Originally Posted by TDog
Granted, my knowlege isn't first-hand, but I researched Negro League baseball and major league integration long ago when I was in college, reading several histories and going through newspaper stories. I have no idea what you are talking about.
Josh Gibson was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1943, for which he had brain surgery. Leading up to that and thereafter, he wasn't the same hitter or catcher he was in the earlier in his career. There were also drug problems that seem to have affected his play in the later years and may be linked to the brain surgery.
The popular belief is that Josh Gibson died of a broken heart, being overlooked by major league baseball. He died before Jackie Robinson played his first game, after suffering a stroke. At some points, his sanity seems to have been questioned. There were years in the late 1930 and early 1940s when he didn't even play in the Negro Leagues, but in Mexico and the Dominincan Republic. The leagues he played for didn't keep meticulous records (i.e. no one ever officially counted his home runs, and I have seen no documentation to show he hit 200 let alone 800.) The legend of Babe Ruth is embellished documented fact. The legend of Josh Gibson is legend. It's a fine legend, but he was born to early to play major league baseball.
What most confuses me about your position is the implication that there was some sort of conspiracy to integrate baseball. Branch Rickey was on his own in signing Robinson. Affter the war, after the death of Landis, there were a lot of people who believed MLB integration was inevitable. Wendell Smith, who I used to watch do WGN sports when I was a kid, was one of the journalists leading the fight. But before Jackie Robinson broke in, no one was signing Negro League players except Branch Rickey. And there were many in and around baseball who didn't like it, including The Sporting News.
There wasn't going to be MLB integration as long as Landis was alive, which left Josh Gibson well out of the picture. The best player in the Negro Leagues at the time Robinson broke the color barrier, if you read contemporary reports, was believed to be Monte Irvin, who approached by Branch Rickey in 1945. Irvin reportedly said he wasn't in baseball shape. Irvin didn't make it the majors until 1949 when he debuted with the Giants, who retired his number in San Francisco last summer. (Somewhere, I have a baseball signed by Monte Irvin, Bob Gibson and Bob Feller, but I digress.)
No one, including Robinson, ever said Robinson was the best player in the Negro Leagues. Of course, there were star Negro Leaguers who were publicly jealous that they didn't get the first call. But breaking baseball's color barrier wasn't just about baseball. I don't know if there was anyone who was better who had the character to do what he did.