Josh Gibson never got the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues, but he left a lasting mark on baseball history.
An imposing presence both behind the plate and at it, Gibson is considered one of the most fearsome sluggers to ever grab a bat. A star in the Negro Leagues in the two decades before integration, Gibson terrorized pitchers wherever he went, including throughout Latin America during winter league play.
Many decades later, there is still so much about Gibson that is not known, but his larger-than-life persona lives on in old stories, and the scraps of statistics culled from his years playing in a segregated world.
Here are some key points to know about Gibson, who was inducted into the
• In the course of baseball history, how many fans sitting in the stands have shouted that they could do better than the bum out there on the field, if only given the chance? Very few of them, if any, have ever been correct. But someone emerging from the crowd and becoming a star is perhaps not unprecedented.
In 1930, as the story goes, Gibson was a spectator at a game in which Homestead Grays catcher Buck Ewing sustained an injury. An 18-year-old Gibson, who by that time had established a reputation in semipro games, was asked to suit up as a replacement. With that, a great baseball career was launched.
• Gibson earned the moniker of “the black Babe Ruth,” and like the Great Bambino, his prodigious wallops were the stuff of legend. That’s both in terms of the grandiosity of the stories, and in their questionable veracity. Did Ruth really call his shot? Did he really hit a ball 587 feet one spring day in Tampa, Fla.? We’ll never know for sure, but it’s fun to believe.