Josh Gibson was one of the greatest players in Negro Leagues history, and perhaps in the history of professional baseball. On this day in 1943, Gibson was admitted to a hospital after having a nervous breakdown.
Few players had the power that Josh Gibson possessed. His feats with the bat were legendary, as he hit a ball entirely out of Yankee Stadium fair, the only player ever to do so. He was a twelve time home run leader, and his Hall of Fame plaque lists him as having “almost 800 home runs in league and independent baseball during his 17-year career.” yes, Gibson was an impressive player, perhaps the greatest never to play in the Majors.
Yet, even with all that success, Gibson had his own demons that he had to face. He developed a drinking problem, and it was speculated that he was addicted to drugs as well. Even without those issues, Gibson had his problems. On this day in 1943, he was admitted to St. Francis Hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown.
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Fortunately, Gibson was not hospitalized for that long. He required rest and treatment for his issues, but he was not in the facility for long. In fact, he was allowed to leave in time to go to Spring Training in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
This was not the end of his health issues. Later that year, he fell into a coma, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Gibson elected to avoid the surgery needed for its removal, suffering from headaches for the rest of his days. Within four years of being hospitalized for the breakdown, Gibson died due to a stroke.
In 1943, however, those issues did not stop his production. Gibson had a .449 batting average and hit 22 home runs, more than the next three players combined. He also had 33 doubles, 13 more than second place. Gibson continued to be a stellar hitter, proving his superiority in the Negro Leagues.
Even though Josh Gibson was one of the best players in baseball during his time, he had his own personal issues. This nervous breakdown was just the beginning for the problems that would manifest themselves.