Baseball Legends: Josh Gibson


Today another post has gone up on the Baseball Legends site. Josh Gibson may have been the greatest home run hitter in baseball history. Then again he may have just been a great home run hitter. His greatness is not in question. What is in question is how many home runs did he hit? His plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame says that he hit over 800 home runs in his career. A number come up with by the Negro League Museum puts him at 962 home runs for his career. He may have hit that many, but what home runs do we count. Back in his day the Negro Leagues played a short season in order to make more money barnstorming around the country playing local teams. His home run total may have been inflated in these games. Should they count? Do we even know how many to count? The records are scarce. Just prior to the special Hall of Fame election in 2006 official statistics for the Negro Leagues were gathered. They have Josh at 270 home runs against top caliber competition. Unfortunately the barnstorming records are incomplete. No matter what the numbers say Josh was a great athlete.
In 2006 I read the book The Power and the Darkness about the life of Josh Gibson. I became intrigued about some of these players when I visited the Negro Leagues Museum in 2005. I found the book at a bargain store, and decided to read it. I really loved seeing how the Negro Leagues worked, and how Josh fit into those times. It also went into the dark side of Josh Gibson. He liked his alcohol and his drugs as well as baseball.
Part of the mystique of the Negro Leagues are the stories that have come out of them. One of the best involves Josh. While playing a game in Pittsburgh Josh hit a home run that left the ballpark, and sailed out of sight. The next day while playing a game in Philadelphia a ball came down out of the sky and landed in an outfielder’s glove. The umpire turned to Josh and said, “You’re out… yesterday in Pittsburgh!” It is stories like these that keep me interested in the ‘other’ league playing baseball.

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