Mark McGwire vs Josh Gibson - The Tail of the Facts and Rumors
by Cinque Brown
Many people in the media are making quite a fuss over the race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire to reach the "record" of *61 homeruns set by Roger Maris. At the current pace the two are hitting, it seems as though both men will break the *record* by at least three homeruns.
Many people have pointed out the fact that McGwire uses a performance enhancing substance or "steroid". The same substance that McGwire is alleged to use would ban him from competition in the Olympics, NFL, NCAA or NBA. McGwire doesn't see his self as having any unfair advantage over anybody else. In short, they have the right to use it also. Many of today's athletes are afraid of these substances because of future side effects. It has been reported that McGwire has used a performance enhancing substance called adrosteindieone. [pronounced-andro/steen/die/own] Users call this substance "Androgen" for short. A friend of mine used "Androgen" for one week to build muscle but stopped after a week and returned the product. He said his pancreas burned for four days and when he went to the bathroom he was urinating semen. (But some still claim this is not a steroid) For those who are willing to take the risk of associating themselves with these enhancers, good luck.
In baseball performance enhancers are legal , at this current time in history but there may be a time in future baseball history when we will look back later and asterisk * the accomplishments of people who admit to using performance-enhancing substances. Before this is seriously considered I would like to you to think about a few things which have already been asteriked * in some sports books. In the NBA they have changed the distance of the three point line, 3 times in the last decade. Should the player who made the most 3 pointers in a season have an asterisk by his name since it was done in a year when the 3 point line was closer?
My second question is should we asterisk the new record that Mark McGwire will definitely set very soon? If we asterisk McGwire, let's do it for something we can prove. The steroid accusation won't be proven because there is no drug testing in baseball. But the asterisk should come, Not because of his association with steroid usage but because *61 is NOT THE REAL RECORD for Professional Baseball.
The record is NOT CLOSE too being broken. The homerun record for professional baseball is 75 homeruns and it was set in 1931 by Josh Gibson of the Negro Leagues at the ripe age of 19 and it was done in only 154 games. Gibson did this while his team compiled a record of 136 wins against only 17 losses. Gibson's record was set at a time when Blacks and Whites could not play in the same league due to some people's fear and ignorance. Although the Negro Leagues did play against the white leagues hundreds of times and had approximately a two to one win average against them.
Joshua Gibson, was born in Buena Vista, Georgia on, Dec. 21, 1911 and is considered by many as the greatest power hitter to ever hold a bat in any baseball league in the United States. Gibson played from 1930 to 1946. His seventeen year career as a catcher started with the Homestead Grays and finished with the Pittsburgh Crawfords. He was a natural hitter, the right-handed slugger hit for both distance and average.
Gibson is credited with 962 home runs in his 17 year career, he also compiled a .391 lifetime batting average in the Negro Leagues. In addition to his slugging prowess, Gibson had a powerful arm and was one of the best catchers in the league.
According to Negro Leagues records. "Gibson was an imposing 6'2" and 215 lb., he was one of the most dangerous hitters to ever step up to the plate. One of his home runs was measured at an astounding 575', but there were probably some that traveled even farther. Although statistics were often undocumented in the Negro National League, Gibson was the league's leading hitter four times and had a lifetime batting average of .347."
Gibson was well liked and respected by his peers, His popularity extended to the fans, and he was voted to start in nine East-West All-Star games, in which he compiled a sensational .483 batting average. However Gibson is rumored to have had emotional problems which scared the white leagues away from signing him. Ironically it is believed that the "emotional problems he suffered" were due to his being ignored by the white leagues due to the fear that he would break all of the white players hitting records and the stress led to him having a stroke in 1947. Gibson died suddenly in early 1947, during this same year Jackie Robinson became the first black player to integrate the major (white) league. In recognition of his accomplishments, Gibson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
It is unfortunate that little is known about Josh Gibson and other great Negro League players. I only know of one movie that portrayed these amazing athletes. That was the HBO movie "Soul of the Game" it was excellent. It focused on the playing days of 3 Black Baseball players Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson. But all of them deserve their own feature film.
Major networks like FOX are airing specials on the great hitters dating back to 1930 and ignoring the Black baseball players from that era and later. This is yet another way that our contributions have been ignored
On the eve of all the hoopla that we are reading about Mark and Sammy approaching 62 homeruns, I say "great but we cannot forget that they are still 13 behind the record". I know Sammy can respect what I am saying because if this was 1931 he would be playing in the Negro Leagues also.
You can find information about Josh Gibson and other stars of blackbaseball at the following two addresses.
Cinque's articles are found on the following web sites.