Page 8-Saturday, May 27, 1978-The Michigan Daily
Babe Ruth of
Josh Gibson: A Life in the Negro Leagues,
by William Brashler. Harper & low. $9.95, 189 pp.
By Ken Parsigian
BASEBALL fans relish a chance to one-u each
other with outrageous stories about one's favor-
ite player, but when someone mentions Josh Gibson
the arguments usually end. For that murderous
slugger, the "Black Babe Ruth," hit more towering
home runs than any player in history, Ruth and Hank
Tales of Gibson's awesome power abound, but my
favorite is when he nearly struck out on a sucker pit-
ch. Gibson, who was then playing for the Homestead
Grays, was facing the American Giants' ace Sonny
Cornelius, a wily pitcher with a good curve ball. Cor-
nelius threw a good slow curve that completely fooled
Gibson, who had started his swing long before the ball
would reach the plate. But the moment he realized his
mistake, he halted his swing by letting go of the bat
with his left hand, and proceeded to literally swat the
ball out of the park at the 375-foot marker. Sonny
Cornelius just shook his head..
But though his legendary feats have been passed on
from fan to fan, Gibson has never received the
recognition he so richly deserves. William Brashler,
with his new book Josh Gibson: A Life in the Negro
Leagues, attempts to deliver him from obscurity.
WHEN Brashler was researching his novel The
Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings, a
story about a team of barnstorming black baseball
players in the 30's, he became acutely aware of the
paucity of reliable information about the Negro
leagues and their stars. This, plus his love of the
sport, prompted Brashler to piece together Gibson's
story from articles in black newspapers such as the
Pittsburg Courier and the Chicago Defender, and
from personal interviews with Gibson's former
teammates, Ted Page, Jimmie Crutchfield, and
James "Cool Papa" Bell. The result is a frank,
believable account of Gibson's life, set against a
background of an informative history of the Negro
leagues in the 30s and 40s
A typical baseball fan might be wary of a sports
See GIBSON, Page 14
This parachutist, or skydiver, tensely awaits his moment in the plane when he will make the leap into thin air
I F MEN WERE meant to fly, God would have given
So why are these crazy people jumping out of air-
"I love skydiving and I love skydivers," declares Bob
Mittig, instructor and jumpmaster at Parachuting Service,
Inc., located at Al Meyer's Airport, in Tecumseh, about 25
miles west of Ann Arbor. Mittig has been skydiving since
1965 and has made about 650 "blasts."
Mittig works for Harold Lange, owner of Parachuting
Service, Inc. He teaches a weekend skydiving class - a
one-day, six-hour intensive course on techniques and
procedures in skydiving. The course is required for all first-
Tooling between airport buildings in a rebuilt yellow car,
the bearded skydiver talks about his sport. "The sport has
changed so much. We had to just jump." In class, he talks
about his first jump.
"I HAD AS much instruction as you had breaks. I tum-
bled around and around and the cars on the highway were
going back and forth and the wires were over there and the
trees were over there. I just missed the cars and landed in a
ditch. I said, 'Shit, that was scary. Let's do it again.'
Class begins in a marrow-chilling wooden building at 10
a.m. on a cloudy Sunday morning. From the ceiling
billows a white parachute, tacked up here and there to hide
the beams. Two hanging light bulbs glare on fifteen studen-
ts: a Toledo bank manager and several other bank em-
ployes, a few students from Toledo University, a
photographer, a high school student, and a petite nurse
from the University Hospital.
"Uh, look and see how your parachute is doing?"
mers the student.
"What's the first thing you do when you jump out
plane?" Mittig points to another student.
"Check your chute," the student replies. So the rc
continues five more times. Is there a student from c
Mittig's first-jump classes who will forget to chec
Parachuting Service, Inc. has hosted a quarter
million jumps in almost 15 years - 8000 of them first
skydivers. Mittig says he's had over 40 people in a clas
ONE OF Mittig's former students is Bob Domeier, a
med University senior. In a year of skydiving, Domeie
jumped over 100 times.
"Skydivers are adrenalin junkies. They get nervo
they don't make a jump," says Domeier. "If the weat:
crummy for three weeks, you start clawing for a skyd
Domeier claws at the arms of his chair. "It's likea fix.'
Mittig quickly wins the class over with his easy-going, Domeier is one of "the regulars" at the Tecumseh
joking style. "Let's start in the middle," he says, and class zone. The number of regulars has fluctuated over the yE
begins with quips and introductions. says Judy Lange, who helps her husband run the skydi
On to the basics-how to jump. Mittig explains the
procedures, the physics, the emergencies and their
ONE POSSIBLE malfunction is the "Mae West." "It
looks like a bow tie," explains Mittig. Lines get wrapped
around the top of the parachute, which is forced into two
bubbles. There is the "streamer," when the parachute is
released, but fails to inflate. Of course, there is always the
total malfunction: nothing happens.
"What's the first thing you do when you jump out of the
plane?" Mittig points to a slouching student.
"It used to be on a nice day we'd have 50 regulars
hundreds of jumps. Now its 12 to 15 regulars and the
are students." Ms. Lange says the number of regl
BACK IN class, Mittig explains the function of the r
ve parachute: "When in doubt, whip it out." The reser
contained in a packet snapped in front of the juS
Parachuting Service Inc.'s equipment is made of
pound test hardware and cloth.
This heavy-duty pack and a parachute held together
a half a million stitches are all that keep the jumper
crashing to earth at 120 miles per hour terminal velocitl