Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Josh Gibson Foundation

After-school tutoring for inner-city youths, college scholarships, little league baseball and field renovation programs, some of the enlightening work being carried out by The Josh Gibson Foundation. A non-profit community organization based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania dedicated to helping families and youngsters in and around Hall Of Fame and Negro League Star Josh Gibson's former community of Homestead. Yes, that very famous town of baseball lore always followed by the moniker Grays. Since 1994, Josh Gibson's Great Grandson, Sean, has dedicated his work to increasing the awareness of not only his famous Great Grandfather but also those other Negro League Players that forged the path eventually leading to the integration of The Great Game in 1947 by Jackie Robinson.

And today's unveiling at Nationals Park of The Josh Gibson Statue was just another step in Sean's efforts to keep history alive and increase awareness of those African-Americans that played baseball professionally before they were ever given the chance to compete on a even level.

“For Josh to have never played Major League Baseball and now knowing that when kids come in here and see this statue and wonder who is Josh Gibson—they will now know who he is," proudly stated Sean Gibson. "I tell kids all the time. They asked me about The Negro Leagues or Josh Gibson. I say look at Josh Gibson and you see him at PNC Park (in Pittsburgh). And now I can say--look at Josh Gibson and you see him at Nationals Park. He’s in the Hall of Fame. Look at some of the other accolades he’s received. He must have been a great baseball player. You just don’t get those accolades for nothing. The good thing about all this is that a lot of kids can be educated from this statue when they come into this park. They can learn more about the Negro Leagues.”

Over the past 15 years, The Josh Gibson Foundation has provided more the $15,000 in college scholarships and is currently upgrading the neighborhood baseball field where Josh Gibson played in Pittsburgh with a $300,000 donation. A project that will directly allow 300 children to participate in The Josh Gibson Little League Program. Always looking to increase awareness, Sean believes today's honor at National Park will also assist his community outreach.

“This unveiling today is great for our Foundation. It’s huge for us because anything that puts Josh in the public eye and being recognized brings a lot of credit to the Foundation. It brings awareness to the Foundation and that’s the goal. This is the way we keep Josh’s legacy alive through our Foundation. And the kids in our Foundation are going to get the chance to see this. We are probably going to bring the kids in our Foundation down here for a game. They will have that chance to come in, view the statue in person.”

History becoming alive--another opportunity for The Josh Gibson Foundation to not only help others, but educate. Interestingly, while The Josh Gibson Statue was being produced for Nationals Park, Duquense University Students in Pittsburgh have been producing an educational documentary with Sean on the life of Josh Gibson. In fact today--Principal Owner of Our Washington Nationals Mark Lerner was filmed along with Washington Baseball Historian Phil Wood for segments in the upcoming educational documentary. George Will is also expected to participate. And the students have requested an interview with The President Of The United States--Barack Obama.

Sean Gibson: "This statue helps out the documentary because as the documentary gets played this spring and summer, people can see the timeline of Josh’s accomplishments. And this event in 2009, will be one of the biggest honors he has received so far. As a Foundation and Family, we can be very appreciative and very proud of that.”

This is the second statue of Josh Gibson to be placed inside a Major League Ballpark. At PNC Park, The Home of The Pittsburgh Pirates features a series of Negro League Stars immortalized in Legacy Square--just inside the third base gate of Pittsburgh's fabulous ballpark. "Of course, you have seen the one at PNC Park (in Pittsburgh)," said Sean Gibson to Sohna and I this afternoon. "it’s nothing like you’ve seen here. This one in DC is huge and big and can be seen by anyone who comes into the ballpark here. Everyone can see it—it’s a very proud moment for us. And we are going to suck this time up and enjoy it because who knows if it ever happens again.”

"When you get Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, “Cool Papa” Bell or Buck Leonard still being recognized at a Major League Ballpark—it helps bring the awareness to the public so they will know more, understand more and appreciate all these pioneers went through in The Negro Leagues. When you hold a press conference, you unveil a statue, you get it in The Washington Post—you can see what’s transforming. Just look at the turnout today—if there was somebody in the audience who knew nothing about Josh Gibson, they know about him today. They know about him today (beaming proudly).

And that educational process is what The Josh Gibson Foundation is all about.

Each year, The Josh Gibson Foundation holds a Special Foundation Night to raise funds for the organization. For 2009, Remembering The History Night will take place on July 31st in Pittsburgh. If you are interested in participating or donating, you can click on this link for complete information.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

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