by Malik Vincent
The centennial celebration of a Pittsburgh-rooted legend involved a more modern-day one, in his own respect.
On Aug. 13, at the Wyndham Grand Hotel in Downtown’s Grand Ballroom, people of all different races and from many walks of life came together to commemorate former Homestead Grays catcher Josh Gibson, who was born in Buena Vista, Ga., in 1911.
Baseball great Reggie Jackson, who garnered the nickname “Mr. October,” was heralded for his heroics during postseasons in his days as a member of the Oakland A’s. It would eventually continue on into his tenure with the New York Yankees. He earned a 1993 induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Also, his Reggie Jackson foundation has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to help provide at-risk children with computers and other technological equipment.
For his achievements, both on and off the field, he was presented with the 2011 Josh Gibson Legacy Award.
“Josh Gibson had the same kind of work ethic that the City of Pittsburgh is so known for,” said Jackson, former A’s and Yankees slugger. “It’s nice to see that his foundation is able to help to manifest the talent that the city has to offer and for them to be able to contribute to the future of our nation.”
In what has become an annual function, the foundation raises money to fund all of the program’s initiatives for 5-12 year olds all over the Pittsburgh-area. Throughout the year, its functions include a summer baseball league with attached instruction/clinics and it houses a mentorship program for the children.
“I’d say this year we raised the most money (out of all the years) we’ve held this event, we were able to raise over $50,000 for our foundation,” Executive Director Sean Gibson said. “We usually average around 30,000 but our sponsors and all of the participants of the gala really pushed it for us this year.”
Various community leaders were presented awards all night for their contributions throughout the region. Also, there was a silent auction that helped to raise funds.
Franco Harris and his wife Dana served as the honorary co-chairs. Also in attendance were former Pirates Manny Sanguillen, Dave Cash and Al Oliver—each members of the 1971 Pirates team that was the first to feature an All-Black lineup.
Other local and national celebrities lined the audience and participated in a VIP reception beforehand that was sponsored by Major League Baseball.
Each year the foundation gives out a scholarship to three graduating high school seniors. It has a partnership with the Pittsburgh Promise and Sean noted that they strive to make participants of its programming “promise ready.”
One of this year’s recipients of a $2,000 scholarship, Sienna Graham, a CAPA graduate, will travel across the state to attend Philadelphia University this fall to major in fashion design.
“I feel honored to be able to receive some financial help from the foundation for college,” Graham said. “It shows me that hard work, indeed, does pay off.”
Kristopher Murray—a student at the Center for Advanced Studies at Allderdice High School will move on to the honors program at Syracuse University. He along with Sarah Washington received the scholarship.
“Josh Gibson’s commitment to the sport of baseball and his loyalty to Pittsburgh has enabled his legacy to resound in the area,” Sean said. “The things that he endured to give blacks a name in the sport is acknowledged in many ways and most of it, after he died. He gave up a lot for his opportunities, so it’s fitting that we can honor him in the ways that we have and kept his legacy alive and in the process, are able to give back to the community.”
“I’ve been many places in throughout my career both as a player and as a front office executive,” Jackson said. “I’ve been a part of 10 World Series victories and 13 overall. I know about winning. I also understand that Pittsburgh has the same tradition. But character has been the way that this city has dominated and has remained winners. And it’s things like this foundation and what they do for its community that carries that winning tradition.”
See complete photo spread and story on the banquet on next weeks’ Lifestyles page.
(Malik Vincent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)