Josh Gibson was born to Mark and Nancy (Woodlock) Gibson on Dec. 21,1911 in Buena Vista, Georgia. Later, his younger brother Jerry also became a baseball player. In 1923, the family moved to Pittsburgh to take a job at the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Company. Josh Gibson was going into the sixth grade and wanted to be an electrician. He began training when they moved to Pittsburgh by enrolling in the Allegheny Pre-Vocational School and Conroy Pre-Vocational School to begin his electrical training. At the age of 16, he got his first experience to play baseball for an amateur team that was sponsored by Gimbels Department Store. He was working there as an elevator operator. He was recruited by the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1928, a semi professional team the team. That team was controlled by Gus Greenlee and was the top semi-pro in Negro baseball.
On March 7,1929, Josh Gibson married Helen Mason and now he forgot about being an electrician and played baseball and worked at Gimbels.
He played games where he could and was recruited by the owner of the Homestead Grays, Cumberland Posey. The Grays were the top team around Negro league circles. He made his debut on July 11,1930. tragedy struck on August 11th as his wife Helen went into premature labor and and died while giving birth to twins. Josh Gibson Jr. and a daughter that was named Helen. The children were raised by Helen’s parents.
Josh Gibson-The Baseball Player
From 1930-1931 he played for the Grays and 1932-1936 he was a teammate on the Crawford. then a return to the Homestead Grays from 1937-1946. there was a period in between when he played in the Trujillo Dominican League.
Many historians and former players believe Josh Gibson was the best player and best power hitter in baseball history. In 1972, he was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
He was a power hitter, who stood 6′ 1″ and at 210 lbs, and hit nearly 800 home runs in his career. Those that saw Gibson and Babe Ruth play, called Ruth the “white Josh Gibson”.
He was the first player since Oscar Charleston to win consecutive batting Triple Crowns (leading the league in home runs, runs batted in, batting average) and no batter has achieved the feat since.
The good news is that on December 16, 2020. Negro League record were recognized by Major League Baseball giving Gibson the second-highest single-season major league batting average at .466 (1943).
Josh Gibson-Final Years
In 1943, at the age of 31, Josh Gibson fell into a coma and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After regaining his consciousness, he rejected the surgical removal option. For the next four years he lived with recurring headaches.
Josh Gibson succumbed to a stroke at age 35 on January 20,1947. He is buried in the Lawrenceville area of Pittsburgh.
Josh Gibson- Legacy
Negro league baseball exhibit featuring Gibson’s portrait at the Baseball Hall of Fame. A water tower in Buena Vista, Georgia, proudly proclaims the town to be the “Home of Josh Gibson”. Along with a host of other things in baseball world.
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