Josh Gibson: The Best That Never Was

For the month of February, the Underground will shine a spotlight on prominent figures in the black community.

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On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play Major League Baseball.  Since then, Robinson has become iconic in the world of baseball and is still honored once a year when all Major League players wear his number, 42.

But before Jackie Robinson black players were banned from Major League baseball.  Black players were forced to create their own league called the Negro League. The unjust separation kept some of the best players out of the Major Leagues, including: Satchel Paige, Buck Leonard, Oscar Charleston and Cool Papa Bell.

But perhaps none were greater than Josh Gibson.

With many Negro League greats it can be difficult to sift through the mythology in order to find the truth.  It’s even harder with Gibson because so much of what he did sounds too crazy to be true.

His accomplishments include over 800 career home runs, hitting a baseball 480 feet, batting a ball all clear out of Yankee Stadium, and hitting over .460 in a single season.

However, with all his accomplishments on the field, Gibson struggled with health issues off of it.  On January 20th, 1947 a stroke would end Gibson’s career and his life, he was just 35 years old.

Only three months later, Jackie Robinson would make his Major League debut.

“I played with Willie Mays and against Hank Aaron. They were tremendous players, but they were no Josh Gibson.” — Hall of Famer Monte Irvin

 

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About Nathan Golden (9 Articles)
Nathan is a junior at Penn State studying economics and education policy and not in that order. In his spare time he enjoys having his heart broken by all his favorite sports teams, especially every Buctober. When he's not weeping because of a bad sports loss, he can be found ranting to somebody who doesn't care at a party about contemporary issues in education. He will be heading to Hong Kong this summer to teach low-income high school students economics and hopes to teach math full time when he graduates.

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