PITTSBURGH -- The Josh Gibson Foundation, headed by Gibson's great-grandson, Sean,
will host the Josh Gibson Centennial Negro League Gala on Aug. 13 at the
Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh.
The event will honor the 100th anniversary of the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords slugger's birth in 1911.
Sean Gibson said Tuesday that the foundation will award two local
high school students with scholarships in Gibson's name, as well as
honoring Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson with the Josh Gibson
Al Oliver, Dave Cash and the other members of the all-minority
starting lineup the Pirates fielded on Sept. 1, 1971, will also receive
an award from the foundation, and Steelers Hall of Fame running back
Franco Harris will serve as co-chair of the event.
Anne Madarasz, co-director of the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum
at the Heinz History Center, said Pittsburgh, which was the only city to
have two Negro League teams — the Grays and the Crawfords — embraces
Gibson's legacy, as well as the legacy of Negro League baseball.
"Seven of the first 12 Negro Leaguers to go into the Hall of Fame
(were) from those two teams," Madarasz said of the Crawfords and Grays.
"More than a dozen professional Negro League championships. This is a
story of people in this region crafting an incredible record of success
that brought a community together, inspired that community and gave them
great pride in people from that community and what they could
Oliver, who was a member of the Pirates' 1971 World Series
championship team, said the black players of his era owed a great deal
to Negro League stars like Gibson.
"I sit back and I think about the Negro Leagues, and I wonder, how
did they survive? Because I don't think that I would have survived in
the manner in which they did," Oliver said. "But they enjoyed playing
the game. ... Someone like Josh Gibson, I owe a lot to them for their
endurance and their tolerance, and knowing that they were good enough to
play in the major leagues but just (weren't) given that opportunity."
Sean Gibson emphasized the importance of having Harris, one of the
best-known figures in Pittsburgh sports history, involved in the event.
"Franco's one person that not only uses his name, but uses his
presence," Sean Gibson said.
"And in our committee meetings at the
history center here, Franco was at every meeting, and that's very
impressive to me."