Gibson hit, with some estimates as high as 962.
During his career, Gibson never played on a losing team. Moreover, it was rumored that Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bill Bensawanger signed Josh to a Major League contract in 1943, a full four years before Jackie Robinson entered the league, but Major League Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Landis allegedly would not allow Gibson to play.
Josh Gibson died suddenly on January 20, 1947, from a massive stroke. Gibson is considered to be the eternal monarch of home run kings. He dominated the game with majestic power like none before him. Former Crawfords teammate Judy Johnson boasted, "If Josh Gibson had been in the Big Leagues in his prime, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron would still be chasing him for the home run record.”
Josh Gibson made a substantial impact on his community, and put Homestead, PA on the map for many people nationwide. Now, many years after his death, his legacy is kept alive through the The Josh Gibson Foundation, a private 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that was created in 1994 to establish a history and learning center in Homestead, PA, and to reach out to the families and youth of the community on which Josh Gibson left his mark.
With the organizational Motto: “Obtaining a great education feels as good as winning, because it helps one win the game of life,” it’s no surprise that the programs supported by the Foundation is primarily focused on after school reading, tutoring, and computer skills training. The Foundation provides students with academic help, as well as, life skills training through both individualized and group learning settings. It also partners with Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh to bring volunteer tutors to the recreation centers, where the volunteers facilitate reading remediation, subject area tutoring, and computer training.