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May 27, 1978 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1978-05-27

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Page 14--Saturday, May 27, 1978--The Michigan Daily

Gibson:
cContinued from Page 8)
book written by an accomplished
novelist like Brashler (such things are
usually written by sports journalists
who "understand the game"), but the
author assuages those fears in his in-
troductory and opening chapter, where
he reveals his life-long love of baseball
and his years of participation in the
sport, including a stint with the
Michigan Wolverines.
After verifying his credentials,

Baseball's unsung hero

Brashler leads the reader through a
season by season history of the Negro
leagues, focusing mainly on Gibson, but
paying homage to other black stars
such as Satchel Paige and Cool Papa
Bell.
Gibson began his professional career
in Pittsburgh in 1930 with the
Homestead Grays when he was a mere
19 years old. He quickly established
himself as a sturdy, dependable cat-

cher, and a devastating power hitter. In
1932, he moved to the Pittsburgh
Crawfords, where he became the most
respected hitter in black baseball.
BY THE mid-30s everyone
acknowledged that Gibson was one of
the finest players in the game, even in-
cluding many white stars, The legen-
dary Washington Senators pitcher
Walter Johnson once said, "There is a

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catcher that any big league club would
like to buy for $200,0600an enormous
sum in those days). His name is Gib-
son ... he can do everything. e hits
the ball a mile. And he catches so easy
he might as well be in a rocking chair.
Throws like a rifle. Bill Dickey (a
Yankee catcher often thought to be the
best of all time) isn't as good a catcher.
Too bad this Gibson is a colored
fellow.",
TOO BAT) indeed, for Gibson never
got to play in the major leagues.
Although several team owners ex-
pressed an interest in him and other
black stars, none had the courage to be
the first to hire a black ballplayer. So
Gibson remained in the Negro leagues,
complete with low pay and lousy meals,
until his death in 947.
tie died a ravaged man. Because of
hypertension (and, some alleged, a
brain tumor) he started to lose his mind
in the mid-40s, but retained his
magnificent playing ability to the last.
By the time of his early death, he was so
poor that his family couldn't even af-
ford a tombstone. This, at least, has
since been rectified by the com-
missioner of baseball, who used league
funds to furnish an appropriate
marker.
Brashler, through his extensive
rese'arch, has managed to uncover th
true story of Josh Gibson, and of black
baseball in general. Hle has stripped
away the apocryphal stories, and
presented a clear, believable picture.
The players are not represented as
happy-go-lucky pranksters who were
satisfied with playing in the less struc-
tured black leagues rather than in the
majors, nor are they seen as social
reformers, who fought fiercely to gain
entrance into the white leagues. They
were simply men who loved baseball
more than anything else. They were un-
fortunate victims of the racist times,
and they were angered by it, but accep-
ted their fate.
BRASHLER'S heavy reliance on
quotes and his tight, informative
writing evidence his roots as a reporter
for a Chicago syndicate. There is no
romanticism here, just an almost en-
cyclopedic account of a part of
American history that has not been
covered in any other books. This style is
important to the book's success
because so much of what has been prin-
ted about the Negro leagues, prior to
this book, has been based on
apocryphal stories and legend, that
tend to mislead and overglorify the
period. Brashler, who has already writ-
ten his own fictional account of black
baseball, was basically striving to write
a history of the Negro leagues, and
more specifically its greatest hitting
star. In this vein he has sudeeded.
There's
a solution but...
defects
are
forever.
Unless
you help.
/ March
r of Dimes

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