Josh Gibson Field
|Former names||Ammon Field|
|Location||2217 Bedford Avenue|
|Construction cost||$292,000 (renovation)|
|General contractor||Massaro Corporation|
|Main contractors||Sports Turf Specialties|
|Josh Gibson Little League|
|Official name||Joshua (Josh) Gibson (1911-1947)|
|Designated||September 23, 1996|
Josh Gibson Field is a baseball venue located in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Until 2008, the field was known as Ammon Field or sometimes Ammons Field, which had served as the home of the Pittsburgh Keystones of the Negro National League in 1922, their only season in the NNL. It is now named after Baseball Hall of Fame player Josh Gibson.
Gibson began his career at Ammon Field in 1929 while playing with the Pittsburgh Crawfords, who were visiting the Keystones, and continued playing there, as the Crawfords and Homestead Grays regularly played at Ammon. Known as the "black Babe Ruth," Gibson was a leading home run hitter until his death from a stroke in 1947 at age 35. In 1972, he became the second Negro Leagues player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Originally a youth semi-pro team, the Crawfords eventually played at Ammon Field, earned a strong reputation and attracted games with many white teams. W.O.W., the defending champions of the white Greater Pittsburgh Semipro Tournament, played the Crawfords at Ammon on June 15, 1930. Although usually covering on the fully professional Homestead Grays, the Pittsburgh Courier reported the 9–8 Crawfords victory.
Grays owner and manager Cum Posey recognized the Crawfords competition with his own team and sought to undermine their appeal. In 1929, he persuaded Crawfords manager Hooks Tinker to take on his older brother Seward "See" Posey as a part-time assistant and booker. While admission to the Crawfords amateur games were free by law, at one tournament in 1930, See Posey closed all but one gate to the park and required fans to make contribution, with two police officers stationed at the gate. After the game, he brought Tinker a burlap bag with $2000 in small bills. The Posey brothers were also able to lure Gibson to play with the Grays.
Probably Ammon Field was split into two smaller fields in the 1940s, when youth leagues began playing at the location. In 1996, a historical marker commemorating Josh Gibson's career was erected at the site, 2217 Bedford Avenue. It reads: "Hailed as Negro Leagues' greatest slugger, he hit some 800 home runs in a baseball career that began here at Ammons [sic] Field in 1929. Played for Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords, 1930-46. Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, '72."
The original name of the park honored Edith Darlington Ammon, a pioneer in establishing playgrounds in the city.
Josh Gibson Foundation
The Josh Gibson Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Pittsburgh aimed at preserving the history of the Negro Leagues. The Foundation's president is Gibson's grandson Sean. The Foundation runs a little league associated with PONY Baseball that has over 300 inner-city players, which has used the field since 1999.
In 2008, the Foundation began a $292,000 renovation ($321,471 today) of the field. The project consisted of resurfacing the grass fields, renovating the four dugouts and bleachers, and constructing scoreboards, sprinklers, and a concession stand. The project received funding of $78,000 from Pittsburgh Pirates Charities, $64,000 from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, $20,000 from Del Monte Foods and $15,000 from The Grable Foundation. The City of Pittsburgh contributed the additional $95,000 required. The Pittsburgh-based Massaro Corporation served as the contractor for construction work, and Sports Turf Specialties, Inc performed the field work. Both companies offered significant discounts on the work. A groundbreaking ceremony took place on May 6, 2008.
- Lowry, Philip J. (1992). Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration of All 271 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present. Reading: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-201-56777-6.
- "PHMC Historical Markers Search" (Searchable database). Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2015-06-18.
- "Josh Gibson". Britannica. Retrieved February 12, 2009.
- Ribowsky, Mark. Josh Gibson: The Power and the Darkness. http://books.google.com/books?id=ub9tZ_ZuuN4C Pgs. 37–39
- "Council to Honor Play Site Pioneers". The Pittsburgh Post. July 15, 1927. p. 3 – via Newspapers.com.
- Stefano, Dan (July 24, 2008). "Foundation hopes to keep Negro League stories alive". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved February 12, 2009.
- Kirkland, Kevin (May 6, 2008). "Josh Gibson Field in Hill District to be renovated". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved February 12, 2009.
- "Pirates Charities Forms Partnership Group to Renovate Josh Gibson Field in Pittsburgh's Hill District". Pittsburgh Pirates. May 6, 2008. Retrieved February 12, 2009.
- "A Groundbreaking for the Renamed Josh Gibson Fields". Massaro Corporation. May 2008. Retrieved February 12, 2009.