Production of ‘Josh: The Black Babe Ruth’ brings Josh Gibson’s life, struggle to light

THE GREATESTS—Actors Lamar K. Cheston as Satchel Paige and Jonathan Berry as Josh Gibson.
THE GREATESTS—Actors Lamar K. Cheston as Satchel Paige and Jonathan Berry as Josh Gibson.

In homage of Pittsburgh Black history and Black History Month, New Horizon Theater continued its 25th season with “Josh: The Black Babe Ruth.”  The production ran Feb. 3-12 at the Falk School/ University of Pittsburgh.
“Josh Gibson was an amazing historical figure and any time I get to take on a role like that it’s an honor and an opportunity for me to learn and educate others,” said Jonathan Berry, who portrayed Gibson with fervor and conviction. “I wanted to showcase his raw talent and drive in his pursuit of his goal.”
Gibson, a member of the Pittsburgh-based teams the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords, had an unheard of .354  average, 962 home-runs  throughout his 17-year career and a single-season record of .517 and 84.
Despite his impressive record, he was never able to break into Major League Baseball because of the color of his skin. As a result, that sad, but true, fact haunted Gibson until the day he died at the age of 35 in 1947, months before fellow Negro Leaguer Jackie Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers.
SCENE FROM THE PLAY—Actors Jaquea Olday, Jonthan Berry, center, and Lamar K. Cheston.
SCENE FROM THE PLAY—Actors Jaquea Olday, Jonthan Berry, center, and Lamar K. Cheston.

“He wanted to suit up just like the rest of the players. It’s a struggle we all know too well even today and the struggle continues,” said Berry who has performed in several New Horizon Theater productions, including “Black Angels Over Tuskegee” and “The Old Settler.”
In the play, Gibson travels between time periods with heated and heartfelt conversations with friend and Pittsburgh Crawford’s player Satchel Paige.
“Satch had a big personality and he was the best at what he did,” explained Lamar K. Cheston, who portrayed Page expertly. “Josh and Satchel were both on the Crawford’s together and they also played against each other. When you’ve got two of the best they’re going to know each other. There’s so many great things about African American history and these two players set the precedent to break down the color barrier.”

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