THE LEGEND THAT IS JOSH GIBSON

Considered one of the greatest home run hitters and most feared sluggers of any era, and called by many “the Black Babe Ruth”, Josh Gibson left an undeniable legacy of greatness and accomplishment. To honor that legacy of achievement, the surviving family members established a private, non-profit foundation in 1994. The goal of the foundation is to provide the type of access that Josh Gibson never enjoyed with the creation of facilities and baseball fields dedicated to the youth of the Pittsburgh community. The Josh Gibson Foundation has evolved into an organization focused on providing a variety of academic and athletic programs that allow the next Josh Gibson to reach his or her potential. In addition, another goal is the establishment of the Josh Gibson Negro League Museum. Because preserving a heritage of achievement helps inspire in our youth the accomplishments of tomorrow.

Gibson was born on December 21, 1911 in Buena Vista, Georgia. Ten years later his family moved to Pittsburgh’s North Side after his father found work in the steel mills. As a youngster Josh was a natural athlete. While baseball was his first love, Josh excelled at a number of sports, winning several awards in track. By age 16 Gibson had made a name for himself as a sandlot player for several amateur baseball teams, gaining the notice of Cumberland Posey, the owner of the Negro League’s Homestead Grays, The Grays were talent deep, but Posey needed a solid substitute catcher and Gibson with his build and quickness was a superb candidate.

A young Josh Gibson could not have joined a better team. Beginning in 1928 when Posey aligned his team with the Negro National League, the Grays were the class of Negro Baseball. Posey’s teams were talented, disciplined, and consistent winners. Gibson’s raw talent and his willingness to learn from veteran players such as Buck Ewing and Judy Johnson, who later boasted “If Josh Gibson had been in the big leagues in his prime, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron would still be chasing him for the home run record”, transformed him into a marquee star.

​​Gibson batted for a phenomenal .461 average in his rookie year and was a key factor in the Grays’ win over New York’s Lincoln Giants in the playoffs for the Eastern Division championship. In one of the games played in Yankee Stadium, he slammed a home run into the left field bullpen that traveled an estimated 585 feet. For years after, fans would claim it as one of the longest drives ever hit in that ballpark. Gibson slugged home runs often and long, hitting 69 round-trippers in 1934 alone and nearly 800 for his career, recording one home run for every 10.6 times at bat. In 1943 he posted a .466 batting average with a career average of .374 and he won the Negro League Triple Crown (home runs, batting average and runs batted-in) two consecutive seasons.  Gibson’s impressive bat put him on nine East-West All-Star squads and ranked him second only to Satchel Paige as the best-known Negro League player.

​Josh Gibson died suddenly on January 20, 1947 a few months before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues. Gibson was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1972, the second Negro League player after Satchel Paige to be so honored. The Josh Gibson Foundation, led now by his grandson Sean Gibson, continues to shine as a fitting tribute to the legend whose name it bears. And as a serendipitous footnote to tonight’s award, the year prior to his death, Bill Campbell, the late benefactor of the Campbell Family Distinguished Achievement Award being presented this evening to the cherished memory of Josh Gibson, had donated more than $7 million to renovate West Field in Munhall, the home ballpark of the Homestead Grays. Bill would certainly have heartily approved of Josh Gibson as this year’s Campbell Award recipient.

 

Josh Gibson

The Campbell Family Distinguished
Achievement Award winner for 2022

“Accepting for his great-grandfather is”

Sean L. Gibson

Josh Gibson Foundation’s
Executive Director