The Josh Gibson Centennial Educational Tour came to Edinboro University on April 10 to grant students and faculty a taste of history.
A panel presentation was given by former Negro League players, Ted Toles and Pedro Sierra, as well as Sean Gibson, great-grandson of Hall of Fame baseball player Josh Gibson.
“Baseball gives every American boy a chance to excel. Not just to be as good as anybody else, but to be better. This is the nature of man and the name of the game,” S. Gibson said, quoting Ted Williams, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966.
African Americans weren’t allowed to play in the major leagues, so they formed their own teams directly after the Civil War and during the Reconstruction in the late 1800s, said Marvin DeBose, a grad student in the communications program at Edinboro University, who was acting as moderator for the panel.
Some people say that the Negro League players were bitter or upset that they couldn’t make it into the major leagues, S. Gibson said. But, earning about $6,000 per year, J. Gibson and one of his teammates, Satchel Paige, were probably two of the highest paid players in the Negro Leagues.
J. Gibson is regarded as one of the greatest Negro League players of all time, said DeBose.
“He was just a fun guy to be around,” said Larry Lester, an author and historian that spoke on the documentary that was shown during the presentation.
J. Gibson began catching for the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1927 and went on to play for the Homestead Grays in 1930, DeBose said.
While he was a great catcher, J. Gibson was also considered the greatest slugger in the Negro Leagues with almost 800 homeruns in his 17-year baseball career, S. Gibson said.
Gibson received a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, S. Gibson said.
“During his career, (J.) Gibson never played on a losing team,” said DeBose.
One of J. Gibson’s most memorable moments, according to the documentary, was in a game against the Lincoln Giants in the Yankee Stadium.
“He’s one of the greatest of all time,” said S. Gibson, “but in order to be considered the greatest of all time, they should play against both races.”
Many Negro League baseball players credit J. Gibson with breaking the barrier for them into the major leagues, said the documentary about J. Gibson.
Toles played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1946, Debose said. He’s played with famous ball players like Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, and Bill White, among many others.
“I feel as if I’m living on borrowed time,” said Toles. “I’ve been blessed to have been here for 86 years and as far as baseball goes, I never made a million dollar bill, but I had a million dollar thrill.”
When Toles played with the Cleveland Buckeyes in 1947, he could bunt so good that the runner on first base would start running while the pitcher was throwing the ball.
By the time Toles knocked down the bunt, the runner was already at second, so when the opposing team went to go throw the ball to second, they left third base wide open.
“That was a play we made quite often,” said Toles with a grin.
Sierra played for the Detroit Stars in 1956 as the pitcher and had the most sharp and effective curve balls of his time, said DeBose.
“I was taught to respect the game,” Sierra said.
“Historians can tell the history of the Negro Leagues from what they’ve heard. If it hadn’t been for us, there would be no stories of the Negro League,” said Sierra.
“People tell what they hear. We can tell you what we lived, what we saw, what we felt,” said Sierra. “The discrimination was not like make-believe stories. We were there. We knew what happened. We felt it. We are the history.”
–Anna Tielmann (Taken from The Spectator Vol III, Issue 24)by