The tales are legendary but unfortunately for baseball fans, the photographs of Josh Gibson are few. Any new discovery creates a buzz and now, collectors will have a chance to bid on a small, but remarkable image of the Hall of Fame catcher that originated with one of his former teammates.
The 3 x 4 ¾” snapshot shows Gibson and his fellow players on the 1938-39 Santa Clara Leopardoes of the Cuban Winter League. Twelve members of the team are pictured in full uniform, including Gibson, who is standing in the back row. The photo contains an ink note on the bottom border, written in Spanish. It originated with the estate of one of his teammates in Puerto Rico. It’s among the top items in RMY Auctions’ March Premier online catalog.
The Santa Clara (Puerto Rico) squad won the league championship in 1938-39. As he nearly always did, Gibson had gone south for the winter to continue playing for a paycheck. He joined the Leopardoes after the conclusion of the Homestead Grays season. His impact on the squad was unquestioned. Gibson hit .356, slugged .638, belted 11 homers in just 163 at-bats and scored 50 runs, likely thanks to a mountain of intentional walks.
A shoulder patch honoring the Leopardoes’1937-38 championship team is visible on the players’ uniforms, which dates the image to the following season when Gibson was aboard.
The photo is one of more than 1,000 lots in the auction, which is set to continue through March 10.