It’s a sad mystery, really, and one that’ll never be solved.
Just how good was Josh Gibson?
The powerful Negro Leagues star never had an opportunity to play in the major leagues and so we’re left mostly with memories of those who watched him. While some are estimates, the numbers that were kept from his career are mind-boggling. Still, there’s a longing to really know whether he was a better slugger than the best of his white contemporaries. Was he the black Babe Ruth…or was Ruth the white Josh Gibson?
Artifacts from Gibson’s career are rare, but a bat Heritage Auctions calls “the only example that has ever been definitively linked” to his career is up for bids. The “36”, 37.6 ounce piece of lumber carries Gibson’s name on the barrel—and side writing that indicates it was ordered by W.A. “Gus” Greenlee, who owned the Pittsburgh Crawfords, where Gibson played from 1932-1936. Heritage is offering the bat in its current catalog where bidding has already broached six figures.
Written notes on the Spalding 300 bat include a date of “5-8-35” and the words “39 oz W.A. Greeenlee, Negro Natl League Pittsburgh PA,” suggesting Greenlee assumed responsibility for acquiring bats used by the Crawfords players. Gibson led Pittsburgh to the Negro National League pennant in ‘35.
The name “Gibson” is stamped to the barrel, which exhibits evidence of “outstanding” game use, according to PSA/DNA, which rates it GU9. There are ball marks and slight checking on the barrel, while cleat marks are apparent on the handle, which was cracked and later repaired with five small nails.
The bat last sold via Christies in 2016 and is back on the auction block, where it’s expected to sell for $300,000 or more during the Heritage Platinum Night Auction, which closes next weekend.