Pittsburgh - PNC Park: Highmark Legacy Square - Josh Gibson
Josh Gibson (1911-1947) is widely considered one of the very best catchers and power hitters in the history of the game, in any league. Dubbed the "Black Babe Ruth" (yet some fans who saw both play called Ruth the "white Josh Gibson") broke into the Negro League for the Homestead Grays in 1930 before moving to the Pittsburgh Crawfords from 1932 to 1936 and then returning to the Grays from 1937 to 1939 and 1942 to 1946. In between he played in the Dominican League, the Mexican League, and served as the first manager of the Santurce Crabbers, one of the most historic franchises of the Puerto Rico Baseball League. Though the statistics are unreliable, Gibson is said to have hit "almost 800" homers over his 17-year career against Negro league and independent baseball opposition, and the Baseball Hall of fame puts his career batting average at .359 (some sources put it as high as .384). It is said he won nine home run titles and four batting championships and that he hit a home run in a Negro League game at Yankee Stadium that struck two feet from the top of the wall circling the center field bleachers, about 580 feet from home plate. He died of a stroke at age 35, juts three months before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. In 2000, he ranked 18th on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, the highest-ranking of five players to have played all or most of their careers in the Negro leagues. That same year, he was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.
Highmark Legacy Square, a permanent exhibit located inside the Left Field Gate Entrance at PNC park, was on June 26, 2006 to honor and reserve the history of the Negro Leagues and the great players from the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords. Designed by Ed Steele, owner of ESA Design and designer of the Negro League Museum in Kansas City, and Rob Ruck, University of Pittsburgh professor and Negro Leagues historian, the exhibit features life-size bronze statues, by sculptor John Forsythe, of seven Negro Leagues greats, each accompanied by an interactive kiosk, and the Highmark Legacy Square Theatre, an indoor 25 seat movie theatre.
The other players honored at Highmark Legacy Square Pittsburgh Crawfords pitcher Satchel Paige, Crawfords/Homestead Grays outfielder Cool Papa Bell, Grays/Crawfords center fielder-manager Oscar Charleston, Grays first baseman Buck Leonard, Grays/Crawfords infielder Judy Johnson and Grays pitcher Smokey Joe Williams.
PNC Park opened in 2001 as the fifth home of Major League Baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates, replacing Three Rivers Stadium. Funded in conjunction with Heinz Field and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the $216 million park stands along the Allegheny River, on the North Shore with a view of Downtown Pittsburgh. PNC Park, designed by HOK Sports Venue Event, part of the HOK Group, was the first two-deck stadium built in the United States since 1953. Seating just 38,496--the second smallest capacity in baseball, its intimate design puts the highest seat just 88 feet away from the field. Built in the style of "classic" stadium, PNC Park also introduced unique features, such as the use of limestone in the building's façade, a riverside concourse, steel truss work, an extensive out-of-town scoreboard, and many local eateries.