Exceedingly rare original photo of Homestead Grays catcher Josh Gibson used in the production of Gibson's 1950-1951 Toleteros card. Encapsulated and certified as an original Type 1 photograph by PSA/DNA. The photo captures the legendary Negro League Hall of Famer striking a batting pose in front of the grandstand. Although original team photos picturing Gibson are known, those capturing him by himself are virtually nonexistent. That fact is even more astounding when one considers that a number of prominent newspapers have recently sold their photo archives, thereby flooding the marketplace with literally millions of original news photos. This is the just the second PSA/DNA certified "Type 1" original photograph of Gibson (by himself) we have ever offered, and one of only a few examples we have ever seen. The fact that it was used to produce the only vintage baseball card ever issued of Gibson (albeit three years after his death), makes it especially desirable. Gibson's name is written on the reverse three times, along with a few other handwritten notations, some of which have been crossed out. No photographer or news-service credit stamp is evident, so we have no knowledge of its origin, but it was most likely taken during the 1940s. This is arguably the finest Josh Gibson original "Type I" photo in the hobby and one that would be a significant highlight in any world-class baseball photo, Negro League, Hall of Fame, or baseball-card collection. The photo (8 x 10 inches) displays light corner wear, a number of light surface wrinkles, and a few tiny areas of abrasion along the border areas. A black-marker cross-out appears on the reverse in the lower left corner. In Very Good to Excellent condition overall.
Gibson was one of the great players in Negro League history and perhaps the greatest. As a hitter he was without equal and his power was said to be on par with that of Babe Ruth. While no official statistics are available, Gibson's Hall of Fame plaque credits him with over 800 home runs during his seventeen-year career (1930-1946). While that total and some of the stories regarding his prodigious power may be apocryphal, Negro League historian John Holway credits him with 224 home runs in 2,375 at-bats against top Negro League teams. If accurate, his home run to at bat ratio of 10.6 is easily the best in Negro League history. Also, in recorded at bats against Major League pitchers Gibson compiled a .426 average. In the opinion of those who saw him play, there seems no doubt that Gibson was one of the best players in baseball history, black or white. Monte Irvin once said that Gibson "had an eye like Ted Williams and the power of Babe Ruth. He hit to all fields." After Walter Johnson saw Gibson play he commented to reporters, "There is a catcher that any big league club would like to buy for $200,000. His name is Gibson. He can do everything. He hits the ball a mile. And he catches so easy, he might as well be in a rocking chair. Throws like a rifle." Gibson died of a stroke on January 20, 1947, at the age of thirty-five. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. Reserve $10,000. Estimate (open).