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On this day in 1911

Dec. 21, 1911

A colorized photograph of Josh Gibson, who was playing with the Homestead Grays Credit: Wikipedia

Josh Gibson, the Negro League’s “Home Run King,” was born in Buena Vista, Georgia. 

When the family’s farm suffered, they moved to Pittsburgh, and Gibson tried baseball at age 16. He eventually played for a semi-pro team in Pittsburgh and became known for his towering home runs. 

He was watching the Homestead Grays play on July 25, 1930, when the catcher injured his hand. Team members called for Gibson, sitting in the stands, to join them. He was such a talented catcher that base runners were more reluctant to steal. He hit the baseball so hard and so far (580 feet once at Yankee Stadium) that he became the second-highest paid player in the Negro Leagues behind Satchel Paige, with both of them entering the National Baseball Hame of Fame. 

The Hall estimated that Gibson hit nearly 800 homers in his 17-year career and had a lifetime batting average of .359. Gibson was portrayed in the 1996 TV movie, “Soul of the Game,” by Mykelti Williamson. Blair Underwood played Jackie Robinson, Delroy Lindo portrayed Satchel Paige, and Harvey Williams played “Cat” Mays, the father of the legendary Willie Mays. 

Gibson has now been honored with a statue outside the Washington Nationals’ ballpark.



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