Here’s a list of a dozen things you should know about Josh Gibson:
1. He was born in 1911 in the South, but moved to Pittsburgh when still young.
2. He played in the Negro Leagues for the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords.
3. He also played in the Dominican, Mexican and Puerto Rican Leagues. Some sources claim he was even better there than in the Negro Leagues.
4. With him behind the plate, the Grays won the Negro League World Series in both 1943 and 1944. How much World War II changed Negro League rosters, I don’t know.
5. He married in 1929 and his wife died in childbirth the next year. She had twins, both of which survived.
6. Although sources vary, the most common numbers I could find list him as 6′ 1″ and 210 pounds.
7. Negro League statistics, when they exist, are all over the place. Gibson’s are no exception. When MLB decided to add a bunch of Negro League players to the Hall of Fame in 2007, they had researchers compile stats on as many Negro League players as they could find. This included Gibson. While admittedly incomplete, the numbers they found indicate he hit .359, slugged .648 (but no on base percentage is available, so no OPS or OPS+ is known), played 510 games in 16 seasons peaking at 53 in 1934 (an average of 39 per season), had 666 hits, 109 doubles, 41 triples, and 115 home runs for 1202 total bases. He knocked in 432 RBIs and scored 467 runs with 22 stolen bases. Let me point out that with barnstorming, games against white teams, and against Major League players, Negro League seasons were considerably shorter than Major League seasons.
8. In 1943 Gibson developed a cancerous brain tumor. His 1944 season is still good, but the last two years are evidently effected by the illness.
9. He was angry that Jackie Robinson was chosen over him to integrate Major League baseball. In Robinson’s defense Jackie was considerably younger.
10. Gibson died in 1947 of a stroke. He was 35.
11. The 1996 movie Soul of the Game, which dealt with the signing of Robinson, featured Gibson as one of the two major figures Branch Rickey was looking at (Satchel Paige was the other) when he opted for Robinson. The movie is highly fictionalized.
12. In 1972 he was elected to the Hall of Fame.