Baseball has always been a game partially defined by one raw, unadulterated element: the home run ball. And no one could hit the ball quite like Josh Gibson. Born in Buena Vista, Georgia on December 21st, 1911, Gibson began playing baseball in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the age of 16 with an amateur club. The aspiring electrician’s play caught the eye of the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the Negro League, but Josh wound up signing with the Homestead Grays, playing catcher and beginning a storied career.
Gibson played 16 years in the Negro Leagues as well as for President Rafael Trujillo’s team in the Dominican League with other stints in Mexico and Cuba. Over that time, his hitting prowess became near mythical, with many calling Babe Ruth ‘the white Josh Gibson’ as deference to his skills. He reportedly hit 800 homeruns over his career, one of them which would make him the only man to have ever hit a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium. In addition, he was the first manager of the Santurce Crabbers in the Puerto Rico Baseball League.
His career and his life ended due to a stroke caused by a pre-existing brain tumor at the age of 35 in 1947. But Josh Gibson’s legacy lived on, with Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier a couple of months later and with Gibson being elected to the BaseballHall of Fame along with Satchel Paige and teammate Buck Leonard in 1972, ultimately showing the powerful skill that would make baseball in America that much better.
Written by Christopher Smith
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