With Black History Month upon us, MLB Tonight will feature prominent players from the Negro Leagues throughout February, including catcher Josh Gibson on Tuesday. Gibson arguably was the best position player in Negro Leagues history.
Buck O'Neill once said Gibson had the eyes of Ted Williams and the power of Babe Ruth. One can understand why O'Neill gave Gibson such high praise. According to Negro Leagues historian James A. Riley, Gibson's career batting average was .354, and he hit 962 home runs -- 200 more than Barry Bonds' Major League record total.
Imagine if Statcast™ existed in the 1930s and '40s when Gibson played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays? Gibson would have been a highlight reel every night. Legend has it that he is the only player to ever hit a home run completely out of Yankee Stadium, and he hit another homer at the Polo Grounds that traveled more than 600 feet, according to Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
"When people were talking about Gibson, they didn't talk about where he hit balls in the ballpark. They would look at landmarks," Kendrick said. "That's when you really know you have power."
Gibson was more than just a power hitter. He was one of the best catchers of all-time. He had complete control of his pitching staff and called a great game, according to Kendrick. Gibson also was considered an exceptional baserunner for a catcher.
"Buck said, the two greatest hitters he ever saw were Babe Ruth and Josh Gibson," Kendrick said.
Gibson died in January 1947, a few months before Jackie Robinson made his Major League debut and broke the color barrier. The Veterans Committee elected Gibson into the Hall of Fame in 1972.