How would you like a catcher that wins 10 homerun titles in the 12 years he played full? Not only that he is the best hitter in the league (winning the OPS+ title) 9 times. It wouldn’t matter to me how good this guy could catch I would have to call him the greatest catcher of all time. There it is Josh Gibson. His hitting stats are spectacular. He had one year he slugged .974. The seasons weren’t as long, but still. It is an outstanding season to have an OPS of .974 Gibson slugged .974 to end up with an OPS of 1.474.
Most of the experts on the Negro Leagues pick Oscar Charleston as the best player in Negro League History, as he was a better all-around player than Gibson. He also had a longer career. I did see one expert that have Gibson number one and Charleston number 2. He has a good case. My personal opinion is that you can name any of the top 3 and not be wrong. You like the all-around player, take Charleston, a super pitcher with a great story, take Paige or a super hitter that played the most important on the field more that adequately take Gibson. I would agree with anyone of the three.
I remember reading sports writers saying Gibson died of a broken heart because he wasn’t the first Negro Leaguer selected to play with the major league white players. That is far from true. Gibson’s son Josh Gibson Jr. is not happy with that story, and I don’t blame him. Reading Gibson’s SABR Biography I found out that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in early 1943. From reading the rest of his biography I believe the tumor or something near it was eventually what killed him. The thing is Gibson played 4 more seasons and was a dominate player despite suffering with a brain tumor. It affected him a lot. I think this is quite a story that has never been fully told.