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4. Josh Gibson

Born on December 21, in Marion County, Georgia to Mark Gibson and Nancy Woodlock, Josh Gibson (1911-1947) was the first of three children born into a sharecropping family. The agricultural depression, combined with the havoc wrought by the boll weevil in the 1920s, forced many to leave the failing fields of the South. In 1924, Gibson’s father moved to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to find work at a steel factory. The rest of the family soon joined him. It was there that Josh Gibson became both a swimmer and track star before taking up baseball.  He joined the Gibels A.C., an amateur team. In 1929, he was recruited into the Crawford Colored Giants, who were part of the Negro Leagues. At six foot 1 inch, Gibson was a powerful hitter. His young wife, Helen Mason, whom he married when he was seventeen, died in childbirth in 1930 leaving him to raised twins, Helen and Joshua. Gibson continued to play first for the Pittsburgh Crawfords and then for the Washington Homestead Grays. By the 1940s, the Grays were playing half their home games in Washington D.C. and the other half in Pittsburgh.  In 1940, he married Hattie Jones.

Josh Gibson, while playing for the Crawford Giants. n.d.  Baseball Hall of Fame.

It has been estimated that Gibson hit nearly 800 home runs in his career, and it is even said he hit 85 in a single season. Both figures would be record-setting and earned him the name ‘the Black Babe Ruth.’ In 1947, Gibson died from a stroke and was buried in in Pittsburgh. In 1972, he became the second Negro League player to be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame, following Satchel Paige.

Josh Gibson sign, Buena Vista, Georgia. Photograph courtesy of David Rush 2016.

Submission composed by Dustin Coleman, April 16, 2016

References and Further Reading

Brashler, William. 2000. Josh Gibson: A Life in the Negro Leagues. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee.

Coe, Jonathan. n.d. "Future Hall of Famer Josh Gibson is Born." National Baseball Hall of Fame. Accessed March 8, 2016. baseballhall.org/hof/gibson-josh.

Ribowsky, Mark. Josh Gibson: The Power and the Darkness. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.