Magazine article Insight on the News

Meet the Unknown Slugger

Magazine article Insight on the News

Meet the Unknown Slugger

Article excerpt

Most baseball fans know Satchel Paige was the first Negro Leaguer to make the Hall of Fame. The second? Josh Gibson, a home-run hitter to match Marls and McGwire.

Baseball has its dark side. Ty Cobb, who slid into base cleats up, remains an icon. Pete Rose, who bet on his own sport, probably will sneak into the Hall of Fame. Roberto Alomar, who spits at umpires, remains an all-star-by-popular-acclaim.

Baseball fans can be cuffing as well. When Roger Marls broke Babe Ruth's home-run record, Babe fanatics insisted that an asterisk accompany Marls' name in the books so all would know that the younger Yankee played in more games. (The qualifier since has been removed.)

Now that Mark McGwire of St. Louis is closing in on Marls' record, it's proper to examine a baseball legend long overlooked. As we applaud McGwire and other sluggers Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., Greg Vaughn -- let us recall a lesser known homer king -- Josh Gibson, a catcher who played in the Negro League.

Before charges of political correctness come flying across the field, take a look at Gibson's stats. He is credited with hitting 962 home runs during 17 years with the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Washington Homestead Grays. He smacked 84 home runs in 1936, his season high, and hit .474 in 1943, his best year. His career average is .354.

Gibson made a good living -- he and Satchel Paige both earned $1,000 a month at the height of their careers, making them the highest-paid Negro Leaguers of the day. …

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