Friday, March 23, 2012

Remembering the Negro Leagues

For those of you don't know already, Baseball Reference recently added the Negro League stats to their website.  There's a lot of data missing so it's not entirely complete, but it does give you an idea of some of the great Negro League players.

Pictured below are 2 cards featuring HOF Negro League players.  The Paige is for trade, the Gibson is not.

One of the most famous Negro League players was Josh Gibson (pictured on the card to the right).  Depending on your skin color, he was either the black Babe Ruth or Babe Ruth was the white Josh Gibson.  Gibson played 16 years in the Negro Leagues, was a 10x All-Star, and 2 time Negro League Champion.  He played for the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords.

Depending on which source you used, you see different stats, but in only 510 career games throughout 16 seasons, Gibson hit a remarkable 107-115 HR and drove in 432+ runs while batting at least .350 AS A CATCHER!!!!!

Here's his complete stats from Baseball - Reference  Keep in mind that these stats do not include his Mexican League stats where he played the entire season of 1940 and 1941.  Those were another 44 HR in only 116 games.
Could you imagine if he was able to play 145 games per season with an average of 500 AB per season over the course of a 16 season career at roughly the same pace.
His stats would look like this:
8000 AB (16 year career x 500 AB per season)
476 HR (1 HR per 17AB)
1,864 RBI (1 RBI per 4.29AB)
2,867 hits (1 hit per 2.79AB)

Pretty impressive numbers and certainly HOF worthy which is where he was inducted in 1972.  

Gibson died at a very young age (35) in 1947 after he refused medical treatment for brain tumors.  He suffered 4 years with recurring painful headaches before passing away in Pittsburgh just three months before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. 

He currently has a statue in Nationals Park along with Frank Howard and Walter Johnson.  He was ranked 18th all time in the Sporting News 100 greatest baseball players of all time back in 2000.  That was the highest ranking of a Negro League player.

The card pictured at the top of this page features a Griffith Stadium Seat from Washington DC where Gibson crushed balls out of the stadium while a member of the Grays.  He and Mickey Mantle are reportedly the only players to ever hit a HR over the left field bleacher seats.  Mantle did it once.  Gibson did it twice. 

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