The Greatest Hitter to Never Play in the MLB

The legend of Josh Gibson is probably not that far from reality.

Jameson Steward
Letters from a Sports Fan
2 min readJan 25, 2024


Negro League star Josh Gibson in front of a baseball field.
Image created in Canva.

Josh Gibson was called “the black Babe Ruth.” Although some, after seeing Gibson play, said Babe Ruth was “the white Josh Gibson.”

And yet, because the color barrier in Major League Baseball wasn’t broken until after his tragic death by a stroke at the age of 35, Josh Gibson never played in the Major Leagues.

But this doesn’t take anything away from his greatness.

Josh Gibson Stats.

Stats from the Negro Leagues are challenging to come by. But what little has been discovered reveals that the “legends” about Josh Gibson are probably not that far from the truth.

Baseball Reference records Gibson as hitting 166 career home runs with a lifetime batting average/on-base-percentage/slugging percentage of .373/.458/.718.

Seamheads include more games in their official records with similar stats of 240 career home runs and a career batting average/on-base-percentage/slugging percentage of .365/.450/.690.

So, while we have only a tiny piece of the picture when it comes to Josh Gibson’s stats, what we do have places Gibson among the all-time great hitters in baseball.

Josh Gibson Stories.

A 1967 article in The Sporting News claimed that Josh Gibson hit a home run at Yankee Stadium during a Negro League game that landed just two feet from the top of the wall encircling the bleachers some 580 feet from home plate.

Alonzo Boone, the former Cleveland Buckeye pitcher and manager, had this to say about Gibson:

“Josh was a better power hitter than Babe Ruth, Ted Williams or anybody else I’ve ever seen…Anything he touched was hit hard. He could power outside pitches to right field. Shortstops would move to left field when Josh came to the plate.”

Two of the greatest pitchers in pre-integrated MLB history — Walter Johnson and Carl Hubbell — claimed Josh Gibson would have been the greatest catcher in the Major Leagues had his skin color been different.

The limited stats and stories from players who played with Gibson or saw him play tell the same story — had Gibson played in Major League Baseball, he would be considered one of the greatest hitters of all time.

And perhaps he was the greatest hitter of all time.

Think of the irony — the greatest baseball player of all time never actually played in the MLB.

What a very “baseball” thing to happen.

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