John Holway / Negro Leagues
GIBSON'S STADIUM BLASTS
By John B Holway
Once a name from the mists of baseball history, Gibson has now emerged from the realm of legends, and we know a great many details of the man behind the myth.
Saturday, July 27, 1930 Josh had been in the league only a few weeks when
he arrived in
There were no monuments in the outfield then, of course. Leftfield really was death valley. The bleachers stretched 481 feet away at their farthest point it looked like 481 miles to the right-handed batters.
two runways between the grandstand and the bleachers were used as
bullpens. The bullpen gate in
left-center was 405 feet from home.
That's where Brooklyns Al Gionfriddo
Joe DiMaggio of a home run in the 1947 World Series Joe never did
hit a homer in
weak earlier Josh had smashed a ball over the centerfield wall in
the first game in
But in the ninth Red came out of the game, and Broadway Connie Rector (he didn't get his nickname by wearing blue jeans) went in. A ten-year veteran, Rector was
that season with a dangerously high 7.02 runs per
game earned runs were not
compiled. But the year before,
he had been the best black hurler in the country with a
of 20-2. He wasn't
overpowering. He walked as many
men as he whiffed and completed only half his games, which was unusual for
that day. He pitched as hard
as he needed to. When
threw the most tantalizing slow ball in
Rector must have forgotten the clubhouse meeting, because he got one pitch a little too close. Josh, with those arms like sledge hammers, supplied all the power himself and sent the ball whistling toward the bullpen like a golf drive.
I talked to three eye-witnesses, each one with different perspectives of the blast.
Hall of Famer William Judy Johnson was presumably in the visiting Grays dugout. Mark Koenig, the last survivor of the 1930 Yanks, said the home team sat behind third base and the visitors behind first, just the opposite of the present arrangement. Johnson, therefore, would have had a good view of the drive to left (unless he was coaching at third base). Anyway, he said the ball went out over the roof, over everything.
Brown, the catcher, presumably had the best view. He said the ball went over the roof and hit the back of the bullpen, about two feet from the top of the wall.
How far from home is the wall? Even the Yankees public relations office couldn't tell me. Using a scale diagram circa 1950, the wall was, as close as I can measure it, 505 feet from home (assuming that the plate hasn't moved).
newspapers are of no use. White
papers didn't cover the game;
papers merely called it a long home
run. Gibsons hometown
Gibson himself in 1938 told the Courier, I hit the ball on a line into the bullpen in deep leftfield. Josh was known as a line-drive hitter, so we can assume that the ball did not go over the roof, though it might have gone over the corner of the upper deck.
balls Josh Hamilton hit in the contest this summer were
suspect. I cannot believe they
were regulation major league balls.
By contrast, Gibson was batting against a cheaper
years later Gibson hit another monster shot into the
bullpen. I have found no newspaper
that mentioned it. Jack Marshall
of the Chicago American Giants told author William Brashler he saw it during
a four-team double-header in 1934.
I talked to two other men who saw the shot,
Thomas said the ball landed in the bullpen and bounced into the bleachers, 17 rows up. I said, Jesus Christ! I ain't never seen a ball hit like that before!
Clints buddy, Clarence Fats Jenkins, had run over from centerfield. Neither did I, Roomie, he whistled.
A white fan caught the ball. You want it? he called to them.
We said, Yeah. He threw it down. After the game we took a cab to radio station WOR and Ed Sullivan [Daily News columnist and later a top TV personality] and gave him the ball on the radio. He gave us $50. I don't know what happened to the ball.
If you think you've read everything about Ted Williams, think again. I knew him for 65 years since we were friends in high school, and I've never read any book like this one. Holway has new facts and statistics and pictures on almost every page. He spent hours talking to Ted and found out things Ted never told anyone else. Most people dont know that he was half-Mexican or how his uncles taught him to play, and even I didn't know that he called his shots on at least 17 home runs. Theres a lot of new stuff on his battles with the writers, his famous All Star Game home run, Joe DiMaggios streak, and about Cobb, Sisler, Hornsby, and other .400 hitters. This book really brings the man and that era to life. Its a box seat ticket to history. Bob Breitbart, director, San Diego Hall of Champions.
Well done. There were plenty of people who racked Ted up and wanted to bring out the bad in the guy. He had a lot of pressure on him, but he was a really compassionate guy. Holway has told it like it is. Bobby Doerr, Hall of Fame, Red Sox 1938-50.
The ballplayers all loved Ted. He was a great hitter, a great human being, and a great friend. Holways book captures the spirit of those years absolutely. Reading it is like being there in person. Every serious baseball fan should have it in his library or on his coffee table. Bob Feller, Hall of Fame, Indians, 1936-56.
Holway is the John Wayne of the keyboards. John Thorn, editor, Total Baseball.
About The Last 400 Hitter(1001)
Holways accounting of
the miraculous 1941 season is a joy to
read. Thoroughly researched
and carefully detailed, it is an affectionate tribute to a ballplayer, a
season, and an era.
I entered baseball at just about the same time Ted did, so it was great fun reading about Teds life, and it brought back many memories. John B Holway has skillfully revived a remarkable period in baseball history, as well as the turbulent world surrounding it. I thoroughly enjoyed reliving those times through this delightful book. Jean Yawkey, former Red Sox chairman of the board.
$35 + $4
soft cover. Scorpio
18 new stories, many new pictures, and exclusive never-before published statistics span more than a century of history and bring to life an era that will never return.
Ted Williams recalled that in his rookie year of 1939, at each city the veterans pointed out, Josh Gibson hit one there . That's where Josh Gibson hit one. Well, said Ted, nobody in our league hit em any farther than that.
Doc Sykes, who hurled a no-hitter, out-raced KKK night-riders, and watched a cross being burned on his lawn.
Laymon Yokely, who whiffed Jimmie Foxx and Hack Wilson; Hack handed him his bat, saying, Here, you take it, its no use to me.
Frank Duncan, who started a riot and later sent Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers..
Connie Johnson, who reached the majors and tells of dueling Williams at the plate.
Piper Davis, who dazzled Globe Trotter fans and taught a teen-age rookie to get back up after a beaning.
You taught me to survive, Willie Mays told him. You were the pioneers, you made it possible for us.
Blackball Tales, Holways third series of oral compilations relates the joys, travails, and aspirations of members of the Negro Leagues. Holway has done as much as anyone to chronicle the story of segregated baseball. Highly recommended for general libraries. Library Journal.
$30 + $4 s&h softcover
Save $8. Buy both books for $65, and we pay the s&h