Photo of the Josh Gibson statue at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Image Credit: John Bracken (CC BY 2.0)

Who are some names fans think of when they think of the greatest home runs hitters of all-time? Willie Mays. Ken Griffey Jr. Mark Mcgwire. Hank Aaron. Babe Ruth. Truth is, perhaps the greatest home run hitter to ever play baseball will not appear in any Major League Baseball record books. His name was Josh Gibson.

You may be familiar with his playing career if you have seen the made for television movie "Soul of the Game". If you have yet see this movie, stop reading this article, sign onto Ebay and buy it. Due to the MLB's "Gentleman's Agreement" which segregated baseball, Josh Gibson was never allowed to play in the MLB. Instead, he dominated the American Negro Leagues where legend says he hit anywhere between 750 and 1,000 home runs during his playing career. As a matter of fact, some fans at the time referred to George Herman Ruth as 'The White Josh Gibson'.

The Georgia native spent the majority of his career with the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords. There are a plethora of tall-tales about Gibson, including the time he hit a ball in the air at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh so high that it never landed...until the next a different city. Literally. Or maybe you have heard the one about him hitting the only ball to ever leave Yankee Stadium, more than 500 feet. Though stout in stature, Gibson boasted Hercules-like strength, routinely hitting home runs for more than 400+ feet and hit 84 home runs during the 1936 season. Unfortunately, he began to develop drinking and drug habits later in his career after losing his wife. The pain he felt from not being able to play in the Major Leagues didn't help either.

Gibson's feats and legend are often met with skeptics who insist that Gibson was talented, but Negro League talent was inferior to the talent in the Major Leagues. He did get the opportunity to play against Major League pitchers during exhibitions from time to time and always held his own. He died in 1947 due to a stroke, at only 36 years of age. Months later, Jackie Robinson would break the color barrier by becoming the first black baseball player to play in Major League Baseball.

Photo of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

Image Credit: Nicolas Henderson (CC BY 2.0)

Anyone interested in learning more about the great Josh Gibson or other Negro League greats like Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson can do so by visiting the Negro Leagues baseball museum in Kansas City, Missouri.


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