Josh Gibson Baseball Cards

Josh Gibson (1911-1947) is remembered as an excellent catcher for the Negro leagues, the Dominican League, and Mexican League. He was banned from MLB due to his skin color, and he died from a stroke a year before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

He is nicknamed the “black Babe Ruth”, while many fans, who saw both of them play, called Babe Ruth “the white Josh Gibson.” At 6 feet 1 inch tall and 210 pounds at his peak, Gibson is considered one of the greatest power hitters ever.

From 1930 to 1946, he played for the Homestead Grays (three stints), Pittsburgh Crawfords, Drogens de Cidudad Trujillo, and Azules de Veracruz. The statistics from these leagues are often inconsistent, but official statistics have his batting average at .359, a .648 slugging percentage, and 238 home runs. Gibson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Negro Leagues Committee in 1972. He was the second African American player inducted.

Born in Buena Vista, Georgia, Gibson’s father moved the family to Pittsburgh when Gibson was 12. Gibson was raised in vocational schools, and he trained to be an electrician from a young age. As an employee of a Gimbels department store where he worked as an elevator operator, Gibson, who was sixteen at the time, was invited to play third base for a company sponsored team. It was his first time playing baseball.

Simply put, Gibson was a natural. Within a year of his first at bat, he was recruited by the top semi pro team in Pittsburgh. Abandoning electrician work for baseball, Gibson worked at Gimbels and played baseball on the side, training for the professional Negro Leagues. By 1930 he was on the Homestead Grays, which was the best Negro team in Pittsburgh.

While Gibson debuted on July 31, 1930, tragedy struck on August 11, when his wife died giving birth to twins. Given the culture of the time, the children were given to the parents of Gibson’s deceased wife to be raised.

Gibson had a successful career in the Negro League career. He won two Negro World Series championships, and he was named to 12 All-Star teams.

As with other major Negro League players, the accomplishments of Josh Gibson will always be debated. First of all, the Negro Leagues did not record complete stats or summaries of games. Second, Negro League teams often traveled to play the best local teams. This helped them make more money, but they often played against inferior competition.

Gibson recorded some incredible stat lines, like 69 home runs in 1934 or a .467 batting average with 55 home runs in 137 games in 1933. His actual Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown states that he had, “almost 800 home runs in league and independent baseball during his 17 year career.” Some say this should say over 1000. However, 238 home runs occurred and were officially recorded in professional games.

Then, there are further confusing statistics, such as the fact that Negro Leagues were on average 60 games shorter per season. Interestingly, as recently as December 16, 2020, MLB officially gave Gibson the record for a batting average in a single season at .441.

At the end of the day, Josh Gibson is a tall tale. He died shortly before the color barrier was broken. Many players, such as Larry Doby (the first black player in the AL), believed that it should have been Gibson, not Robinson, to break the color barrier.

Doby said later in life, “One of the things that was disappointing and disheartening to a lot of the black players at the time was that Jack was not the best player. The best was Josh Gibson. I think that’s one of the reasons why Josh died so early – he was heartbroken.”

There are very few options for collectors for Josh Gibson cards. There were barely any cards produced of Negro League players. This article will go over the best of the limited supply.

1950-1951 Toleteros Josh Gibson

This rare card is probably the best option available. Not much is known about the set, but it is a good looking card with Gibson featured on it. It measures 1 ¾” x 2 ½”.

PSA has only 76 cards registered for the entire set, and only 14 of those cards are Gibson copies. This is a rare card. A PSA 8 copy sold for $91,200 in 2017 and fell to $72,000 in 2018. It would likely sell for much more today. Any grade will be very expensive. A PSA 1.5 sold for $16,149.60 in December of 2019.

1931 Harrison Studios Postcard Josh Gibson

This is also a very rare iteration of a Gibson card. The sepia toned and faded autograph is difficult to track down. There is no pricing or offers to be found. All there is to say is that the card exists.

1974 Laughlin Old Time Black Stars Josh Gibson

Gibson is shown crouching behind home plate, ready for the pitch, in this cartoon picture of him.


On one casual game, bottom of the ninth, one on, two down, Gibson hit a walk off home run so high and deep that everybody lost the ball in the sky. It seemed to disappear— it was struck that hard. Everybody in Pittsburgh talked about the shot that night.

The next day in Washington, as the players positioned themselves for the start of a new game, a ball fell seemingly from the sky, and an outfielder caught it. The umpire gestured at Gibson, “You’re out! In Pittsburgh, yesterday.”

The Negro League players stand tall as legends and tall tales. Nobody will ever know just how good Josh Gibson was (did he really hit 1000 home runs?). Owning a rare card of a Negro League player is a representation of the baseball mythology.