Ammon Field, currently known as Josh Gibson Field, dates back to the early 1920’s and was home to many teams such as the Pittsburgh Keystones, Homestead Grays, and, the Pittsburgh Crawfords. In the 1940’s, the ballpark was divided into two youth ballparks. In 2008, Ammon Field was renamed after Baseball Hall of Fame member, Josh Gibson. The Josh Gibson Foundation was also created to care for the ball fields and ensure that area youth will always have a proper field.
Josh Gibson, known by some at the time and still today as the “Black Babe Ruth” began playing baseball semi-professionally in 1927 at the age of
sixteen. He was originally form Buena Vista, Georgia, but moved to
Pittsburgh when his father found a job in the steel mills. From 1930 to 1931 he played for the Homestead Grays before playing for the Pittsburgh
Crawfords from 1932 until 1936. He rejoined the Grays in 1937 and played until 1946.
Gibson's talent was well-known among local African Americans while he was still young. This led to an invitation to replace the injured catcher of the Homestead Grays,
Buck Ewing, on July 25, 1930 while he was in the grandstand at this historic ballpark. In this
same year, he became the first to hit a home run in dead center at Forbes Field. In 1972,
Josh Gibson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as the
second Negro League player, following Satchel Paige. Gibson’s vast amount of accomplishments may
be one of the reasons why the name of Ammon Field was changed in 2008, to Josh
Gibson Field in his honor.
Ammon Field became home to the Pittsburgh Keystones, a professional Negro National League team in 1922. The team lasted only a single season and the field was later used by both the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays. Starting out as a semi-pro team, the Crawfords began to attract attention to the public with their play in part owing to Josh Gibson. Cum Posey, the owner and manager of the Homestead Grays, began to feel threatened by the Crawfords as they took in larger crowds. Posey convinced Hooks Tinker, the manager of the Crawfords, to bring on his brother, See Posey, to book games. By law, all amateur games were free to the public, but Posey closed all but one gate during one tournament and forced the public to give donations to the club. This hurt the popularity of the team and began their demise. Soon after, Posey managed to get Josh Gibson to sign on with his team the Grays. After losing their best player, interest in the Crawfords vanished.
The current Josh Gibson Field is about one block west of the historic field which was located at the intersection of Somers Street and Bedford
Avenue while the new location is between Kirkpatrick Street and Bedford Avenue.
Local residents created a non-profit to honor Josh Gibson and support local baseball in 1994. Access to the sport is a critical part of the Gibson Foundation's mission, and since, 1999, this field has been
used by hundreds of children who are part of a little league
associated with PONY Baseball which is also a non-profit organization.
In May of 2008, Josh Gibson’s great
grandson Sean Gibson--who is also president of the Josh Gibson Foundation--announced that they would be renovating the field with new grass, new dugouts, scoreboards, a sprinkler system, and a concession stand with restrooms thanks to $300,000 that was raised from local organizations. Support for the project came from Pittsburgh Pirates Charities, the Baseball
Tomorrow Fund, Del Monte Foods, the Grable Foundation, as well as The City of
Pittsburgh. “Every kid
may not have a chance to play in the majors, explained Sean Gibson, but when they come on our field,
we want them to feel like they’re in the majors.”