O’Connell: Baseball’s unappreciated power duo, Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard

From Robert O’Connell at the New York Times on March 27, 2018, with mention of SABR members Bob Kendrick and Gary Ashwill:

Baseball’s great power partnerships range from the foundational (Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig) to the quintessential (Willie Mays and Willie McCovey) to the clutch (Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz) and the chemically enhanced (Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro).

Now comes the supercharged slugging duo of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton of the Yankees. The union of the reigning National and American League home run leaders in one batting order has sent fans leafing back through record books for comparable tandems.

Yet one deserving pair often remains overlooked in these discussions. In the 1930s and ’40s, catcher Josh Gibson and first baseman Buck Leonard anchored one of the most potent lineups in baseball history, but they did so for the Homestead Grays of the Negro leagues.

The disgrace of the time, that qualified stars were barred from the Major League Baseball because of their race, echoes now as a statistical frustration. While their white contemporaries enjoyed M.L.B.’s tidy schedules and scrupulous statistics-keeping, the black players of the early 20th century made do with a mixture of official and unofficial contests across borders of league and nation. The numbers that resulted are slapdash and incomplete; in the case of Gibson and Leonard, the statistics obscure the truth as much as tell it.


Read the full article here: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/03/27/sports/baseball/josh-gibson-buck-leonard-negro-leagues.html

Originally published: March 29, 2018. Last Updated: March 29, 2018.