Josh Gibson – A Life that Inspired a Movie Character

Hello, and welcome back to BingoHall. Today we commemorate 67 years since the death of a very special baseball player, Josh Gibson. His is an extremely sad, but inspiring story. We heard about it when we learned that Leon Carter (James Earl Jones), a character from one of our favorite bingo-related movies, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings, was based on Josh’s life. To honor the man, we decided to do a special post and tell you a little bit about his life.

Baseball Hall of Fame to commemorate Gibson

The Plaque that commemorates Gibson in the Baseball Hall of Fame

Early life

Josh Gibson was born on the 21st of December, 1911, in Buena Vista, Georgia. At a young age, he had to travel to Pittsburgh with his family, where they could work in the mills. Hard work turned him into a horse of a man! Before he turned 19, he was over 6 feet tall and weighed in at almost 200 pounds. His chest was round as a barrel and his legs were as strong as a mule’s.

Baseball career

There is a wonderful myth surrounding Gibson’s start as a pro player. They say that he was having a hotdog in the stands, when the team’s coach saw his imposing stature and asked him to get on the field and play in place of an injured catcher. However, reality was not so poetic, and the more likely event is that the coach was well-aware of Gibson’s incredible reputation with the amateurs, and told him he should be ready as a sub if anything happens. That sparked the beginning of an incredible career!

He played in many ball parks that would later become world famous baseball landmarks, including the Yankee Stadium or the Forbes field in Pittsburgh. The baseball major league wasn’t to be for many years, and segregation dictated that Teams of the Negro, as teams with African-American players were called back then, were forced to play only against each other.

Yankee Stadium was the venue where Gibson gained the attention of the media, as he hit a 500 foot homerun. In time, he became well-known for his ability to bat extremely long hits. It was Satchel Paige, one of Gibson’s teammates, who said that the strike with which Josh hit the scoreboard could have been 700 feet long. But more tangible proof of his prowess is provided by the 375 feet homerun he hit while holding the bat with just one hand.

Through the 30s and the first half of the 40s, Gibson played for 6 teams and plied his trade in the Pittsburgh leagues, as well as in Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico or Puerto Rico.

Personal life

Josh Gibson got married in 1929, and everything seemed to go smoothly for him for a while. Unfortunately, disaster struck as his wife, Helen Mason, died in childbirth. She had twins, a boy and a girl, and they both survived to be raised by Helen’s parents.

Death

While at the height of his power, disaster struck again, as doctors found a tumor in Gibson’s brain, after he fell into a coma. For the next four years he struggled with the illness and other problems, succumbing to a stroke on the 20th of January, 1947. He died so poor that his grave remained unmarked for almost 30 years.

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