(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Coretta Scott King's introduction to Josh Gibson notes that reading the stories of Gibson and other

courageous men and women not only helps us discover the principles that we will use to guide our own lives but also teaches us to know the heroes and heroines of our history and to realize that the price we paid in our struggle for equality in America was dear. But we must also understand that we have gotten as far as we have partly because America's democratic system made it possible.

It is asking much to make a star athlete an example of a people's struggle, but Holway narrows the focus to the realm of athletics and uses Gibson to show the state of affairs for African-American athletes during the Great Depression and World War II. Further, Holway emphasizes Gibson's humanity, his weaknesses as well as his strengths. An athlete as talented as Gibson could be made to look like a superman, with his titanic home runs making him seem a man of indomitable physical power, but Holway is honest with his audience, presenting Gibson as a remarkable athlete but a fallible man. Thus Josh Gibson is not a story of lifelong triumph but of success on the ball field marred by failure and despair off the field. His obsession with being paid what Babe Ruth was paid, even though he made more money than most people, may have led to the bad habits, anger, and despair that may have contributed to his premature death,...

(The entire section is 274 words.)