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Remembering Josh Gibson on his Birthday
On this day in the year 1911, Mark and Nancy Gibson became the proud parents of a baby boy they named Joshua Gibson. Joshua, spent the first ten years of his life in Buena Vista, Georgia where life wasn’t easy. At time his parents worked as sharecroppers in the fields throughout Georgia.
In 1921, Joshua’s father moved to Pittsburgh so he could work in the steel mills as his family stayed in Buena Vista. In 1924, Mark Gibson was able to save enough money to move his entire family to Pittsburgh.
After completing grade school, Josh attended an Electrician Trade School in Pittsburgh for a short while before ending up in the steel mills. At the time the sixteen year old Gibson didn’t know it but his decision to work at steel mill was the first step of becoming a baseball legend.
In the spring of 1928, the sixteen year-old Gibson did what a lot of steel workers did in the spring-time in Pittsburgh that was to play baseball for a local amateur baseball team. The team was the Gimbels A.C. baseball club where Josh would play third base. Josh was a natural at third base and at the age of seventeen he caught the attention of Harold Tinker, owner of the colored semipro Pittsburgh Crawfords baseball club.
In early 1929, Gibson became a member of the Pittsburgh Crawfords and then married his, seventeen year-old girl friend, Helen Mason on March 7, 1929. It wasn’t long after playing for the Crawfords’ that Gibson caught the eye of Mr. Cumberland Posey the co-owner of the Homestead Grays, another colored semi-pro baseball club from the Pittsburgh area.
Mr. Posey told the young Gibson that he was looking for a back up catcher for his team. On July 31, 1930 the eighteen year-old Gibson started his career with the Homestead Grays. As Josh was getting familiar with his new team tragedy occurred on August 11, 1930, when his wife, Helen, died while giving birth to twins. The twins named Helen and Joshua Jr. survived. As Josh was traveling with the team Helen’s parents raised the two children.
It did not take Gibson long to make a name for himself as a home run hitter. It is reported that Josh hit a home run that went over 580 feet as it left Yankee Stadium. After winning the 1931 Negro League Championship, Gibson was lured away from the Grays by his old team the Pittsburgh Crawfords.
From the 1932 to 1936, Gibson played for the Crawfords’ where he became the premier Negro League’s home run hitter. In fact many considered Gibson the black Babe Ruth. In 1937, Gibson and teammate Satchel Paige played for the Trujillo Dragons a baseball club in the Dominican Republic.
In 1938, Gibson joined the Homestead Grays where he won two more Negro League Championships in 1938 and 1939. After the 1939 season Gibson was lured away again from the Grays and joined the Veracruz baseball club in Mexico from 1940 to 1941.
In 1942, Josh Gibson joined the Homestead Grays again and led the team to two more Negro League Championships in 1943 and 1944. After the 1946 season, Gibson ended his professional baseball career. On January 20, 1947, the thirty-six-year-old Gibson passed away from complications of a brain tumor.
It wasn’t until 1972 when Joshua Gibson the baseball legend was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.