Fastball On The Outside Corner: THE JOSH GIBSON STORY


Set in 1930's Pittsburgh, “Fastball On The Outside Corner: The Josh Gibson Story” chronicles the life and times of one of the game’s most prolific, yet largely unrecognized home run hitters of all time. 

Born a sharecropper's son in Georgia in 1911, the grandson of a slave, Josh Gibson moved to Pittsburgh with his family in the early 1920’s, where his natural athletic ability led him to excel in all sports, and in particular, baseball. The historic biopic tells the story of Gibson's meteoric rise from the Steel City’s sandlot leagues to his unmatched stardom in the black ball-era’s professional ranks, whose best teams not only rivaled, but also often surpassed in talent their white “big league” counterparts.

Gibson is purported by some sources to have hit over 900 homeruns during his 17-year professional career, which included numerous winter baseball seasons “south of the border” in the integrated leagues of Puerto Rico, Mexico and Venezuela. In addition to hitting for a high average as well as for power, he was able to run very well for a catcher, and he possessed a powerful throwing arm that cut down many a would-be base stealer.

Despite the misfortune of playing in his prime a decade before Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier in 1947, Josh Gibson was nonetheless elected to the Cooperstown Hall of Fame in 1972, and was touted as one of the greatest catchers ever to play the game. Sadly, it was only after this last posthumous honor, twenty-five years after his passing, that a proper gravestone was placed at his final resting place, which up until then, had been marked only by a plain anonymous marker.

The story of Gibson’s life is one marked with great personal tragedy, as well with unattended triumph, in a time when segregation, still well-entrenched throughout the country, was only beginning to be questioned by society at-large. Still, if the outside world was cruel and mean, within his baseball world, despite its social separation, Gibson and his contemporaries found sanctuary, even peace, as well as a widely-accepted way to express their God-given talents and a dignified sense of purpose that said they were playing the game for something more than just a paycheck.

Greatly admired by their communities, Gibson and his peers were examples of personal success and upward mobility, and their exclusion from the white game was not considered in any way by their admirers to be a stain on their talent or achievements. In numerous exhibition games against professional white all-star teams, often led by the likes of Dizzy Dean, as well in integrated winter league games south of the border, also featuring these same white contemporaries, Gibson proved time and time again that he belonged. Dean, a Hall of Fame pitcher himself, publicly stated more than once, that Gibson could certainly play in the majors if ever given the chance.

“Fastball on the Outside Corner” also explores how financial support for professional black baseball often came in the form of questionable participants and tangled alliances. This was the case with many of the blackball-era teams during the Great Depression. While the ballplayers “just played ball”, some of the men behind the scenes had their fiscal roots in prohibition liquor sales and illegal gambling, among other prohibited activities. Yet, though outlaws under a discriminatory economic, legal and political system, many of these “entrepreneurs” behind the financing of the Negro league clubs were considered local heroes, as they often did more to help their communities than the socially-accepted segregated institutions of mainstream society did. While their altruism could be argued to be a matter of perspective, there is little doubt that without this sometimes-shadowy association, there would have been no professional black baseball scene in Pittsburgh or any other American city.

One such significant, albeit dubious figure in the life of Josh Gibson was local numbers kingpin and racketeer, Gus Greenlee, who owned the hoppin’ Crawford Grill in the Hill District of downtown Pittsburgh. "The Grill on The Hill", was where everyone who was anyone, black or white, came to see the most fantastic music on the planet. Prominent businessmen, politicians, athletes and celebrities alike, all came to the well-known nightclub to see such jazz greats as Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne and Duke Ellington in their prime. It was before the vibrant musical tapestry of these remarkable artists, as well as many others from the 30’s and 40’s jazz scene, that much of the black-ball era unfolded, as well as the life and times of one of the greatest, yet unheralded baseball players ever, one Joshua "Josh" Gibson. 

“Fastball On The Outside Corner: The Josh Gibson Story” tells how it all went down.

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