Thursday, January 20, 2011

Santa Clara, Habana star Josh Gibson's death the stuff of myth

Jan. 20: On this day in 1947, Josh Gibson died in Pittsburgh, Penn.

The Negro leagues star and National Baseball Hall of Famer played two memorable seasons in the Cuban League. In 1937-38, he batted .344 for last-place Habana.

The following season, Gibson (fourth from the left, back row) helped lead Santa Clara to the league pennant, leading the league with 11 home runs and 50 runs scored while batting .356.

According to his his bio at Negro League Players Association, Gibson, who's career long ago attained mythic status, has had his death has been shrouded in myth as well:
Gibson, it was said, believed he was going to die and gathered his family around his bedside. He even sent his brother out to gather up his trophies. While talking and laughing he supposedly raised his head, spoke incoherently, then laid down and died. The true story was not as sentimental or dramatic. Gibson suffered a stroke in a movie theater and was taken unconscious to his mother's house where he died a few hours later.
Teammate and friend Jimmie Crutchfield often said that Gibson died of a broken heart at not having made the white major leagues. Gibson himself might have disagreed, though at times his depressed mental state threw him into fits of rage and rambling outbursts.

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