In black baseball, only Satchel Paige was a better known personality than Josh Gibson. The 6’1″ 205 lb strongman was the standard against whom other hitters were measured. A natural hitter, the right-handed slugger hit for both distance and average.
With a confident countenance beneath a turned-up cap bill and a rolled-up left sleeve, displaying his powerful arm muscles, Gibson’s presence in the batters box personified power. He awaited the pitch in a semi-crouched, flat-footed stance, and without striding generated a compact swing that produced tape-measure home runs with such regularity that it came to be expected as the norm.
Credited with 962 home runs against all levels of competition in his 17 year career, he also compiled a .391 lifetime batting average in the Negro Leagues. In addition to his slugging prowess, Gibson possessed a rifle arm and, by hard work behind the plate, made himself into one of the best receivers in the league. For a big man, he was quick behind the plate and also on the bases, and was a good baserunner.
Always affable and easy going, Gibson was well liked and respected by his peers, His popularity extended to the fans, and he was voted to start in nine East-West All-Star games, in which he compiled a sensational .483 batting average.
Unfortunately, the major leagues were never afforded the opportunity to witness Josh Gibson’s greatness, for on January 20, 1947, he died a premature death only a month after his 35th birthday and just a few months prior to Jackie Robinson’s becoming the first black major leaguer in over a half century. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords
Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Bill Dickey, Johnny Bench
For Additional Information:
The Power and The Darkness: The Life of Josh Gibson in The Shadows Of The Game, by Mark Ribowsky