Did Gibson hit one out of Yankee Stadium?
While writing my latest book, I generally steered clear of stories about the old Negro Leagues. Not because I don't love all those old stories. Rather, it was partly because I didn't know where to start -- there are so many wonderful stories about the Negro Leagues -- and partly because the research, at least in the back of my mind, was terribly daunting. We don't have complete Negro League schedules, or statistics, or box scores. At least not where they're accessible.
Gibson was idolized by black youngsters, and in every ballpark they would point to a spot in the remotest part of the outfield and say, "Josh hit one over there." He is even credited with hitting a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium, and his prodigious homers have taken their place in baseball lore.
But how far did it really travel? According to Mark Ribowsky, another Gibson biographer, there were only two published accounts of Gibson's titanic home run:
It took the Amsterdam News seven paragraphs to get around to Gibson's titanic shot of the day before, with its brief mention of Gibson's home run flying 460 feet into the left field bleachers and the addendum that the blast outdistanced any other hit at Yankee Stadium "by any player, white or colored, all season."
One day during the 1930s the Pittsburgh Crawfords were playing at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, where their young catcher, Josh Gibson, hit the ball so high and so far that no one saw it come down. After scanning the sky carefully for a few minutes, the umpire deliberated and ruled it a home run. The next day the Crawfords were playing in Philadelphia, when suddenly a ball dropped out of the heavens and was caught by the startled center fielder on the opposing club. The umpire made the only possible ruling. Pointing to Gibson he shouted, "Yer out -- yesterday in Pittsburgh!"