Considered one of the greatest home run hitters, most feared sluggers of any era, and called by many "the Black Babe Ruth", Josh Gibson left an undeniable legacy of greatness and accomplishment. To honor that legacy of achievement, the surviving family members established a private, non-profit foundation in 1994. The goal of the foundation is to provide the type of access that Josh Gibson never enjoyed with the creation of facilities and baseball fields dedicated to the youth of the Pittsburgh community. The Josh Gibson Foundation has evolved into an organization dedicated to providing a variety of academic and athletic programs that allow the next Josh Gibson to reach his or her potential. In addition, another goal is the establishment of the Josh Gibson Negro League Museum. Because preserving a heritage of achievement helps inspire the accomplishments of tomorrow.
Gibson was born on December 21, 1911 in Buena Vista, Georgia. He moved to Pittsburgh's North Side with his family ten years later after his father found work in the steel mills. As a youngster Josh was a natural athlete. While baseball was his first love, Josh excelled at a number of sports, winning several awards in track. By age 16 Gibson had made a name for himself as a sandlot player for several amateur teams, gaining the notice of the owner of the Negro League’s Homestead Grays, Cumberland Posey. The Grays were talent deep, but Posey needed a solid substitute catcher and Gibson with his build and quickness was a superb candidate.
A young Josh Gibson could not have joined a better team. Beginning in 1928 when Posey aligned his team with the Negro National League, the Grays were the class of Negro Baseball. Posey's teams were talented, disciplined, and consistent winners. Gibson's raw talent and his willingness to learn from veteran players such as Ewing and Judy Johnson, who later boosted “If Josh Gibson had been in the Big Leagues in his prime, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron would still be chasing him for the home run record”, transformed him into a marquee star.
Gibson batted for a phenomenal .461 average in his rookie year and was a key factor in the Grays' win over New York's Lincoln Giants in the playoffs for the Eastern Division championship. In one of the games played in Yankee Stadium, he slammed a home run into the left field bullpen that traveled more than 500 feet. Fans for years after would claim it as one of the longest drives ever hit in that ballpark. Gibson slugged long home runs, 69 in 1934, and recorded astoundingly high batting averages. Gibson’s impressive bat put him on nine East-West All-Star squads and ranked him second only to Satchel Paige as the best-known Negro League player.
Josh Gibson died suddenly on January 20, 1947 a few months before Jackie Robinson broke the color line in the major leagues. Gibson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972, the second Negro League player, after Satchel Paige, to be so honored.