He stood 6’1, 220 pounds. He hit a staggering .354 average and had 962 homers throughout a 17-season career, with single-season highs of .517 and 84, and he belonged to Pittsburgh.
Playing for both the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays, he helped them to win more than a dozen Negro Leagues titles combined.
On October 14, in a Grand Concourse Board Room in Station Square, the Josh Gibson Foundation held a conference to display the layout for the new Josh Gibson Heritage Park.
Hall of Fame Negro League Election Committeeman Rob Ruck opened the speaking portion of the conference by explaining exactly what this park meant to him. “During the half century that baseball was divided by a color line Black America created its own parallel sporting world. During the 1930s and 40s Pittsburgh was the jewel in its crown.”
Pittsburgh finally honored its rich tradition as far as Negro League accomplishments in 1988 when the Pirates became the first MLB team to celebrate and honor the Negro Leagues and apologize for segregation.
“Luckily the Pirates are winning now but before then, we had 20 losing seasons so the kids never saw a winning baseball team. So what we would teach is the history of baseball and you can’t tell it without the Negro leagues,” said Sean Gibson, president of the Josh Gibson Foundation.
Cool Papa Bell, Judy Johnson, Oscar Charleston, Satchel Paige, Cumberland Posey, Vic Harris and Buck Leonard will be among seven other Pittsburgh greats who will be remembered with paintings that will provide biographical and historical information about the players and their teams. Each one will be carefully painted by artist Dino Guarino. Above their enshrinement will be steel girders in homage of the Grays’ origin as a steelworkers’ team and for the city’s heritage as a steel town. The Crawford’s inherited their name from a Hill District bathhouse and recreation center but there are no plans to add any tubs.
The Park will be located at Station Square on land donated by Forest City Commercial Group and will be free and open to the public and will allow visitors to relive the history and culture of Negro League baseball in Pittsburgh. The target date for the park to open is spring 2017. Unfortunately, the $2.5 million price tag needed to finish it means that date is not set in stone.