Negro League History: Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard Inducted in Hall of Fame
In the 1970’s, there was an emphasis on recognizing the greatest players in the history of the Negro League, and to induct them into the Hall of Fame. On this day in 1972, Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard became the second and third players from the Negro League to be elected.
After the success of integration in the 1940’s and the 1950’s, people began to pay more attention to the history of the Negro League. Quite a few great players, who were not allowed to play in the Majors due to the color barrier, toiled away in their own version of the Majors. These players, who were often just as good as their white counterparts, were set to get their due.
Naturally, the first player inducted for his time in the Negro League was the incomparable Satchel Paige. Even though he did not reach the Majors until he was in his 40’s, Paige made two All Star Games. Then, at age 58, he fired three shutout innings against the Red Sox. It was understandable as to why he would be inducted first, especially with his exploits prior to joining the Cleveland Indians.
On this day in 1972, two more legends joined Paige in the Hall of Fame. Legendary hitters Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard were inducted into the Hall, finally getting their moments in the spotlight.
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Gibson was considered to be the Negro League answer to Babe Ruth. He was considered to be one of the greatest power hitters of all time, and once hit a baseball completely out of Yankee Stadium, becoming the only player to do so. He won 12 home run titles, and also led the league in batting average, doubles, triples, RBI, and slugging on different occasions. He was truly a unique talent, and one that was taken away far too early at just 35 years old.
Leonard was the Lou Gehrig to Gibson’s Ruth. He was an incredible line drive hitter, capable of powering the ball to all fields with authority. Leonard was the most popular player in the league, and played in a record 12 East-West Games.
It made perfect sense to put Gibson and Leonard in the Hall together. They were as much of a part of the lore of the Homestead Grays as Ruth and Gehrig were to the Yankees. In a lot of ways, their fate on the diamond was intertwined, and more often than not, Gibson and Leonard delivered.
On this day in 1972, Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard finally received their due. The two Negro League legends, and teammates, were inducted into the Hall of Fame together.