One would think a player who may have been one of the greatest talents in baseball history would have been photographed virtually every week of his life—even in the 1930s. The sad truth is that Josh Gibson wasn’t photographed nearly as much as many inferior players because he spent his entire 18-year career outside the spotlight of Major League Baseball.
He toiled in the Negro Leagues and when there were no games in the U.S., he went elsewhere. A small but rare, never before offered 1940 photograph of Gibson, taken as a member of the Maracaibo Centauros of Venezuela, is the RMY Auctions Photo of the Day. It’s one of the featured attractions in their July Premier Auction, which runs through next Saturday.
The full length 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ photo shows Gibson in full uniform and holding his bats and his glove outside the ballpark, far from the major league stadiums he should have called home. He’s looking directly at the photographer.
“The greatest image of Gibson we have ever seen offered for sale,” reads the auction description. “One of the most exciting pieces of photography we have ever offered.”
Gibson not only batted .480 while playing with the Centauros, but he’s said to have belted a home run that was estimated to have travelled 600 feet. There’s no video, of course, and no photograph of the moment but there was no doubt Gibson’s prodigious power was a gate attraction no matter where he played.
Sadly, just seven years after this photo was taken and four months before Jackie Robinson’s major league debut, Josh Gibson died of a stroke. He was just 35 years old.