It’s been nearly eight decades since his passing!
We’ve been blessed to experience the wonders of so many iconic and pioneering athletes in our time. Nearly all of them stand on the shoulders of giants, and for every one name and face we know, there are 10 that we don’t. One of those may be Josh Gibson. Considered one of the greatest baseball players ever, Gibson’s story is worthy of the history books and one we plan to keep alive. In honor of the 76th anniversary of his transition, here are 5 good reasons you should learn more about the revered slugger, courtesy of MLB.com:
Gibson landed a gig in the pros as a spectator.
In 1930, Gibson was just 18 years old, but he had already begun making a name for himself in semi-pro games. When Homestead Grays catcher Buck Ewing got an injury during the game, they called Gibson from the stands to ask him to suit up, launching what would become a lasting and successful baseball career.
He was known as “the Black Babe Ruth.”
Like Babe Ruth, there is still a lot we just don’t know about Gibson. While he was a surefire star in the Negro Leagues, much of that official data is nonexistent. There are a lot of mysteries and legends about Gibson though. Maybe he did hit a ball 580 feet into the upper bleachers once, or maybe he did in fact, knock a ball completely out of the ballpark one game. And we will never know the exact amount of home runs he actually hit, but what we do know is that whatever his accomplishments, it was enough to go down in history.
Gibson was considered one of the best hitters in baseball history.
The late legend John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil Jr. was known for his own pioneering achievements as a player, manager in the Negro Leagues, and coach in the Majors. O’Neil confirmed before his passing that not only did Gibson rank right up there with Babe Ruth, something he didn’t see again until Bo Jackson in the ‘80s, but that he was “the best hitter [he’d] ever seen.”
“Outstanding hitter…best hitter that I’ve ever seen. He had the power of Ruth and the hitting ability of Ted Williams. That was Josh Gibson. Would have been outstanding [in the Majors]. Would have rewritten the book as far as the home runs are concerned,” O’Neil once told filmmaker Ken Burns.
He was denied entry into the Major Leagues, passing away just before baseball integrated.
Gibson was diagnosed with a brain tumor, passing of a stroke in 1947, just one month after turning 35 years old. Three months after his death, Jackie Robinson suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke baseball’s color barrier.
Gibson is a Hall of Famer.
While he never got the rightful opportunity to play in the Major Leagues, Gibson still went down in history. In 1972, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. His plaque says “[he] hit almost 800 home runs in league and independent baseball during his 17-year career.” An impressive feat if there ever were one.
Long live the life and legacy of Josh Gibson. Because of him, we can!
5 good reasons you should learn more about Josh Gibson. Photo Courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame